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What’s the Common Core and How Will It Affect My Child?

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For the past several years, parents have been getting used to the testing and state standards that have been set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act. Yet, even with these standards and accountability measures, the US still doesn’t come close to being in the top ten countries as far as student test scores in math and science worldwide. As a result of these scores and as is common in the field of education, change has come to the federal requirements for curriculum taught in US schools. The Common Core Curriculum Initiative is a national curriculum that is research based and should help our students to be more competitive in the world market as well as in the job market within the US. However, most parents and students don’t fully understand what the common core is and how it will help students in the future.

The common core is a national curriculum -- Most countries, including all those in the top ten nations scoring best on math and science tests, have an integrated national curriculum. This type of curriculum helps students to maintain their progress regardless of where in the nation they live and gives the national educational testing body a means to compare “apples-to-apples” when it comes to student scores. All testing will be done on a national level using tests that are highly comparable if not the same. By using this type of testing, teachers, administrators, and other educational researchers will have a means to judge student achievement on a level, balanced field. The common core is significantly more rigorous than previous curriculum – While most people would agree that a rigorous curriculum is good for students, the amount of rigor and the level of expectations that will be tested are going to be a big change for most students and parents.

While in the past, students have received a curriculum in response to the idea of “no child left behind”. The focus of the new curriculum is “readiness for career and college”. While it is understood that not all children will want to go to college, the new curriculum will expect students to have the skills to manage college level material. The bottom line for parents and students is that children will be expected to work harder and be responsible for more difficult work that is set at the median level.

The common core will better prepare children for work and college -- The main focus of the common core is to prepare students for college and careers by creating a level of minimum proficiency that will allow students to be competitive in a world market. The current curriculum attempts to set all students up to succeed through making the expectations achievable for the largest number of students in the system. While this is a good system to help many students succeed at some level, it actually works against making students competitive in a world market. The common core, through its rigor and focus on higher order skills, will push students to function at higher levels both cognitively and in their skills.

The common core gives children the skills they need to survive in the 21st century – It is no secret that many students who have come out of school in the past few years haven’t had the skills to survive in the job world. While most of today’s students are familiar and comfortable with technology, there are still skills that need to be formally taught so that they can keep up with technology as it changes. One of the skills the common core teaching children in regard to technology is how to learn and adapt when technology changes. What we teach our students today will be “old school” in five years or less so we can’t expect what they learn today to be applicable in the job world.

Our students do, however, need to know how to learn how to manage new technology and keep up. It is this skill that the common core focuses on in order to help children grow into capable adults.

The common core will make the US more competitive in the world market – The US doesn’t even crack the top twenty countries as far as math and science scores from our students on a standardized test. What this means is that our students simply can’t compete with students from other countries in these essential areas. The common core, with its concentration on twenty-first century skills and rigor, will help our students become more able in math and science skills that are needed to bring themselves and our country back to a strong position in the world. While it will be difficult at first to get use to thinking in these terms, students will certainly benefit from the added rigor and accountability for their learning.

So, what can parents expect when the common core comes into effect next year? Students will be tested more often and those tests will focus on skills that are less about memorizing facts and more about performing higher-order thinking skills. Many states will tie grade promotion to test scores so students will be held accountable for their performance on the test and for their learning. It is likely that college entrance exams will become more rigorous due to the fact that student will be better prepared coming out of high school to handle college-level work. Students will be expected to be excellent writers and thinkers as well as being able to demonstrate their mastery of both these skills. Parents may find their child working harder, struggling a little more, and being a bit more frustrated with the expectations.

However, in the end, the skills their students will develop will serve them in both in their careers and in their lives as we move fully into the twenty-first century

Sharon Owen is a professional blogger that shares advice on early childhood education and development. She writes for The Learning Experience, child development centers located nationwide that offer child care, day care, kindergarten and preschool.

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