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A Parent's Guide to the Common Core Standards

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Schools across the nation have adopted the Common Core Standards.  Nearly every state has joined in and that means that you may start to see changes in your child's classroom and in the school as a whole.  

What those changes look like depend heavily on your child's school and the way they have been doing business.  Here is a glimpse of key factors and how they might affect your child's classroom.

College and Career Readiness:  Students should have ample opportunities within all classrooms to develop skills to demonstrate independence, build strong content knowledge, respond to varying demands of audience,task, purpose and discipline. They should be able to comprehend as well as critique.  Students need to value evidence, use technology and digital media strategically.  They must also come to understand other perspectives and cultures.  This is across the board in all subject areas.  The way the classroom is set up, the activities that students are engaged in should provide practice to ensure students graduate with these skills.

Student-centered:  Students will engage in learning opportunities that allow them to acquire Habits of Mind, or dispositions towards learning and life.  These cannot be acquired through excessive worksheets but rather when students are allowed opportunities to practice 21st Century Skills by exploring content, manipulating it and sharing their mastery of the content in ways that are hands-on and engaging.  This is not a quiet classroom and in fact, it may not occur in the classroom setting at all. 

Fewer and more Rigorous Standards:  Standards at each grade level may decrease in number but the expectation for depth of knowledge will be deeper.  What this means is that your child may be asked to master content that was not at their grade level before, but more time will be allowed to practice the content for mastery rather than the spiral curriculum of repeating the same content for several years.  For example, students in Math may work on only 4-5 domains rather than say 7 or 8.

Mathematical Practices:  Math classrooms and probably Science ones as well will be incorporating Practice Standards into lessons to allow students to manipulate the content and be able to "own it".  Mathematical Practices include persevering in problem solving, reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, constructing arguments and being able to critique the reasoning of others, modeling with mathematics, using appropriate tools, attending to precision, looking for and making use of structure and looking for and expressing regularity in repeated reasoning.

Adaptive Assessments Grades 3-8: Students in grades 3-8 will take summative assessments (Formatives and Opportunity to Learn will be available too) each year.  These assessments developed by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consoritum(SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers will be adaptive, that is the test will adjust based on the progress of the student.  Results each year will be compared in a growth model comparing the student to their own growth each year rather than to those of his/her peers.

Literacy Across all Curriculums:  There are four strands in the English Language Arts Standards; Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening as well as Language.  All teachers will be repsponsible for teaching and requiring Literacy in all classes, which means that students should have ample opportunities to apply the use of the language in all courses of study.  This means that a student's work is subject to literacy standards as well as content standards. 

Textbook as a Resource, not THE Resource: As we move forward with the Common Core, teachers and school leaders may decide that the best tools are not necessarily textbooks.  Although they may continue to be a vital part of the classroom setting, students who engage in the practices described earlier in this blog may find they do not need a textbook to learn. 

One thing is for sure. Change is coming and teachers across the nation are preparing themselves to look at education differently than we have in the past.  What can a parent do to support your child, your child's teacher and your child's school?  Stay involved.  Ask questions.  Be patient with the process.  It won't look like the classroom most of us grew up in.  If we want to prepare our kids to be thinkers and individuals that are able to adapt to an ever changing world, we must approach the classroom experience differently and allow students to engage in learning in a way that allows them to develop life long learning skills.  There is no longer a need for a teacher to be the giver of knowledge and the students to absorb some of it.  Education is changing and boy what a fun ride it will be!







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