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Phoenix Forward magazine

5 ways Common Core standards affect education

If you have kids in school, you might have found yourself scratching your head this year over some of their homework. You aren’t alone.

But there’s a reason those math and English assignments are different than before: The Common Core State Standards Initiative revises the academic materials K–12 students are expected to master at each grade level.

“The goal is to create a more skilled labor force,” explains R. Lewis Cordell, an instructor in the master’s in education program at the University of Phoenix San Diego Campus, “and to raise the bar for U.S. education, which is currently scoring at midrange compared to other countries.”

Developed by a team of teachers, education experts and academic researchers, and adopted by 45 states, the initiative is scheduled to be fully implemented by 2014. Here are five ways it’s affecting education:

Real-world problem-solving

Real-world problem-solving

New standard: More homework assignments will draw on a combination of students’ skills to handle real-life issues. For instance, depending on a student’s age, “your child might come home and have to go online to read a utility company’s rate guide and [then] calculate the amount of a bill based on kilowatts used,” says Cordell, a middle school teacher.

Why: By applying learning to tangible situations, children will gain skills to handle problems they’ll likely encounter as adults.

Less answer-driven math homework

Less answer-driven math homework

New standard: More math assignments will ask students to explain in writing how they arrived at their answers. They won’t just “do” fractions; they’ll have to describe what fractions are and why they’re important.

Why: In countries like Japan, where children score higher in math than kids in the United States, students spend more time understanding process rather than focusing on correct answers.

More nonfiction reading

More nonfiction reading

New standard: One-half of students’ reading will be nonfiction, such as online newspapers, technical manuals, autobiographies and presidential speeches.

Why: Students will be better prepared to handle the required reading in complex college texts. In addition, this skill will help them on the job, where most reading will be nonfiction.

Bigger focus on communication skills

Bigger focus on communication skills

New standard: Students will spend more time developing verbal communication skills through presentations to one another, working on projects together, and participating in large and small group discussions.

Why: Previously not a benchmark for evaluation in school, this skill set is key to success in today’s global marketplace, where employees must collaborate to solve problems and meet goals, sometimes across time zones and different countries.

Digital know-how

Digital know-how

New standard: Students will be expected to use computer programs, such as PowerPoint® presentation software or the iTunes U® course app, to complete many assignments, and then describe their digital creations in class.

Why: By having kids use technology in their homework assignments, they’ll have the skills needed for today’s jobs, where computers and digital applications are the norm. “School districts may be spending more money on technology,” Cordell notes, “and less money on ‘old school’ textbooks.”

Related articles:

PowerPoint is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
iTunes U is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

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