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A new set of expectations, or educational standards, have been adopted by most US states in the “core" areas; english and math. In 2001, “No Child Left Behind," (NCLB for short), mandated public schools to raise the bar academically in hopes of achieving levels of academic proficiency by 2014. Since NCLB, states have shouldered the previously district responsibility of setting standards for student learning.
Now that 2014 is around the corner and all US students have not met proficient levels of achievement, US policy makers and interest groups have created a new plan.
By adopting the Common Core standards, 45 states are beginning to adhere to the same standards, which has the potential to completely change the face of American education.
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Common Core Basics
Teachers, students, and parents across the nation have, for the first time, the ability to communicate with one another about lessons, concepts, and objectives. In fact, all schools using these standards are charged with ensuring the college and career readiness for all students. Teachers will, for the first time, be able to collaborate nationally online and through other forums to share lesson plans and ideas.
The Common Core standards are listed online at http://www.corestandards.org.
Language Arts standards include reading, writing, speaking, listening, as well as a focus on the use of media and technology. There are a number of ways that you can support your child’s learning at home.
Reading a variety of texts will support both growth in reading as a discipline, and your child’s exposure to knowledge in general. Common Core standards recommend “a diverse array of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts in a range of subjects." As always, its important that our children are reading at the level that is “just right" for them. You can download a free app to check the reading level of any book (bookleveler.com) as well as view a list of some texts recommended by the Common Core initiative here http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the Language Arts standards to see how you can further support your child’s academic development. The first anchor standard is:
- Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Making an inference involves drawing a conclusion based upon evidence. You can engage your child in conversations about their reading and learning, discussing elements that require inference: finding the main idea, author’s purpose for writing the text, what the particular vocabulary means in its context, as well the motivations, thoughts, and feelings of the characters.
Your informal conversations on a car ride or at the family dinner table actually provide support for the speaking and listening anchor standards. Larger contexts provide an opportunity to develop more formal speaking skills. The family dinner table can be a springboard into larger settings such as family get togethers, or any other occasion that lends itself to sharing ideas in groups. Common Core specifies that students are expected to provide “accurate and relevant information," to both “respond to and develop what others have said." Casual conversations at home can provide a strong foundation for these fundamental skills.
Writing standards can also be supported by your conversations at home. You can encourage your child to share what they have written in class by asking questions as well as providing positive feedback about the specifics of what they’ve written. Journaling, letter writing, and engaging in writing through technology (yes, even text messages and emails) are a few other creative channels to develop these skills outside of school.
Common Core encourages the development of critical thinking skills and working across the curriculum in mathematics as well. To understand the specifics of the math standards, you can actually take a practice assessment at this website: https://sbacpt.tds.airast.org/student/. These assessments utilize technology to promote learning, and it is important to familiarize ourselves as parents with these new modes of learning.
Now that you are more familiar with the new standards, you see just how many ways there are to support your child’s learning outside of school. This year, you may see the new Common Core based texts or technology based curriculum rolling out. As always, it’s a great idea to get to know your child’s teachers, attend back to school night, and maintain communication with your child’s school to monitor ongoing progress.