The Common Core: What Do Military Families Need to Know?

If you are a military family with school-age children, chances are you’ve heard something about the Common Core State StandardsEither you are in one of the 42 states that has adopted the standards, or you face the prospect of moving to one of those states during your service member’s military career. But what exactly is the Common Core and what does it mean for military families?

So what the heck is the Common Core, anyway?

The Common Core is a set of standards that outline what skills and concepts students should master in math and language arts as they move from kindergarten through grade 12. They were developed in 2009 when the National Governors Association and the Council of State School Officers agreed  there should be a consistent set of high standards used across the country so all students would graduate high school ready for college or careers. As of August, 2015, the Common Core standards have been adopted by 42 states and Washington, D.C. While the standards are uniform, schools and school districts design their own curricula and plan their own lessons.

My child’s school adopted Common Core and now I can’t understand his math homework! What gives?

The Common Core standards included changes to the way in which math is taught, especially in younger grades. The goal was to move beyond rote memorization and improve children’s understanding of math concepts while giving them different methods to solve problems. This can be incredibly frustrating for parents who grew up solving problems a certain way and are understandably confused by new methods they never learned. Some parents also point out the new methods are more cumbersome and time-consuming than the “carry the one” system many of us grew up with. However, the goal of using manipulatives and other new methods to teach math is not just to get the right answer, but to help children gain a deeper understanding of the concepts behind the problem.

My child is worried about standardized testing and his teachers seem stressed out too. Is this because of Common Core?

Whether or not they use the Common Core, all states have education standards. Standardized testing is the most commonly accepted method used to determine whether students are meeting state standards and if they are not, how and where they are falling short. As states adopted the Common Core, new standardized tests had to be developed that reflected the new standards. Some parents and teachers have complained the new tests are not well designed and not reflective of what is being taught in the classroom. The issue is related to the test design than to the standards themselves.

My child attends a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school. What do we need to know about Common Core?

DoDEA has adopted College and Career Ready Standards which mirror the Common Core. They are rolling out the new standards gradually. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade began learning under the new math standards during the 2015-2016 school year. The new standards are set to be implemented for grades six through 12 starting in 2016. 

Bottom line, what does the Common Core mean for military families?

At one time, almost every military family had a story about moving to a new school district only to find their children were far ahead – or far behind – because standards in their old and new school were so different. The Common Core addresses this problem by implementing a uniform set of high standards, so kids and their families know what is expected when they move to a new school. We recognize the standards aren’t perfect and the implementation has been difficult in many locations. But the standards themselves will help accomplish what we have been calling for for years – ensuring military children receive a high quality education wherever they happen to be stationed.

What is your family’s experience with the Common Core? Share your stories below!

Posted April 15, 2016


From: Cheryl on: April 29, 2016
I have been teaching since 1967. Presently , I am a small group instructor and Gma of a 2nd and 3rd grader. This year I have had to google words or phrases in math. But I can always figure out the steps from those examples. Our school shows the reasoning and complex steps ; however, they also do problems the way the parents know! Win/ Win
From: Blair on: April 25, 2016
Building upon Penny's comment, the Common Core State Standards are not a national curriculum; they are a set of standards adopted by individual states. And while the Common Core does set standards for math, how the math is actually taught in the classroom is a school and district decision. The textbooks and worksheets used are also decided locally, and there are a number of resources that align with the Common Core (check out Eureka Math). And better yet, the standards include additional and voluntary content above grade-level, so any students who are advanced or are pursuing careers that require more math can get it. This is particularly important for military families, whose students can often enter a new school in a new state having already learned what is being taught. The Common Core solves this problem.
From: Penny on: April 24, 2016
As a teacher I understand the need for "common core" textbooks, especially in math. Our district has used Math in Focus (Americanized Singapore math) and the Engage NY math lessons (which are free to all online). And as you said, it boils down to teacher training and workshops... which are sorely lacking. That being said, no national standards have ever come with a textbook! that's up to each district. And I have found that the "education system" is always looking for the magic pill and that means the focus is on testing on teaching!
From: Ann on: April 15, 2016
We have moved 12 times in our 21yrs in the military and about 8 of those involved our 3 kids attending schools. They have been in US public schools, DODEA, and international schools in Europe. I do believe in the need for a national curriculum, this would make it easier for military kids and those who are transient, but common core to me has not focused on the right areas to change. In order to get all kids to their standard, all possible angles are taught to ensure they understand the "concept", especially in math. This tends to hinder and frustrate those who do understand it. While then once you get to HS level, flipped math or too basic of worksheets are used with no textbooks. You're at the mercy of the teacher, and sometimes they are not the best at their jobs. Schools can adopt any curriculum they choose but it boils down to their actual oversight of teachers and implementation of standards to meet kids needs. Textbooks apparently fall into the category of old fashioned learning methods, which is ashame. Common core should've come with books as guidance on subject matter. Teachers could still plan lessons that are customized. Students and parents could at least have something to study off of and see the standards needing to be achieved. Yes the internet is available but sometimes it takes more time trying to find the lesson being taught in your school. I do think the MIC3 is helpful for military kids, at least from the angle that they can't be penalized for differences between school districts.
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