Ask the Advocate: What is Common Core?

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Ben Balser, right, and his wife Laticia work with their children Brian, left, and Eddie, right, both 10, on a Common Core math exercise during a family math and literacy open house at Lakeside Primary School. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Ben Balser, right, and his wife Laticia work with their children Brian, left, and Eddie, right, both 10, on a Common Core math exercise during a family math and literacy open house at Lakeside Primary School.

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Given all the controversy surrounding implementation of Common Core here in Louisiana, I was hoping you could explain exactly what Common Core is. The standard description I see in every Advocate story about Common Core is that it is a set of higher academic standards that will help improve education. That really doesn’t tell anyone anything. What are these standards? Where can I find them? How do they affect what my child is learning in the classroom? Most articles refer to Common Core as a set of guidelines, not firm rules. If this is the case, what is driving the new style of instruction we are seeing in the classroom? Are these new ways of doing math and reading really related to Common Core, and if so how?

Common Core is a set of standards in math, reading and writing for students from kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2014-15 school year.

The new academic goals are supposed to make courses more rigorous and better prepare students for college and careers.

Subjects are detailed grade by grade such as counting in kindergarten, fractions in third grade and equations in the eighth grade.

Tests are designed to provide more analytical thinking rather than bubble exams.

Students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to be tested on Common Core for the first time in the spring of 2015.

Louisiana is one of 18 states and the District of Columbia that is part of a testing consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

What tests high school students will take is unclear.

Curriculum is supposed to be left to individual school districts with guidance from the state Department of Education.

Generally speaking, the standards are supposed to offer more in-depth knowledge on key subjects.

Students may be taught material in earlier grades than current practice.

The standards were approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2010 and reaffirmed earlier this year.

More information is available at www.doe.state.la.us

Send questions to Ask The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0297; or email asktheadvocate@theadvocate.com.