What Every Parent Should Know About the Common Core Assessments

Our approach to education has changed a great deal in recent years. For instance, students of all ages must complete a growing number of tests in order to ensure that they are learning and retaining information. This reality can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when you take into account the jargon and regulations that surround each exam.

Perhaps you have heard of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and its related assessments. With 43 states participating in this initiative, many families may be wondering how its annual exams will affect their students. This guide aims to help. Here is what every parent should know about the Common Core assessments:

They vary from state to state

The 2014-2015 school year is the first year in which students will be tested on their understanding of the Common Core State Standards. Assessments will be offered by two consortiums – PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Each approaches assessment differently.

Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island plan to give the PARCC exam. (Pennsylvania has expressed an interest, but has not yet committed.) The PARCC assessment is computer-based and consists of two parts. There are also two optional tests – one at the beginning of the year and one in the middle.

The second group, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, consists of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will also utilize a two-part end-of-year exam. The first portion will be adaptive, while the second section will not be. Both will be computer-based.

Each state chose its specific assessment – or chose to abstain

Each individual state was responsible for choosing which assessment would be provided to its students. However, while some states are working through the two organizations discussed above, others are developing their own comprehensive exams.

You can help to prepare your student(s)

There are several things you can do to help your student prepare for the Common Core assessments. First, introduce him or her to different technologies, such as video and electronic text. (This is especially important if your child is young.) These 3 ways can help you better utilize your electronic textbooks. Both assessments focus on comparing, contrasting, and synthesizing information, so you can also practice these skills with your student. Encourage your child to respond to questions using a computer, and practice computer skills – manipulating graphs, typing, and so on. These are some great tips on how to create a good study environment.

Students will be asked to write on the assessments, which may differ from past exams that were largely based on multiple-choice questions. Many students will find it useful to complete sample prompts, as this allows them to perfect their timing. These are some great tips for writing an essay.

Finally, ensure that your student is making real-life connections to the test material. When they can connect, they will be more likely to truly learn and remember the exam content.

As always, be sure to check your state’s Department of Education page for the most recent and relevant information on Common Core assessments.