Why Haven’t You Heard of Common Core?

Already, 45 states, D.C., and 4 other US territories, have adopted it, yet why haven’t you heard of, arguably, the most widely spread education reform movement seen in decades? Don’t be alarmed or think of yourself as an uninvolved or uninterested parent, as you are far from alone. According to a PDK/Gallop poll released in Aug 2013, a large majority of Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards (CCSC). And, among the minority that were aware of this initiative, most were misinformed and did not accurately comprehend what it was and how it is to be implemented!

In an over-simplification, the CCSC guide learning expectations for children from kindergarten through 12th grade in the areas of mathematics and language arts. Previously, each state set its own standards for education. In contrast, the CCSC are uniform standards across all participating states and territories. This state-led effort, backed by the Obama administration, aims to prepare children for college and the professional career path that follows, a critical and broadly viewed issue not perceived to be adequately addressed by previous state education programs and policies.

But the question remains, why haven’t you heard of Common Core? In an era where the US has tumbled substantially in global education rankings, shouldn’t our commitment to education as parents and Americans be at heightened levels? The answer is certainly “yes”, but questions regarding who is the responsible party to blame still remain, impacting the public’s involvement in the education of America’s youth.

The fact is the US education’s “blame game” has evolved over the years. From socioeconomics status of families to the class sizes in schools to the ability of the teachers, and lately, to the standardization of testing, the public has had no shortage of scapegoats to fault for the educational shortcomings. The result has been countless reform changes that have been proposed and even implemented, creating an environment of “education reform fatigue” also contributing to the overall complexity at hand.

But the crux of the issue, I propose, is with the lack of responsibility and accountability of parents. While there are legitimate concerns with the areas mentioned above, expecting a school staff guided by state policies and programs to have the full responsibility for the academic success of students neglects what many are saying the single most important predictor of student achievement — the extent to which the family is involved with a child’s education. This is not only supported by educators and other stakeholders, but also, this has been documented in dozens of studies demonstrating findings that indicate that the family makes critical contributions to student achievement from the earliest childhood years through high school, and efforts to improve children’s outcomes are much more effective when the family is actively involved.

Left unaddressed, the blame game will all but be forced to continue. Even as I write this article, I struggle myself as a new parent with the involvement of the education of my own children. It’s definitely not due to the lack of how to get involved. There are tons of relevant and viable suggestions on how to be involved that can be extremely beneficial for the child and the overall US education rankings. Parents can help set up expectations, nurture curiosity, cultivate discipline, reinforce learnings, among many of the necessary roles that we should be playing. Rather, I find myself getting caught up in the blame game, but also going up against current generational headwinds, including being part of dual-working parents, having too much reliance on technology, and wanting a stronger work-life/happiness lifestyle for myself and my kids.

At the end of the day, having parents play a more integrated role with their child’s education is not a new perspective by any means, but nonetheless, it’s a problem that should be more consistently discussed among key decision-makers in the home, at the school, at the districts, at the states, and in national policy.

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