Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Every Parent Needs to Know About the Common Core

If you haven't already heard of the "Common Core State Standards" for education, you soon will, as 45 states in the U.S. have come to an agreement on what all American students need to know and do upon high school graduation.  This is important, because in 2013-2015, new state tests that reflect these standards will be rolled out all across the United States, and they will be very different than most of our previous tests. If you have an interest in the education of a child or grandchild in your life, this blog post will clue you in to a subject that's very important.

*"The world has changed. Twenty-five years ago 95% of our jobs required lower-level skills. Today, only 10% of our economy consists of low-skill jobs." The Common Core State Standards provide an urgently-needed wake-up call."

 In order to compete in the 21st century, our kids are going to have to learn how to think for themselves, not just spit back facts.  Don't expect the same old teaching methods to result in an increased level of success for students hoping to pass the new state tests, which will be aligned with the new Common Core; the way you and I learned ("sit-and-get," memorization of facts, etc.) isn't going to cut it.

They're also going to need to be even better readers; every single discipline in the test (math, science, language arts, etc.) is reading-and-thinking heavy. For example, on our current state test, a student might be given a formula and told to use it to solve a math problem. On the new tests, high school students will be required to read an entire page and then decide what the problem is, what mathematical formula(s) will be needed to solve it, and they will not always be given multiple choice answers from which to choose. This represents an extreme change in the rigor of the test.

In addition to rigor, some of the questions on the new tests will require students to work with others, create a project, and submit a video of themselves explaining the process they went through.   Those fill-in-the-bubbles questions are starting to seem a lot easier, now, aren't they?  These tests are not the tests you and I once took.

How can you help? There are countless ways, but I'll give you one example:  Raise kids who know how to make decisions for themselves and not always rely on their parents to tell them the "right" way to do something. Be open to more than one way to solve a problem, and when they come up with an idea that you think is crazy, encourage them to think through the possible outcomes of their decision. I know it's simpler to just tell your kid what's appropriate to wear to school the next day, but you will help them develop their problem-solving skills by asking them what resources (weather channel, TV news, etc.) they could consult to decide and letting them do the research.

When your child chooses unwisely, let them live with the natural consequences of their decisions whenever it's safe to do so.  Afterwards, instead of saying "I told you so," invite them to analyze their decision and figure out what they'd do instead, next time.

Another big shift parents will have to make is helping raise kids who can make mistakes without losing their minds over it. So many kids in our classrooms today want to be told the answer, rather than being allowed to think problems through and persist until they figure them out. As a parent, don't be so quick to solve your kids problems for them; that's never been helpful before, and it's going to be even less-so in the future.

I know what you're thinking; this is going to take forever! "It's ten times faster to make the right decision for my kids than to let them think it through," and sometimes, you're going to rely on your usual, more practical way. I'm just letting you know that the more often you send the message that you think your child is capable of thinking for himself, the more likely he is to think for himself when he's not with you, rather than following others.

The benefits of raising independent, creative thinkers who aren't afraid to take risks, can learn from their mistakes, and can work with others go way past state test-taking success, of course; by consciously thinking about your child's intellectual development, you're also preparing them for success in life.

Clearly, teachers cannot be the only ones responsible for preparing kids for the new state tests. Sadly, we're going to be the only ones held accountable for doing so, but that's a whole other blog post.  What I'm trying to say here is that we're going to need your help, and reading this post is a big step in the right direction--Thank you!

To learn more about the new tests most states will adopt, visit this link.

*I apologize for not remembering the source of this quote! I know that it's from a pdf file that I found via school, but I drafted this post a month ago, forgot the source, and can't find it via Google!]


  1. I am a parent of a 7th and a 4th grader in Maryland. Common Core on the horizon is all the buzz here. Thanks for your perspective on what it all really means and how parents can help. Common Core conceptually sounds good but I am still not convinced it will be executed well.

    Regardless of that, your advice not only applies to kids' success on Common Core tests but for functioning in the world. Too many kids, by their own parents' influence can't make decisions, can't think things through for themselves. I pray I am giving my kids space to think for themselves and enough guidance to make well-thought decisions.

  2. Sounds like good advice. Now that I'm 58, I feel like I'm actually ready to be a parent and give it a go--I think I'm a little late though.

  3. My husband is a high school teacher. He talks about the same thing concerning children who cannot think for themselves and depend upon their parents to fight for their grades instead of doing the work in the first place. I have raised one son and still have two more in the home. It certainly is hard to let them make their own mistakes. It is natural for a parent to want to sweep in and "save the day". We have tried to talk to our children and value their opinions. Sure, we make mistakes. Doesn't everyone? In the long run I think our boys will be better off because, like you said, they will be better off in the long run.

  4. Damn I'm wish this info was given out when i gave birth to Katelyn....you think you do right by your kids but lets face it most take the easy way. Great post.

  5. I'm never prouder than when my boys are thinking and figuring things out for themselves. Too many parents do it all for their children and then are shocked when their kids grow up with no clue how to think on their own. I do hope the common core stuff helps develop those high-end thinking skills that the standardized test-style teaching/assessing skims over.

  6. Our school started Common Core this year and the teachers seem happy with the program. For me, the reading and responding by writing is what I do best so I would do better on those types of tests. I always FAIL fill in the bubble tests. Always.

  7. I learned of Common Core being adopted in GA on curriculum night. Currently only language arts, reading and math are under Common Core and they will add science and social studies next year. The teacher really didn't explain much due to time constraints but the big take-away was learning a concept and then applying it in practical situations. I can get behind that.

    Do you like it?

  8. The concept of it sounds good. It seems like to (over) simplify it, you're teaching common sense. Which is a good thing!


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