Common Core & PARCC Information
Understanding the Common Core
The Common Core State Standards are educational standards. They outline knowledge and skills that students should have at each grade level so that they will be ready to meet the demands of college or career after graduation. The standards cover English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. Being able to read, to write and to reason with numbers in fundamental to success in school and in life. The ELA and math standards provide a blueprint for schools to help all students achieve that success.  

For years, academic tests showed that students from the U.S. were behind students from other countries. In some cases, U.S. students were far behind. This was especially true in mathematics. This has become a more urgent problem, The world is more connected than ever. Young people in the U.S are competing for jobs with young people from other countries. More and more, strong reading, writing and math skulls are required for good jobs

Students from some states have been falling behind students from other states. Governors and education leaders became concerned because they thought all young people should be well prepared for life after high school. Adopting higher standards--the Common Core--means that the performance of all students can be raised to world-class standards. 

The ELA standards require that students read as much nonfiction as fiction. In the past reading assignments were fiction--stories, poems, plays, fairy tales, legends, etc. The emphasis on nonfiction will help students become more versatile readers. They can become just as comfortable with reading informational texts, such as articles in newspapers and magazines and on Web sites, as with storybooks.

To be successful in "the real world," it's important to learn about the world. This is part of the reasoning behind having Reading Informational Text standards. Having strong general knowledge and vocabulary equips students to adapt to the world and enter many different fields.

As students progress from grade to grade, the Common Core helps them grow by challenging them with more complex reading. Its like a staircase. At the top is college- and career-level reading. Students must learn to reread and closely analyze text when the are challenged to fully understand these more complex readings. Once they succeed, they are ready to "step up" to the next challenge.

An academic vocabulary grows out of becoming familiar with words and phrases used in science, history, social social studies and other fields. It's a vocabulary that will be useful in college and career. Teachers can help students build an academic vocabulary through reading, direct instruction and group discussions.

Students are often asked to write or talk about what they have read. The Common Core standards emphasize the importance of teaching students to analyze how writers make a point, construct an argument, compare and contrast, etc. The standards help students find "the evidence" in writing that reveals what a writer is trying to do.

In the past, much of the writing students did in elementary school was to tell a personal story or to express a personal opinion. The Common Core will help expand young writers' abilities. They will use writing to build arguments, inform and persuade. Often these projects involve gathering evidence from research. Students will learn how to gather and analyze information-- print and digital--- for possible use in individual or group writing projects.

The Common Core math standards make more key shifts compared to previous standards.

By focusing on fewer concepts students can gain deeper understanding and build a stronger foundation for learning in higher grades. Better grasp of fundamental concepts allows them to progress to more advanced concepts with greater confidence and ease. Under Common Core, the focus is on certain topic in grades K-2 before shifting ahead in grades 3-5.

  • k-2: Concepts, skills and problem solving related to addition and subtraction.
  • 3-5: Concepts, skill and problem solving related to multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions.
Instead of simply memorizing facts, math students will be taught to understand why the facts are true. This will lead to students becoming more effective problem solvers.
Math concepts naturally connect. (For example, multiplication is "fast" form of addition.) The math standards are careful to ensure that students are using concepts learned in previous years to build understanding of new topic. Standards in the past didn't always make these links.
Using their deep understanding of key concepts, math students will learn to:
  • apply math concepts appropriately
  • calculate precisely and with sufficient speed.
The standards for Mathematical Practice emphasize the understanding of concepts and problem-solving processes. These standards are the same for all grade levels. They are:
  • MP1: Make sense of problems and preserve in solving them.
  • MP2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  • MP4: Model with mathematics.
  • MP5: Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • MP6: Attend to precision.
  • MP7: Look for and make use of structure.
  • MP8: Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
The Standards for Mathematical Content, like the English Language Arts Standards, are specific descriptions of what students should understand and be able to do by the time they finish a grade level. They are organized by the following domains:
  • Counting and Cardinality (k only)
  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking (k-5)
  • Number and Operations in Base Ten (k-5)
  • Number and Operations-- Fractions (3-5)
  • Measurement and Data (k-5)
  • Geometry (k-5)
Testing has been developed by different professional organizations that specialize in school assessments. They focused on creating tests that reflect the goals of the Common Core. In the past, most states would develop their own tests (and they still can). States choosing to use tests developed for the Common Core have a number of such tests to choose from.

Ask your child's teacher which Web site(s) and practice tests would be the most helpful for your child. Options include: