“How are the schools?” is onSchoolhouse mode of the first questions relocating employees consider, and one we at TRC face daily. It is why we are interested in the Common Core – new academic standards in English language arts and math that 44 states and the District of Columbia are implementing. And although the debate is still raging about whether Common Core is good or bad, one aspect that has gotten little attention is its potential impact for people on the move.

An average American moves more than 10 times during his lifetime, which means that many people are moving with their children, and those children are changing schools. The hope is that with the Common Core Standards, the inconsistencies between school systems and states will not be as glaring as they were pre-Common Core.

“It standardizes the standards,” says Ann Clark, PhD, Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Literacy in the College of Education at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT. “Most districts will add to the Common Core. The teaching depends on the resources available, but the intent is that all children will have the same rigorous content based on the standards.”

In the annual letter of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the couple wrote: “Inconsistent standards like the ones we’ve had until now punish students who have to switch schools. Either they’re expected to know material they’ve never been taught, or they’re taught material they already know. But with standards that are not only high enough but also consistent, students will be able to move without falling behind.”

It is the benefit of consistency that will help those children on the move.

Clearly, American schools need to change to keep up with international standards. Every three years, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranks 65 countries on educational achievement. The latest results, released late last year, showed that U.S. students ranked 30th in mathematics; 23rd in science; and 20th in reading.

So what’s it all about?

According to the Common Core website, the standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. The standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In addition, Common Core provides teachers will the tools to measure student progress throughout the academic year.

Bill Gates ranks Common Core among the most important educational ideas to be adopted in years. Currently five states – Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia – have not adopted these standards. Minnesota adopted only the English language standards.

What follows are the questions TRC clients are asking about the Common Core:

Who led the development of the Common Core State Standards?

Two organizations, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, led – and continue to lead – the development of the Common Core State Standards. Teachers, parents, school administrators and education experts also were involved in the drafting process. But the implementation of the Common Core – how standards are taught, curriculum and materials used – is up to the state and local communities.

Were the Common Core Standards internationally benchmarked?

According to the Common Core website, standards from top-performing countries factored greatly into developing the present standards. One of the ways to analyze educational systems is to compare international assessments, particularly the PISA and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. There have always been striking similarities among the standards the top-performing nations exhibited. Prior to Common Core, when the educational standards of most U.S. states were pitted against the standards from the top-performing nations, stark differences were evident. Therefore, when the Common Core Standards were developed, the standards from the top-performing countries were factored into our present standards.

Is Common Core a national curriculum?

No. It is a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help students succeed at each grade level. Teachers continue to devise lesson plans and teach to the needs of the students in their classrooms. The Common Core will always remain a state-led effort.

Bottom line: When contemplating any move, parents still need to pay attention to the school system. Common Core hopefully will elevate the education of all our children, so the next time PISA ranks the world’s educational systems, the United States will place much higher.

In our next blog, we will unveil a checklist that TRC has prepared for parents to take to a prospective school.

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