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Common Core State Standards: 10 Things to Know

child in a classroom

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were created in 2009 by a consortium of all 50 U.S. states to align educational standards across states and raise academic expectations for students. All 50 states acknowledged that the state standards were not as high as they needed to be, says Lee Ann Kendrick, PTA Regional Advisory Specialist, so they collaborated on a short, concise list of reading, writing, and math standards that focused on college and career readiness. (The Next Generation Science Standards were released this year.)

In the 2013-2014 school year, many states will be implementing the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math. See where your state is in the process on ASCD.org (ascd.org/common-core-state-standards/common-core.aspx) or on PTA.org (pta.org/parents/content.cfm?ItemNumber=2583). "It's an exciting time for young children to start their education because the standards are agreed upon and set what every student should know, understand, and be able to do," says Sherida Britt, ASCD Director of Tools for Teachers. As your child starts this academic year, here are 10 things you need to know about the Common Core.

You Can Track the K-12 Sequence

Each Common Core Standard progresses from kindergarten through 12th grade, so you can see how your child's English language arts, writing, and math skills will develop. Review the progression first at corestandards.org. Then, at parent-teacher conferences, ask to see your child's work, talk about the progress that he has made, and plan the next steps for advancing him to the next level.

There Is a Focus on Language Development

The CCSS incorporates standards for writing, speaking and listening, and language. Focus is on how to use writing or speaking to shape and communicate ideas. This will increase the attention on extended writing prompts, verbal discussion, and how students use academic vocabulary.

The Most Important Question Is "Why?"

In addition to teaching information and skills, the CCSS focuses on teaching students how to apply and understand what they're learning. Your child's teacher will teach how to arrive at an answer by developing the process behind it and understanding the reason behind it. "The thinking about how did we get here and why it is important is going to start in kindergarten," Kendrick says.

 
Worksheets Are Yesterday's News

Expect to see fewer worksheets coming home in your child's backpack. Worksheets don't meet the expectations for rigor that the CCSS lays out, says Shaton Berry, Michigan PTA Common Core State Standards Team Leader. Instead, students will spend more time reading books, writing essays, and solving complex problems.

Kids Will Learn to Grapple with Text

Regardless of your child's reading level, she'll be working with texts at her own grade level. "Students should be working with complex text," Britt says, "with support and scaffolding from the teacher." Students will also be expected to identify and cite supporting evidence from the text to that support their opinions and their ideas.

There Are Longer Units of Study on One Topic

Students will spend more time studying a topic in depth, which means they may cover fewer topics in a year. They will have the opportunity to maintain focus on one topic and fully satisfy their curiosity before moving on too quickly to the next topic. This does mean that some units may be taken from the curriculum, depending on the decisions that districts, schools, and teachers make.

There Is an Emphasis on Nonfiction Texts

Because the CCSS was created with a focus on college readiness in mind, there will be a focus on nonfiction texts. Although reading literature is still important, students will also be reading more history textbooks, science magazine articles, and news clips.

There Is a Higher Bar for Assessment

The CCSS has raised the bar for student assessment, Kendrick says, so the test scores will be different than previous state test results. Starting at around 3rd grade, the Common Core will assess where children are performing and there will be a shift away from the typical multiple choice tests. The new assessments will incorporate a variety of multiple choice formats that will assess kids' ability to solve problem, model math problems, and synthesize text.

 
Everything Will Now Be Labeled "Common Core"

You may already have noticed workbooks, materials, and even mobile apps tout the Common Core Standards. But "there is no such thing as a Common Core curriculum," Kendrick says. "There are standards and how teachers teach them." Instead of following a set day-by-day curriculum, teachers will be designing lessons that address each standard and teach skills. Before you buy a workbook or an at-home program, ask your child's teacher for recommendations that will best support your child.

Some States Will Follow the CCSS Loosely

Even though all states agreed on the CCSS, some states have chosen not to implement the Common Core, but they are still changing educational standards to increase the academic rigor. If you live in a state that is not implementing the CCSS, you should still expect some of the same conversations and changes in your child's classroom with the new standards.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.