[AUDIO] The Parent’s Guide to Understanding Common Core in S.C.

The following is a conversation with Dr. Lemuel Watson, Dean and Professor of the College of Education at the University of South Carolina and Dr. Allison Jacques, Assistant Dean about Common Core Standards in South Carolina.

Q. What is Common Core and why is it being implemented?

A. (Watson) I can talk about that just in simple terms. Common Core really is just a set of expectations, standards that have come about due to the need to have most of our high school students graduate with basic skills in order to succeed in a career, in college, and to be good citizens. Governors as well as the heads of boards of state organization standards came together and decided these are some of the minimum requirements needed for high school graduates. So, basically what this is saying is that across 43 states now who have adopted the common core, these are the expectations of our high school graduates.

Q. Is the curriculum determined at a state levels or are they determined by the districts?

A. (Jacques) Districts will certainly determine the curriculum while the standards are adopted by the state each district is going to maintain autonomy and they will make the decision on how to best address those standards within there classrooms and within there communities.

Q. How will testing be different?

A. (Jacques) Testing will be quite different. Many parents are use to taking multiple-choice test with sharpened number 2 pencils and nice erasers to go through in a timed segment but because of our Smarter Balanced Assessment which we’ve adopted with Common Core we’re actually going to have computer adaptive testing. So students are going to begin to take those assessments electronically and they’re going to be quite different. We’re going to look at performance-based tasks. We’re going to look for extended responses rather than having the traditional multiple choice we may have multiple correct answers. We may look at graphs and grids and determine a variety of responses.

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Q. This just isn’t at a high school level. Can you talk about how it’s be implemented across all grade levels?

A. (Jacques) If I had to boil it down I would say we are teaching our kids to think critically and to problem solve. We’re teaching them to site sources, to provide evidence of there responses. And that does begin as early as kindergarten. And we’re focusing on differentiating and looking at students needs.

Q. What is essential for the parent’s to know about Common Core?

A. (Jacques) The focus on problem solving and critical thinking from my perspective would be critical. There is going to be less memorization. If you try to approach this process based on your experiences as a student or your memories you’re going to find that there is a bit of a disconnect. It’s important to attend curriculum nights at the school and to read the standards as they are sent home, to investigate sites like smarterbalanced.org and to maintain an open mind so that your student can have a more dynamic experince than perhaps you had in school. In reading, I encourage all parents to focus on non-fiction. Getting students use to that and developing that love and appreciation for that type of reading, I would incorporate that as you continue to read to your students.

(Watson) I think parents need to understand that this is about real world kind of reflection and if you put yourself in that kind of context where you’re trying to solve a real world problem, there are many answers. Just because the students come home with a reading assignment doesn’t mean it’s just in reading. It could be reading about geology and then going our exploring. So parents need to really get involved and ask question and be partners in this process because it is learning in a totally different way.