Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Understanding Your Child's Educational Experience: The Common Core and High Stakes Testing

A few days ago, I watched a group of parents protesting the Common Core and high stakes testing outside of a local school district on the news. There were parents expressing concern and dissatisfaction with district and sate educational policies. There were children communicating frustration, confusion, and feelings of failure. This is not the only public outcry for support, help, and change in recent months. A brief online search will show you a variety of videos and written works professing similar concerns. This negative experience that students, teachers, administrators, and parents are communicating is sad and serves as a motivator for change.  

I have spent the last several months working with families and speaking with school staff to understand the challenges related to the Common Core and state testing and to develop practical strategies for coping with these changes. I am saddened by the idea that there are capable children who feel like failures as a result of new academic requirements.  

The following are some helpful strategies that families can utilize to understand and support their child's educational experience. 

Help your child to discover and utilize effective coping skills. Teach your child to focus on areas of success, not failure. Encourage them and provide support. Listen to what your child is communicating to you. Avoid "showing" them how to do the work. How you learned to complete a problem is likely very different than they are learning it today. 

Work with, not against your child's teacher and district. The Common Core is not a district initiated change, it is a federal change. Understand the differences between the Common Core and high stakes testing. Contact your district to learn about which tests your child will be taking, when they will be taking them, and the options available for opting out or receiving accommodations. 

Be informed. Do your research. Ask questions. Communicate any concerns with the teacher. Get clarification from the teacher about how work should be completed. Get examples.  

It is very important for parents to be informed about their child's day-to-day educational experience.  You can learn more about the Common Core by visiting these websites: 
If you would like to learn more about high stakes testing, you can contact your district, or (if you are a NYS resident) visit 

Remember, you can be an advocate for your child and teach them to advocate for themselves.