To best help children succeed and thrive in school, it is essential that school and district leaders not only help teachers and students transition to the Common Core State Standards but that parents understand the changes that are coming as well. The Common Core State Standards - a set of new math and English Language Arts standards that have been adopted by 45 states - will soon be implemented, and used to assess students. Rob Waldron, President and CEO of Curriculum Associates, developers of research-based educational resources and programs, provides a list of the five most important things parents should know as schools implement - and teachers tailor their curriculum to meet - the Common Core State Standards and subsequent assessments.
1. The standards are more rigorous. In many cases, children will be learning concepts much earlier than they did before. We've seen examples of concepts - fractions, understanding nonfiction text, that were in the 7th grade standards in some states, that are now 4th grade standards in the Common Core.
2. There is a much greater use of informational text, including historical, scientific, and technical text. Before, children practiced their comprehension skills by answering questions about the main idea of a passage. With the Common Core, they will be asked to compare accounts of the same event. It's also important to note that, in most cases, non-fiction text will not be edited or made simpler, but will be the authentic, actual text that was originally written.
3. Math will have a narrower and deeper focus in each grade, with coherent connections and consistent progressions along the way. In Kindergarten, students' main priority will be to develop a strong understanding of numbers - counting, comparing, etc. - to develop the important foundation for work and understanding of more complex concepts in later grades. Each year each concept builds upon the previous, rather than one skill or subset of skills being taught in isolation.
4. There is increased focus on real-world application and interdisciplinary learning. While there are no specific standards for science, history, or other areas, there is an expectation that the skills related to the reading and math standards are taught and shared across disciplines. The learning through a variety of non-fiction genres and the use of math problems describing real-word situations will help foster this goal. The hope is that students will have a more holistic, integrated learning experience across all subject areas.
5. Even though there will be an initial struggle to implement them well and consistently and people are critical of them for a variety of reasons, the Common Core standards are a very necessary and strong step in the right direction. The demands of the workplace and the global society in which we live have increased dramatically and changed shape significantly in the last several years. It is obvious that we can no longer kill and drill our way to the top and we've been doing our children a disservice to think that this is acceptable. With the Common Core - and in life - students will have to actually know and comprehend the work to succeed. This will provide enormous benefit to our children, our education system, and our country, but it may not feel like that in the beginning.
To learn more about the Common Core State Standards, visit www.corestandards.org/.