Getting to Know Common Core: Three Frequently Asked Questions

By Dr. Lynn Fontana

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As an educational researcher and developer for more than 25 years, I’ve witnessed a great deal of change in the American education system. Among the most impactful and quickest moving is the implementation of the Common Core Standards in our schools. These standards are having, and will continue to have, a significant effect on what is being taught in schools and what is expected of students.

For the first time in our nation’s history, we are coming close to a set of national standards that reflect the skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond, and that are benchmarked against the highest-performing countries.

Understandably, the question on most parents’ minds is what these standards mean for their child’s education and what they can do to help prepare their child for these changes. Here are three FAQs to help you get to know the Common Core Standards.

What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that created a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in language arts and mathematics. The standards set clear goals for teachers to help ensure that their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.

It is important to note that since 2010, states have voluntarily adopted these standards; this is not a federal program. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted them.

Helpful Hint:To see if your state has adopted the standards, visit:

What do the Common Core Standards focus on?
The Common Core Standards were designed with success in college and the increasingly technological workplace in mind.The Common Core focuses on the development of the critical thinking skills that are required in today’s workplace. More specifically, the standards establish a progression of skills that students need to learn along the way to be ready for their future.

Helpful Hint:You can see here exactly what your child will be learning by grade level:

Will there be tests based on the Common Core State Standards?
Yes. States that adopted the Common Core State Standards are currently working to develop common assessments that will be aligned to the standards and replace existing end-of-year state assessments.These assessments are targeted to be available in the 2014-2015 school year.

Compared to current state achievement tests, Common Core assessments are expected to be more difficult. It is likely that these tests will require students to analyze and synthesize information, write essays and answer in-depth questions to demonstrate understanding.Even the multiple-choice questions in the tests will be aimed at measuring students’ critical thinking.

Helpful Hint: Sylvan Learning is a great resource for helping to prepare students for the changes that will be occurring at their schools as a result of the Common Core. SylvanSync, Sylvan’s digital teaching platform, delivers content that is based on the Common Core and uses assessments that are Common Core-compliant, helping students succeed and thrive in school. Learn more here: