How You can Be a Learning Hero

be a learning hero logoIt’s a dilemma that every one of us in education is quite aware of: how do you measure success? Not just with an individual student, but across a class, a school, a city, even a state? I’m not a huge fan of standardized testing, but the reality is that it’s the best way to have a consistent yardstick to measure children across region, culture and socio-economic status. Done well, it can sidestep language, gender, sexual orientation, religion and more.

That’s the goal of Common Core, a new assessment program developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The computerized testing program for math and English has three primary goals: to measure real-world skills, provide valuable information to the students, and require students to show their work, not just guess at answers.

The tests have been specifically developed to measure real-world skills like critical thinking, reasoning, writing, and problem solving, requiring students to demonstrate and apply what they know. With that same “show me” attitude, students are going to be expected to write essays that explain and justify their answers and reasoning, as well as answer complex math problems and create visual representations of concepts.

Further, the Common Core team recognizes that a standardized test could influence teachers – and schools – to “teach to the test”, so one of the other goals is to identify which skills within a subject that a student has mastered and which they still need to work on. Smart, right?

The Be A Learning Hero campaign is the parent education piece of the Common Core program, as developed by the National PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) and it includes some surprisingly engaging video content, including this basic introduction:

You might not know that I have a Masters in Education from Purdue University School of Education and that I’m involved in adult ed on a weekly basis. And as a father of three, I’m also quite involved in academics in the K-12 world too, though all three of my kids are on non-standard academic journeys: My older two, 18 and 15, are enrolled in an online high school out of California that uses the University of California admissions requirements as the basis of its curriculum, and my youngest, 11, is attending a Waldorf-based private school because of its emphasis on arts and creative thinking.

Still, as an educator, I understand the need for Common Core and as a parent I am also aware of the problems of standardized testing and how it can take away the creativity that teachers need in their classrooms to keep children engaged. It’s a utilitarian philosophical question: should education offer the greatest good for the greatest number or let some children fail out while others succeed?

Don’t believe that’s where we are? The National Center for Education Statistics reveals the percentage of children in your state or your city that fail to graduate high school. In Colorado 26% never graduate high school state-wide, with an astonishing 44% bailing before they graduate high school in Denver. In fact, the Denver Post published an article a few years ago extolling an increase in Denver Public School graduation rates with the headline “Denver Schools’ Graduation Rates up 4% to 56%“. 56% of high school kids in Denver graduate. That’s alarming.

high school graduation rates by state usa

Common Core, and its Colorado implementation “Colorado Academic Standards” has its foes, as does anything that tries to improve public education. It’s just an incredibly difficult problem with the huge variation in family structures, home life, cultures, languages, religious beliefs and everything else that makes the United States an amazing nation. This extraordinary heterogeneity is exactly what makes all of this so difficult. And there’s no easy solution.

But Common Core is here and Common Core-inspired curricula are showing up at your children’s school and it’s going to be a big transition. Since there’s so much data to show that parental involvement and encouragement are critical to a child’s success, it’s smart for you to spend time learning more about Common Core, its goals and how you can help your children not just “pass the test” but thrive in this new educational climate.

I have more thoughts that I put into a video and I encourage you to watch this:

I’m inviting you to Be a Learning Hero.

Go to the site and read up on what you can do to assist your children’s teachers and school, watch the videos to understand more about the goals of Common Core and, well, be a hero to your children and their classmates. Because there’s no more important investment we can make as parents than that which helps our children succeed.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Be a Learning Hero. The opinions and text are all mine.