Five Questions to Ask Your Child's Teacher About Common Core

For many of us, back to school means back to making lunches, driving to soccer practice and beginning the routine of daily homework. But there’s a lot that will be different this year. Not only does your child have a new teacher, but likely a new curriculum and new expectations.

This year marks the first time all students in California’s classrooms will be receiving instruction under the state’s new core learning standards (also known as the California Common Core State Standards). The new standards represent an exciting shift to deeper learning and skill-building that will prepare our kids for career and college in the 21st Century.

Though the standards have been around since 2010, many teachers were still learning how to implement them and creating new lesson plans that span subject matter and skill sets. This is the first year that all K-12 English and math classrooms across the state will be implementing and testing to the new standards.

So how can you prepare to support your child through the changes? Communicate with your child’s teacher.

Here are a few questions to ask:

What should my child have learned by the end of the year? Every year of learning between Kindergarten and 12th grade has a set of standards. There are specific things that all children at that grade level are expected to learn. Ask your teacher what those things are for your child’s stage.

What are the most effective ways for me to support my child’s learning at home? A lot of learning happens outside the classroom, and the new core standards are aimed at helping students make the connection between their education and real life. That’s why having parents support kids at home is key. Teachers can suggest projects or games you can work on with your kids to bring the lesson plan home.

What is the school doing to prepare my child for the end-of-year tests? Several California schools administered pilot versions of the new Smarter Balanced tests last year. Find out what worked for your school, what teachers learned from the process and how they’re planning to improve on the experience this year.

Will my child score lower on the tests? In states from New York to Kentucky, test scores were significantly lower in the first year of the new standards than previous state test results. This is largely because the first year of any new testing is used to establish a benchmark. Understand why this might happen for your child, and what that will mean for him or her at the end of the year. In California, for example, state universities are currently working on aligning their expectations for incoming students with the more rigorous K-12 standards and tests.

How will I be updated on my child’s progress throughout the year? Find out what you can expect to see from the teacher, how to interpret it and when to check back in with her or him. Keep the lines of communication open to make sure you understand what’s happening in your child’s classroom.

Want to learn more about Common Core? Take a look at SVCF’s Common Core resource page.