What can you do to help your child navigate the Common Core? Our education writer lists some ways to help you and your child work through the transition.
Everywhere you turn these days; there is another article about the controversial Common Core. Many parents seem confused and even misinformed about what this national education policy means for their children. Even more concerning, is that many parents are feeling helpless when it comes to homework.
Common Core is a national set of standards that most states have adopted in order to receive federal funding for education. These standards emphasize critical thinking and higher levels of understanding for students. The standards are universal for all states who are participating, so if you move from New York to New Jersey, your children will be learning the same material. Makes sense, right?
What has become so controversial has been the implementation of the Common Core. It was rolled out very quickly, leaving teachers and school districts very little time to adapt. Many teachers and parents have felt that the kids didn’t have adequate time to adjust, causing some students to fall behind. Another controversial topic associated with Common Core is the mandated standardized testing and teacher evaluations.
So, what can you do to help your child navigate the Common Core? Below I have listed some ways to help you and your child ease into this transition.
ELA (English Language Arts Standards)
With the Common Core, brings a huge shift in the reading material your children will be using in the classroom. In the lower grades, students will mainly be reading for content through the use of non-fiction as opposed to fiction. To help your child choose books, find out what interests him. Ask your child about animals, sports, science or nature and find out what sparks her interest. Visit your local library or bookstore to find books and magazines on these topics.
Be sure to include non-fiction in your regular story time rotation. This doesn’t mean that you should throw all of your favorite fiction books out the window. Kids need to read books from all genres and with the shift; fiction is taking a backseat, so feel free to indulge in both.
To most parents, the shifts in math are the most obvious. Topics previously taught in the upper grades have been brought down a grade level or two. If you have a child in a grade higher than second, it is possible that he may have missed key instruction as the topics shifted. Ask your child’s teacher if there are any topics that your elementary school student may have missed due to the shift, and how she is addressing those topics. You can even request worksheets on these topics to complete over the summer to help her catch up.
Another issue involving math instruction is a shift towards critical thinking and written expression. Common Core focuses heavily on using multiple strategies to calculate basic problems. The difference in instruction can be extremely confusing for parents who learned these skills in a completely different way. Most districts on Long Island are using programs such as GO MATH! and Envisions. These programs usually offer interactive websites with support material for parents and students. Some even offer video presentations for parents to help explain how the lessons are being taught. Ask your child’s teacher for the password to use the site. If your district does not have an available website, ask your child’s teacher for copies of support materials so that you can see what was taught in the classroom. If all else fails, write a note letting your teacher know what is going on at home. I guarantee that you are not the only parent struggling with homework.
With all of the confusion and controversy, it is easy to become frustrated. Reach out to your PTA with questions and concerns. Many PTA’s on Long Island have organized training sessions for Common Core and math instruction for parents. They also can assist with answers about how your school district is handling the implementation of Common Core. Attending local school board meetings can help keep you informed about where your district stands and how its students are doing.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone in feeling frustrated. In this time of change, it is important to stay connected with your child’s school community.
Thanks for Reading,