In case you haven’t heard, there are new standards in public education that will kick in this Fall. They have been named the

“Common Core State Standards.”

In a nutshell, the new standards are:


  • uniform and adopted by 45 states so far (exceptions include Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia) which means no matter where you are in the United States, the expectations should be the same and if you move from state to state, there should be consistency with what your child was learning in the previous state
  • include rigorous content and knowledge application (they have to know the math or language arts concept and how it works)
  • clear, understandable and consistent (have you seen some of the standards in our states and the jumping from concept to concept through the years with little revisiting of a concept?)
  • aligned to better prepare students for college and career (we call those 21st century skills)
  • internationally benchmarked (so we can see how students compare to their counterparts in other nations)

For a number of reasons, I see these new standards as a breath of fresh air, although there are certainly skeptics out there. In my opinion, it means less “teaching to the test.” Students need to learn to think for themselves, not regurgitate an answer on a multiple choice test where guesstimation and bubbling in patterns on a scan-tron are the measure for teacher effectiveness.

Students need to draw conclusions and then make an argument for that answer or response, defending opinions with information found in a passage they read and having to find key points to reference. Here is an example of a 3rd grade math problem:

See easy? 3rd graders should be able to handle that prompt on their way to upper grades where the expectations become much more challenging. Here is an example of a 6th grade math problem:

As a recovering middle school math teacher, I can tell you that you can’t just teach out of a book and have students arrive at some of the answers. Can you see how students need to know more than just a basic concept, and that they can’t just pick “C” because they’ve been taught that “when in doubt, go with C”? This requires that students be taught volume and perimeter and now they have to apply it to solve a real-life problem.

Now, let’s bounce up to 10th grade language arts…after reading a long passage of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address,

students will complete the following:

Can you see how this 10th grade prompt requires many skills that are important in post-secondary education and in the workplace? Think about all the times in your job that you’ve been posed with a problem, needed to gather information, and then act on that information to address the issue. At least students aren’t having that added complication of dealing with difficult people that often exist in the workplace or are customers we have to deal with, but that issue is also a skill we are indirectly looking at in the new standards.

The expectation we are setting is that students be able to think creatively and critically, communicate, and COLLABORATE….a skill that I believe is most important. Students need to able to work side-by-side with all types of students, including those they do not get along with. The ability to learn to work with others and overcome problems, biases, personalities, and more are the skills we all can do better at in the workplace, and hopefully the new Common Core will help with all of these expectations.

Here are some that I recommend you check out if you want to read more about them and share with other parents in your school community:


(both English and Spanish formats)


  • National PTA – link to

By: Lisa Gonzales All Rights Reserved 2013

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on