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Common Core: Commonly Asked Questions and Answers

The following are two resource guides to help parents find answers to commonly asked questions relating to Common Core.

Question & Answer Guide (pdf)


Preparing Students for College and Careers (pdf)


Upcoming state exams will reflect NEW Common Core Learning Standards

As many of you know, students in grades 3-8 are preparing to take the NYS English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams in the coming weeks. These tests mark a time of transition in our schools, as this is the first year they will be based on the new Common Core Learning Standards, which are national learning standards that have been adopted by New York and states across the country. What does this mean for our children?

What are the Common Core Learning Standards

The Common Core Learning Standards are a set of clear guidelines showing what students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 should be able to do in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics. With these standards, students start by learning basic skills in early grades and build up to mastering more difficult skills and concepts—think of the process as moving up a “staircase of knowledge.”

By having common standards, all students across the state—and across the country—should have the opportunity to learn the same skills. In the past, every state had its own set of academic standards, meaning U.S. students were learning different skills and concepts at different rates. The Common Core Standards give all students an equal opportunity to learn at higher levels. In turn, pupils should graduate with a greater chance to succeed in college, careers and life.

Why are Common Core Learning Standards being introduced?

The new standards are designed to better prepare students to tackle college-level courses and gain skills they’ll need in current and future careers. In New York, fewer than 35 percent of students are graduating from school with the skills they need to pass college courses. Employers in the state and nation report that newly hired staff do not have the basic reading, writing and math skills to do their jobs well. Changing these trends means changing the approaches we use to educate our children.

What do these changes mean for our children?

With the new standards, students will be learning skills that are more in-depth, advanced and challenging than the content they learned in the past. These changes are called Common Core “shifts.”

  • Read more non-fiction;

  • Learn about the world by reading;

  • Read more challenging material;

  • Talk about reading using evidence gathered from the material read;

  • Learn how to write based on what was read;

  • Learn more vocabulary words.

  • Build on content and concepts learned in the previous grade level;

  • Spend more time on fewer concepts (i.e., learn in a more in-depth way);

  • Develop speed and accuracy in solving problems;

  • Really understand math and how to use it in real-world situations;

  • Prove mathematics knowledge by showing step-by-step how problems were solved.

These skills will be tested for the first time in New York’s upcoming grades 3-8 ELA and math exams.

How will the changes affect student performance on state exams?

State officials are already warning parents, school leaders, teachers and media outlets to expect a dip in student scores on these exams. In fact, in Tennessee where Common Core-aligned tests were given for the first time last year, test scores dropped 30 percent when compared with previous year’s results.

According to New York State Education Commissioner John King, “…we expect the assessment scores will decline…The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance. The results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well-prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school.”

It’s important to remember that it will take time for schools to become accustomed to higher standards and the test scores will reflect this period of transition. In the end, students will ultimately benefit not only by learning more, but also by developing better problem-solving, critical thinking and communications skills.

What else is important to understand about the roll-out of Common Core Learning Standards and New York’s new tests?

During this time of change, it's important for parents, educators and community members to also understand that:

  • It’s normal for students to feel a certain level of anxiety around any exams -- we just don't want them to become overwhelmed by this anxiety. As parents, do what you’ve always done—encourage your children to stay calm, take their time, review their work carefully, and do their best. Just as with anything students do in school, these exams are important and we want students to take pride in their performance.

  • In terms of the scores, we will not be able to compare this year’s exams to last year’s exams in the way that we have in the past. Because the instruction leading up to the tests and the tests themselves are different, any dip in student scores should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or teacher performance.

South Colonie remains committed to communicating with parents on the implementation of the new learning standards and the new exams, as well as what the student test scores mean. We will continue to work diligently to teach the skills that are measured by these exams through thoughtful and engaging lessons and activities -- not merely test preparation activities. Over time, the new standards will strengthen our instructional programs and this year’s tests will serve as a baseline of student performance for the district to build on in future years.

How can I get more information about the Common Core Learning Standards?

Feel free to contact your child’s teacher or principal if you have questions about the state exams or the new standards. In addition, please visit for a variety of materials relating to the Common Core Learning Standards.

How Parents Can Help Kids Shift Their Learning to the Common Core

Whether or not you agree with the new standards or state testing, it is the reality our children are facing right now. Our Friends over at Parent Today have provided these valuable resources for parents to help their kids navigate the new world of Common Core. full story


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