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Common Core Standards: What Parents Need to Know

By Ryan M. Tracy

Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Common Core Standards are standards that will help teachers make sure our students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning in the classroom.  This great Common Core Video explains the Common Core very broadly and I would encourage you to become familiar and understand the Common Core as this initiative is beginning to be implemented in our schools.  The new standards will replace state initiated “end of year” testing and will focus students to:

  1. Analyze and synthesize information from texts
  2. Bring more depth to the students learning
  3. Emphasize linkages across grades
  4. Have a higher level of rigor in the classroom

Common Core

Regardless of whether a student decides they want to attend college or not, it should be our hope that all students be prepared for and have access to college.  There are skills every 12th grader must have to be successful in this ever changing, technological world.  And to me, the standards can help us raise the expectations of education for the U.S. and allow the student to decide the path they want to take regardless of zip code.  The Standards will also allow every student an opportunity to be on the same playing field.  In the past, as already stated, states defined their own goals and expectations of what students needed to learn, but this initiative, led by our nation’s governors and education commissioners and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) along with teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders have provided input into the development of the standards to raise the bar for Public education nationwide.

According to the Common Core Website,  the standards:

  1. Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  2. Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  3. Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  4. Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  5. Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  6. Are evidence-based.

While initiatives like this “seem” like another education reform coming down from the feds or the state, it is to me only as powerful as the people in our communities decide to make the reform important so that we can change the educational playing field for our children.  And I would encourage teachers, principals, and district leaders to begin sharing the standards and information with parents because parents are not being informed.  In fact, in Memphis, we have been sharing this information and parents come up to us afterwards and say thank you for sharing this with us, if it hadn’t been for your presentation, we would have never known. 

So, parents need to know that the focus in their student’s classrooms will be different as their student will have to explain concepts and defend their answers instead of just knowing the answers.  Parents will see more projects and discussions and less “drill and kill” question and answer time.  Further, as already stated, the end of year state test will be replaced with the Common Core Standard adopted in that state in the coming years.  What we are telling our parents in Memphis is to get educated about the standards so that they can be partners with their school and district.  We are telling parents to:

  1. Go to your school leadership and ask for Common Core Resources to help your child.
  2. Talk to your teachers about the Common Core and ask for Resources that could be used at home.
  3. Go to the Common Core Website and learn about the Common Core in your state.
  4.  Watch this Common Core Video which can help you understand the Common Core Standards.
  5. Instead of just asking your child what they are reading or who the main character is, also ask them “Why do you think the character did that?” then ask, “What did you read that makes you think that?” 
  6. Always ask your child, “How did you get that answer?  You teach me how.” 
  7. Also, making everyday activities educational.  For instance, we need to make a cake and only have 1 egg when the recipe is calling for 3 eggs.  What should we do?

These Standards are a great pathway to more depth for our educational system and if our parents can become partners with us, how much farther down the road might we be educationally. 

Posted on March 25, 2013 by Ryan M. Tracy

Ryan is the Tennessee Family Engagement Manager for Stand for Children, a grassroots national advocacy organization. He designs and implements family engagement programs and is currently a leader in the organization's 10-week Stand UP (University for Parents) which focuses on curriculum of the home and school. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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