Can you believe it’s already November? I am sure you are all eager for a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, turkey, stuffing, leftovers, and Parent Conferences!

If your school district is like mine, parents eagerly attend conferences not only to listen to reports of their child’s academic progress, but also to raise questions regarding the future direction of their child’s education. In my suburban school district, the Common Core State Standards have created quite a buzz. In fact, the administrators have already held three parent meetings to introduce these Standards and to discuss how the Common Core will impact student learning.

As a dual-role participant – both educator and parent – I have avidly listened to administrator presentations as well as to parent queries and have compiled a FAQ sheet you can share with parents who pose questions about the Common Core.

Please accept 10 FAQs for Parents about the Common Core State Standards as an appetizer to your Thanksgiving feast!

1. Who are the authors of the Common Core State Standards?

Led by the National Governor’s Association for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, a competent and diverse group of parents, teachers, school administrators, educational researchers, and content experts collaborated to write the standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The standards were released to the public in June 2010.

2. Why are the Common Core State Standards important to our children?

As 21st Century citizens, our students will need to collaborate and compete in our global society. Schools must prepare them for college and career readiness, and these clear, consistent K-12 standards promise to enable students to achieve their academic potential. The CCSS will raise the achievement bar so education in the United States is on par with the best educational systems in the world. Cognitive strategies and skills will be uniform across the nation. As one mother commented at a parent meeting,

I moved around a lot as a child. Because of my moving, I never really mastered the division of fractions because I missed that unit of instruction. Under the CCSS, what every child knows and is able to do will be uniform in every grade, in every math class, and in every state.

3. How many states have adopted these standards?

As of November 15, 2011, all of the states except for Minnesota, Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska have adopted the standards.

4. How are the English Language Arts standards organized?

The English Language Arts Standards are divided into College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for the Language Arts strands of Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language. Each spoke has anchor standards which become increasingly more complex from kindergarten through grade 12. Within the reading standards, there is a major emphasis on reading informational text; being able to cite textual evidence and compare/contrast different author’s viewpoints.

5. How do the Reading and Writing Standards expand in grades 6-12?

In grades 6 – 12 the Reading and Writing Standards are integrated with the curricular areas of History/Social Studies and Science and Technical Studies. The authors of the Common Core State Standards realize that in order for our students to be career and college ready, it is imperative for them to demonstrate strong literacy skills in a variety of academic disciplines.

6. How are the Mathematic Standards organized?

The Mathematic Standards include Standards for Mathematical Practice and Standards for Mathematical Content. The Practice Standards comprise “processes and proficiencies” that are cornerstones of mathematical education and increase in complexity from kindergarten through grade 12. Components of the Content Standards, also developed K through 12, include geometry, operations and algebraic thinking, and measurement and data.

7. Will a National Curriculum be mandated?

No, there will not be a National Curriculum, only shared, nation-wide standards. Schools and districts will determine curricula that is not only best for their students but is also based on the Common Core. However, teachers will have the opportunity to collaborate on powerful lessons with teachers across the nation.

8. What will testing be like?

Assessment of the CCSS will probably look different than what your state is now using. This next generation of testing will provide students, parents, and educators a clear understanding of student mastery of knowledge and skills. Currently two consortia are working to develop the future common assessment: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Individual states can join either or both consortia. These National Assessments will initially be administered in 2014. Administrators in my district believe the assessments will be technologically administered and scored.

9. What will be some of the major changes we parents will see?

• Reading: The CCSS emphasize increasing complexity of text and reading for information in all curricular disciplines. A paradigm shift will occur from kindergarten through seventh grade. In kindergarten classrooms, student will read 50% literary texts and 50% informational materials. By seventh grade, students will read 30% literary texts and 70% informational materials. The reading of complex texts will be emphasized in all curricular disciplines.

• Writing: Specific writing types will include argument, narrative, and informational/explanatory writing. The reading-writing connection will be strengthened as students utilize textual evidence to form claims and construct arguments. Writing skills will also be integrated into all curricular disciplines.

• Mathematics: Mathematical concepts will be introduced to children in earlier grades. Instruction will focus on both fluency as well as the conceptual understanding of practice and content standards.

10. You’ve discussed 21st Century Skills, but haven’t mentioned technology. What will be the role of technology?

Technology will be of paramount importance for the 21st century student who will learn to employ “technology and digital media strategically and capably.” Students must be prepared to effectively utilize perpetually developing technology to enhance all aspects of their learning.

We are thankful for you, our Core 4 All subscribers! Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast as well as the valuable time you spend with your students’ parents during conferences.

Also, a shout-out to the great teachers at Thomas Jefferson Junior High for a great staff development training session on the Core 4 All SACI framework. Great job unwrapping, unpacking and dissecting standards.  Looking forward to our next training.

Follow us on Twitter @core4all

Turkey photo provided by biologybiozine.com

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