New learning standards: “Slow down, dig deeper” for better understanding

February 14, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Spend any time around educators these days and you’re likely to hear the terms “common core” and “shifts.”

They’re talking about new learning standards, called “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS), the result of an effort kicked off in 2009 by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The groups’ goal was to develop guidelines that ensure students are learning skills they need for college or a place in the workforce – skills such as communication and problem-solving. The group also wanted to develop consistent benchmarks, so that parents could be assured their children would receive an education that values their potential regardless of where they live, their socioeconomic status or their life history.

CCSS specifically provides guidelines in English language arts/literacy and math, since the skill sets learned in these areas are the building blocks for every other subject area. A student who has a solid foundation of math facts, for example, can continue to learn more complex, grade-appropriate concepts such as algebra. Then, they are able in high school to practice applying math to real world issues and challenges, much as they will be required to do in college or the workplace.

New York is one of more than 40 states that have formally adopted the standards, and students will be assessed on CCSS beginning in the 2012-13 school year. (Click here to see which states have adopted the standards.)

So how does CCSS change what’s happening in your child’s school? That’s where the “shifts” come in. “Shifts” are changes schools are making in the way students are taught. The shifts provide a framework for teachers to help students think more analytically and gain a deeper understanding of the material they’re learning.

“Instruction should slow down and ask students to dig more deeply into things they are learning,” said HFM BOCES Network Team Administrator Lee Shaver, who is working directly with teachers in HFM BOCES component schools to implement the new standards. “Students will spend more time on a particular math problem or look more closely at a particular piece of text.” The idea is that a student will truly grasp the concept being taught rather than have a superficial understanding.

Students should be able to “read like detectives and write like investigative reporters,” Shaver said.

“We’re asking teachers to infuse the literacy piece into every course that touches the lives of our students, from social studies and art to science and technology,” said Shaver. “We want students to become college/career level readers.”

How can parents support their children as CCSS are implemented? Studies have shown that when parents are actively engaged in their children’s education, student achievement outcomes are improved.

“Parents can work in partnership with schools and make sure students are doing their homework,” said Shaver. “They can, for example, help with vocabulary their child is struggling with.” Similarly, she said, they can ensure their child has mastered multiplication facts by practicing at home with flashcards.

To read more about the standards and what they mean, visit:

The National PTA website at New York’s State Education Department has information on Common Core at

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