Everyone's talking about the Common Core State Standards and, as with any big new venture or concept, there are a variety of emotions and reactions: I'm nervous about these changes.; This is so exciting!; How will this work?;It's great to see something new!; etc.
Teachers and administrators are becoming increasingly familiar with the Core standards, but for a lot of parents they are a new and sometimes confusing prospect. In this post, I'll talk about some of the changes you may see in your child's classroom and how these changes can help your children learn more effectively.
If your child is expected to increase the rigor and depth of his/her learning, there needs to be an understanding that the environment surrounding this learning needs to change too. Some of the traditional school practices are going to require a bit of an update. The two biggest organizational issues surrounding the Core are time and grading practices. Both of these are also central to many traditional notions of schooling. Let's take a moment to look at the aspects of both in relation to the Core.
Ask any teacher out there if their students could benefit from more time working on all the standards at their grade level, and the answer will be, "Yes." Add the rigor and depth of the Common Core to that conversation, and the answer becomes a resounding, "YES!"
Now, take a look at the schedule of your child's school day. Does it really seem all that different from when you were in school, with 8-10 periods every day? If you've answered no to that question, it's going to be very hard for your child's teacher to implement the new standards. Without more time given for Core instruction – using, for example, block scheduling – students will not have the opportunity during the school day to explore to the complexity of these more rigorous standards.
Get this signed for 10 points. Bring in a box of tissues by Friday for 15 points. Donate to the Food Drive and receive 2 points per item. These may be some homework assignments you've seen on your child's log or remember from your own educational journey. When you come across items such as these, you should ask "Where is the learning?" There is a difference between behavior (or compliance to instructions) and in-depth learning. If we don't separate the two, we can't see a clear picture of a student's abilities, and without that clarity, teachers cannot effectively focus on improving a child's learning. We have to move away from receiving points for every action performed in the classroom and embrace a grade that truly reflects the understanding and mastery of Common Core concepts. Rather than being compliance driven, grades should be mastery driven. This will prepare students for the real world, where performing poorly at work can't be rectified with a box of tissues – even if they do have soothing aloe.
Until we start to examine these two vital issues, it's going to be hard to see the benefits of the Core. Without sufficient time or the grading practices which reflect student mastery, we are putting up barriers. Our world is changing, and we need to embrace the changes that will prepare our children to be successful in all future endeavors. Let us know what questions you have or changes you have seen, if your child's school is implementing the Common Core.
National PTA's Parents' Guide to Student Success