Are children learning all they need in order to succeed in life after high school? Whether their goal is more education in college, vocational training or finding a job, all young people need a solid foundation of achievement in grades K-12 to set the stage for their future. The Common Core Standards were designed to make sure kids all over the United States are getting that solid foundation.
There are currently 44 states working to implement Common Core Standards – introduced in 2010 – by 2013-2014 under the federal Race to the Top initiative.
Common Core State Standards are not a federal curriculum, but a set of learning skills that all students should achieve. They set guidelines and points of reference (benchmarks) for what students should learn in each grade, but not how or what teachers teach.
The standards lay out a step-by-step progression of skills in five key areas that students learn as they go from grade to grade: reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics. Instruction in each grade builds upon the skills learned in the previous grade.
The Common Core State Standards ask teachers to make “shifts” in their instruction, setting higher expectations for students in every grade.
As we repeatedly say at Parent Today, parents play a critical role in the educational success of their child. Understanding what the Common Core Standards aim to do, and knowing what parents can do at home to help their children succeed in the classroom, will play a major role in helping students adjust well to the higher expectations.
New York State, through its engageny.org website, offers The Toolkit for Parents and Families, a collection of materials and resources that help parents help their children with the changes associated with Common Core State Standards.
The site includes links to articles and videos that explain how the new standards work at each grade level and games that parents can introduce to their children as ways to strengthen fluency and math skills.
We particularly like the Parent’s Backpack Guide to the Common Core, which outlines the shifts in English and math, explains briefly what kind of assignments parents may see coming home with their child and suggests ways parents can be supportive and helpful.
Another helpful resource is What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Learn, a similar outline that explains what students will be asked to accomplish related to each shift, and suggests ways parents can reinforce the new skills at home.
For example, one shift in English language arts asks students to talk about reading using evidence. That means that students must learn to find evidence in their reading that supports their arguments and opinions. Can they discuss what the author is thinking and make predictions about what will happen next in the story? Parents can support and reinforce these developing skills by demanding evidence in everyday discussions, reading the same book as their child and discussing it, or challenging their child to make evidence-based predictions at home.
The resources in the toolkit are well organized and varied, giving parents and family members opportunities to understand the Common Core Standards and help their children achieve success in the classroom.