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Understanding the Common Core


What are 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.”

For example, in English Language Arts (ELA), students will:

bullet graphicRead more non-fiction;

bullet graphicLearn about the world by reading;

bullet graphicRead more challenging material;

bullet graphicTalk about reading using evidence gathered from the material read;

bullet graphicLearn how to write based on what was read;

bullet graphicLearn more vocabulary words.

In mathematics, students will:

bullet graphicBuild on content and concepts learned in the previous grade level;

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

bullet graphicDevelop speed and accuracy in solving problems;

bullet graphicReally understand math and how to use it in real-world situations;

bullet graphicProve 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?

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.”

 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.

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:

bullet graphicIt’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.

bullet graphicIn 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.

Watervliet 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. Additional materials and information about the Common Core Learning Standards

Please watch the video, below, about the Common Core Standards and the Grade 3-8 state assessments in English language arts and math.


Look for Watervliet Elementary School students, teachers and Principal Terri O'Brien in this video from the State Education Department. WES was one school selected to participate in a video series recently produced by SED about the new Common Core State Standards and the upcoming state assessments, which are based on the new learning standards.


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. Additional materials and information about the Common Core Learning Standards


Watervliet Grades 3-8
NYS Testing Schedule

April 2-3, 2019

NYS English Language Arts Exam

May 1-2, 2019

NYS Mathematics Exam

NYSESLAT (Speaking) administered between April 8-May 17

NYSESLAT (Listening, Reading, Writing) administered between April 8-May 17

NYS Grades 4 & 8 Science Exam (Performance) administered between May 22-May 31

June 3, 2019

NYS Grades 4 & 8 Science Exam (Written)


Additional Resources

Engage NY Parent & Family Resources

Common Core FAQs from Engage NY (PDF)

NYSED: Common Core Learning Standards

Achieve the Core

Don't Stress About The Test!

image of Don't Stress About the Test tip sheet

A fact sheet with test-taking tips and other information about the state assessments and New York's Common Core State Standards courtesy of Parent Today (PDF)

To test or not to test from Parent Today (PDF)

NYS Teaching Is The Core grant