What is the “Common Core” and What Does it Mean for my Teen?

blooms-taxonomy-2In the United States, 43 of the states have adopted the common core and Massachusetts is one of them. That means that teachers and other experts put together age appropriate standards for the common knowledge (skill set) they feel would prepare a high school senior for college and/or entering the work force upon graduation.  Here’s a three minute video that explains more.

In order to test a student’s progress towards that goal, they have designed a new test called the PARCC. Last year many students were asked to “beta” test it and it is expected to replace MCAS this year. The difference is that the PARCC test requires students to problem solve and think critically to use what they have learned, rather than answering simple basic knowledge questions. Click on the link to see an example of a PARCC question for a sixth grader.

So, what is the big deal? Unfortunately, we’ve been asking students to memorize facts rather than to use that information in a productive manner. Teachers have been focusing on the low level thinking skills of memorizing facts (as that was what MCAS focused on) and handing out “study guides” encouraging students to become passive learners rather than active learners. Fast forward to college and it is no surprise students struggle with knowing HOW to study (no study guides here), problem solve, or plan, organize and complete a project.

What to watch for:

  • Last minute projects
  • Short study sessions
  • Poor test grades
  • Difficulty doing homework that requires thinking deeper(or taxes the working memory)
  • Misunderstanding words like, “evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and demonstrate.”

What can you do now to help?

  • Think aloud as you problem solve and encourage your son or daughter to weigh in and support their perspective.
  • Allow “think time” when your teen is stuck with a problem or a decision (don’t provide the solution)
  • Ask questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” or one word response.
  • Start with the end in mind….ask, “What will the homework, trip to the mall, or project look like when finished?” Then help your teen work backwards to make an effective plan and problem solve before attempting.
  • Ask questions that encourage critical thinking:
    • “What are the pros and cons of choosing…..?”
    • “What is your opinion about…?”
    • “How would you plan to……?”
    • “What would you predict….?”
    • “How has your thinking changed on…?”
    • “How would you approach this problem?”

Developing thinking skills will help your teen make better decisions, problem solve and communicate their thoughts more logically both at school and in life.

More info on PARCC test items for your son or daughter’s grade level can be found here: http://www.parcconline.org/samples/item-task-prototypes.

Contact us for help with thinking skills and study skills. We specialize in the thinking and doing skills for learning and life.