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Rae Largura: Common Core 101 — What Does It Mean for Our Children?

If you have a child in school, you have more than likely heard about one of the biggest education reforms in history — Common Core.

Seven years in the making, it is in full force as of this month. With hours of research and reaching out to colleagues for help, I am attempting to simplify the complicated and to answer what we all want to know: What does this mean for our children?

The Common Core State Standard Initiative is a state-led effort intended to provide more clarity and consistency in the expectation of every student to be prepared for college and careers. Until now, every state and every district has had its own set of public school academic standards with obvious different levels of funds and means. Forty-five states in our country, including California, have adopted this set of standards.

College and career readiness is the heart and purpose. Consistency and uniformity are fundamental; giving every student a level playing field, and for all states to be on the same “page.” In addition, Common Core was developed with the intent to be more challenging than the current standards, to better prepare students for life.

In general, there will be fewer requirements per subject, but the standards will require a deeper understanding. Students will be required to focus more on critical thinking and problem solving than the memorization of facts.

In English language arts, we will see more emphasis on reading nonfiction, more complex reading and more writing. More writing will be given in all subjects. Our children will be required to back up assertions based on evidence found in information sources.

In math, we will see more emphasis on “depth versus breadth.” Students will learn fewer skills and topic in each grade, but will spend more time practicing and mastering each skill. They will be expected to understand and explain the problem and to use math to solve real-world problems.

Until now, in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the math track was pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry, then statistics. Now, our math track takes a more comprehensive approach and includes all of these subjects on some level starting in elementary school. Statistics, a subject not even mandatory for high school graduation, is now introduced in sixth grade and incrementally gets more in depth. High school math is now Integrated Math 1, 2 and 3.

In science, there will be more emphasis on writing, clarity, taking positions, then explaining the position using evidence — basically, defending the understanding. The higher literacy standards will be visible in all subjects.

Teachers are going through their own learning curve, and change doesn’t happen overnight. The “core” of Common Core wants consistency, equality, better critical thinking skills, more problems-solving skills, higher-level writing skills and articulation of what is learned.

Click here for more information about Common Core, subject and grade level specifics, FAQs, articles and even a newsletter.

Any subject, any grade: What is your question for a tutor? Email [email protected].

— Rae Largura is president of Leading Edge Tutors. The opinions expressed are her own.

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