Parent’s Guide to Common Core State Standards in Elementary School: How CCSS is Preparing 21st Century Learners

Parent’s Guide to Common Core State Standards in Elementary School: How CCSS is Preparing 21st Century Learners
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In June 2010, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were released. Since its inception, 45 states have adopted the standards. The states that have not yet adopted the standards are Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, Virginia and Nebraska.

Prior to the CCSS, each state had its own set of standards students were expected to attain. Due to this there was great disparity between states on what students should know and were able to do. Each state had varying individual state standards and varying assessments. The hope for the 45 states that have adopted the standards is that they will prepare students for the 21st Century by creating continuity across the nation while encouraging collaboration and sharing of best practices between states.

Goals of the Common Core

Framework for 21st Century Learning

21st Century Learning

Preparing students for the 21st century means creating learners for the future. These are learners who are problem-solvers and critical thinkers. They collaborate with their peers in the classroom and are technologically savvy. The CCSS focuses on creating 21st century learners by helping students attain important skills for the future such as:

  • Communication and collaboration
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation

For more information on how these skills prepare students for life and work in the 21st century see P21 stands for The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. This organization supports and encourages equipping students with invaluable abilities. The information from this website can give you a deeper insight into the thought process behind the CCSS movement.

New Student Assessments

The Common Core Standards will also usher in a new era of student assessments: By 2014, many states (thus far 22 have become PARCC states) will be assessing students in a summative format utilizing a test developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College Careers (PARCC). Students will most likely be taking tests at the computer rather than their desks. Have we seen the end of the Scantron and number two pencils?

New Standards

The standards can be divided into two categories:

  • K-12 Standards: what each child is expected to learn each year.
  • College and Career Readiness Standards: what each child has learned upon graduation.

The Common Core Standards are intended to prepare students for college and future careers. Perhaps the focus on college and career readiness can be attributed to the future of the job market. It has been projected by some that the jobs our students (your child) will have do not even exist yet! Just look at the past ten years. Two of the top jobs in 2012 were, Social Media Strategist and Sustainability Manager, jobs that did not exist in 2002.

What Will my Child’s Classroom Look Like?

Since many jobs function on a collaborative model, expect to see a greater emphasis on collaboration and small group instruction. This will be in response to the importance placed on career and college readiness. Also, technology and its use in the classroom will continue to grow. Technology is deeply infused throughout the standards.

Your child’s teachers will be preparing and basing their lessons on the new standards and will be held accountable for ensuring that your child is achieving the standards.

If your child meets the expectations outlined in the standards he/she will be well-prepared for the next grade.

What Can I do to Help My Child Succeed?

First, find out if your state has adopted the standards at

Next, familiarize yourself with the standards; you can view them here:

At first glance, the task of reading the standards is intimidating. I suggest beginning with the language arts standards for your child’s grade. Try reading it through a few sections at a time. Once you have a gotten a good feel for language arts take a look at the math standards. The more familiar you are with these standards the more confident you will feel in your ability to help your child succeed.

Review your district’s curriculum or curriculum maps (most are posted online). Curriculum maps are a complement to a district’s curriculum. Curriculum mapping is done with input from classroom teachers and offer a sequence of what students are learning and when they are learning it. Feel free to ask your district curriculum supervisor how they have adopted the curriculum to the CCSS.

To get you started in supporting your child’s CCSS academic career try the following in language arts and math.

Language Arts

Ask higher ordered thinking questions when reading to your child. 21st century learners must be able to analyze and synthesize information. Here are some sample questions you can ask (adapt the language to your child’s grade level)

  • How was this similar to _____?
  • What do you see as other possible outcomes?
  • Can you see a possible solution to_____?
  • What would happen if ________?

Expose your child to informational texts and books that they can gather facts and information from. However, do not throw away the fairy tales. A great practice would be to read both informational and fiction texts to your child. Do not shy away from the three little pigs, but preempt it with a non-fiction text on pigs and use the information gathered to compare with the fairy tale.


The K-5 Math standards provide a focus in whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and decimals. So for now, I suggest familiarizing oneself with the array model:

CCSS will offer many talking points between parents and teachers throughout the school year. Make sure you attend as many parent-teacher conferences as you can.

I believe the Common Core State Standards can be a great asset for parents. They will provide clarity on what your child is expected to learn at each grade level. This will give you great direction on how to support your child’s academic career. Have a wonderful 2012-13 school year!