The new Common Core, rigorous education standards rolling out in the majority of states, has become – as so many other aspects of American life – a political debate even after a smooth period of development.
More education rigor is good. The old ways don’t cut it anymore. Raising standards to keep pace with the rest of the world is an improvement.
Common Core requires kids to learn more quickly and independently. Skills they used to learn in third grade, say, may very well show up in first. Middle school students will learn algebra and problem-solving skills. High school students will read more non-fiction and write cogently about it.
I prefer to focus on children’s learning and leave the politics to others. So, what will Common Core mean for our children, and what can we adults – parents and teachers – do to ensure our kids are learning while also keeping them above the political fray? Here are a half-dozen ideas.
1. It will mean more critical thinking. HOTS are hot. “Higher Order Thinking Skills” go beyond memorization. It’s the kind of thinking necessary in the workplace, in higher learning and in the trades. Parents need to make sure their kids are learning facts, sure, but then are able to think critically and analytically when using those facts.
2. It will mean we’ll need to monitor progress carefully. Since kids will be learning more, learning faster and learning in different ways, we’ll need to watch them closely to make sure they’re on track. For example, learning will take on a more “real world” look, with kids in work groups that require them to participate, take active roles, and think creatively, just as older students do in higher education or job training, or as adults do at work.
3. It will mean we must keep expectations high. There’s no better predictor of success than parental expectations. That’s been true forever, long before Common Core. So, from their earliest ages, we must let kids know we expect them to do their best. Kids love to impress us. We can help them by establishing healthy routines, from bedtime and mealtime to study time and playtime. We can also encourage helpful friendships and study buddies. By recognizing that school may bring some struggles, we can also show that success after a struggle means more than success after an easy assignment.
4. It will mean we recognize that all kids can learn. Surely not in the same way and not on the same day, but they’re all capable of learning. Some kids are fast. Others need more time to process. Some kids learn through the arts and some with lots of physical movement. Some need alone time. Others need the stimulation of their classmates. Some will need an extra leg up, like tutoring. We’re going to have to make sure our kids are given plenty of opportunities that allow them to learn in their preferred ways as well as to stretch to learn in new ways.
Still have questions about “How does Common Core affect my child?” Visit the Common Core State Standards Initiative website or this Sylvan Source post on “Resources for Understanding the Common Core State Standards.”