Much is being done by schools to get teachers up to speed on the many changes that must take place to implement these rigorous standards, but another group that must be included in this conversation are parents. We have had a generation of teachers, students, and even parents who have been raised on the previous curriculum that was fairly straight forward to teach and assess, but did not require us to think. This new curricular emphasis is not on the skills (which still need to and will be taught) but rather on what students can and should be able to do with those skills. This is where parents really need to using the same playbook as the schools are using to get the best results.
How can parents help? First, they need to know what Common Core Standards look like and what they expect students to know and be able to do. Check out the Common Core information on this website for an overview or go to the Kansas Department of Education's website devoted to Kansas Common Core.
Secondly, parents need to ramp up their own thinking levels (just as teachers are doing) to help their children become better thinkers. That means
- Having regular and deeper conversations with your children
- Explaining how/why you did something (model your thought process)
- Asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer
- Asking (and allowing your kids to ask you) Why? or How do you know? and expecting a meaningful answer.
- Encouraging your kids to try again when things are difficult, to persevere, and to look for alternative solutions when the first one didn't work.
- Limiting some of the gaming and mindless media they watch and listen to, and do some reading, or discovery of the world that we live in, or just talking to their family members about beliefs, goals, and ideas.
Lastly, parents must raise the bar for their students. Expectations are high in this new curriculum to not just get by, but to excel. Students will be expected to be independent thinkers and be able to explain why they used a particular strategy or justify the answer they have chosen. They will be asked to revise their work and make it better. They will be asked to share what they know, when to use what they know, and how to use what they know.
The Game Changer. If students are to compete in the real world after graduation, they must be prepared to carry the intellectual load in post-secondary education and be productive in the work force. The colleges and the employers have made it clear that today's students are not prepared for the demands both groups make on them. To that end, we must work together to prepare our kids for the world that awaits them. They must have skills to be life long learners, to adapt to the rapid changes that technology requires of us, and to be productive, contributing members of the work place and society in general.
All students can learn and utilize whatever abilities they have to be the best they can be. They just need the support and guidance of their teachers, their classmates, and above all, their parents. So schools.... don't forget this very important group as you implement the Common Core this school year. You need them on your team playing with you, not just watching the game from afar! Go Team!