Common Core Testing: What you need to know

Each school year there are four seasons: Back to school, holiday, how long until spring break and testing.  Guess which kids dread most?

Testing – both the standardized tests and end-of-year exams are tough on kids and moms and dads.  This year, parents are telling us the testing anxiety is even more intense as schools adopt the Common Core State Standards and new tests to go along with them.  We’re finding most of that anxiety is because parents aren’t quite sure what to expect.  No worries!  We have the scoop on everything related to Common Core and testing.  Here are the answers to your top questions.

What is Common Core?

common core testingThe Common Core State Standards were developed to establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should master in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade. They have been adopted by all the states, except Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia. (Minnesota is adopting the literacy standards only.)

The standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country. The Common Core focuses on developing critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills. The goal is to prepared kids for success in today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses and workforce training programs.

How is Common Core being implemented in my state?

Every state has a Common Core website with all the details.  Here is a handy chart that has links to all the state websites.

When will the Common Core assessments be implemented?

The Common Core tests this spring are – quite literally – a test.

Many states have opted to field test the Common Core exams to see if the standards they have been teaching all year are on target. The field tests will help dictate what the final versions of the exams will look like when they are implemented in spring 2015.

Education officials and test developers will be judging how well schools’ technical capabilities conform to the test; the quality of the test questions; if there are significant differences based on gender, race or ethnicity; and more. States made localized decisions on whether they will use the pilot tests to supplement or replace state tests. Some states will do both, and some will just use the Common Core tests.

Do I need to help my child study for the Common Core tests?

Typically the majority of review happens in the classroom, since teachers are better equipped to know what might be covered. Instead of being strictly multiple choice, the new tests will include open-response items to assess problem-solving skills, a major aim of the new Common Core standards.

We hear that at first, the new tests may seem more difficult because they are based on the “shifts” in the standards. This is expected, and supporters say there is a possibility that student test scores could even drop in the first or second year of the new tests as students and teachers adjust to the new standards. Therefore, parents shouldn’t be alarmed if the test scores from Common Core don’t track from previous assessments. As always, talk with your child’s teacher if you suspect a problem that goes beyond the new tests.

What if my child is anxious about the test?

It is common for many kids to be worried about a test, especially when it’s new.  Next week we’ll have a blog post covering test anxiety, but here’s a teaser with our four top tips:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Have a nutritious breakfast before the test and stay fueled with smart snack choices.
  • Read directions carefully and thoroughly read all answers before making a choice.
  • Repeat a positive mantra such as “I am doing my best.”

At Tutor.com our mission is to stay up on all the latest in school curriculum to ensure that we can support our clients as needed. For that reason, we are aligned to Common Core and our professional tutors are equipped to help your kids master any of the concepts include in the new standards from Algebra II to writing an essay.

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore more about what Common Core means to families – and we invite you to share your questions below so we can help you understand these new changes.

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