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Programs: Family Learning

In this section:

  • WHAT ARE the New Standards?
  • WHERE do the New Standards come from?
  • HOW will I know...if my child's class is using standards?...how well my child is doing?
  • WHAT KIND of work do the New Standards require?
  • HOW WILL the school system help my child reach these high standards?
  • 5 WAYS to show your child that you think learning is important
  • 10 QUESTIONS about New Standards to ask the Principal and Teachers in Your Child's School


A publication of The Kimmins Foundation 


Cities & States from around the country are adopting New Standards for learning for all of our school students. For the first time, we will use the same standards in English, math and applied learning in all schools for all students, including students in bilingual or special needs classes. These standards will be clearly communicated to students, teachers and parents, and they will be high--as good as or better than those in other countries.

The New Standards will mean changes--in the ways classrooms look, in the work that is assigned, in tests, in assessment, in teaching and in learning. Meeting the New Standards will mean hard work for students, teachers and parents. ThisParents Guide is designed to help you understand the changes and why they are important. The Guide also gives you suggestions for helping your children meet the standards and good questions to ask your children's teachers and principals when you visit their schools.

Remember, you are important teachers and partners in your children's education. We hope this Guide will help you help your children. Read it, share it and talk about it with your children, friends, family and school community.


WHAT are the New Standards?
The New Standards are expectations that we have for all students, in every school, about what they will be learning in school and how good their work must be. The standards tell us what students should know (content) and show us what they should be able to do (performance). Although the standards are set for 4th, 8th and 10th grade, every school will be looking to these standards to set expectations for all the other grades to make sure children are ready to meet the 4th, 8th and 10th grade standards.

The New Standards set high standards in reading, writing, speaking, math and science. They also describe how students should use what they learn in the real world to solve problems, alone or with others. This is called applied learning.

What's great about the New Standards is that they hold all our children to the same high level of excellence. Until now we have had different expectations for different students and, in some cases, different schools. Work given a grade of "A" in a school where people do not expect the children to do so well might only get a "C" in a school with higher expectations. Because the New Standards should be used in every school in the school system, the expectations for every student in the system will be the same. No matter where you live or which teacher your child has, the standards are the same for all students.

Students used to be graded against each other's progress. Remember grading on a curve? That way, in a math class where none of the students did a good job, you could get an "A" for the best work, even if it was not very good. With the New Standards, everybody will know how good work must be to meet the standard, and a grade will really tell you whether your child has performed the task as well as he should.

Individual schools and teachers will help students meet the standards in different ways. Students may study different things, read different books and tackle different projects, and teachers will teach differently. But the intent is the same for everyone: clear learning goals and high achievement for all.

High Standards are good news for your child. The more we expect of students, the better they will do.

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WHERE do the New Standards come from?
You might have heard in the news over the past few years that American education has not kept pace with the demands of the work place, with technology and with education in other countries. You may also know that the quality of education differs from school to school.

To help address these concerns about the lack of excellence and equity in our public schools, a total of 49 states and more than 100 urban school districts have adopted standards to make sure that all children learn at a high level. These New Standards were developed with the help of teachers, experts in the subject areas, business people and community members from all over the country. They were compared with standards in other countries to make sure they were as high as or higher than most. This process guaranteed that the standards are high, competitive, useful and educationally up-to-date.

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HOW will I know if my child's class is using standards?
They make clear what is expected of children. In a classroom using standards,
this means that students will be told and shown what is expected of them and what they must do to meet the standards on every assignment. This means:

  • Children should know what their assignments are, why they are doing them and what they must do to get a good grade.
  • Specific standards should be publicly displayed in the school.
  • Examples of student work that meets the standards should be displayed and available for students to look at.
  • Charts that show what must be included in successful work (called rubrics) should be on the walls or handed out to students.
  • All of these are tools the teachers use to make sure their students know what is expected of them.

In a Standards classroom, you should see:

  • Children discussing their work with other children and with teachers and, after looking at the clear expectations, or rubrics, revising it before handing it in as final.
  • Children involved in active learning, small groups of children working together, teachers meeting with one student or a few students together.
  • Students encouraged to raise questions and solve problems together.
  • A wide variety of books, materials and equipment.

Conversation in which children and teachers raise questions, listen and respond to each other.

HOW will I know how well my child is doing?
EVEN WITH CLEAR EXPECTATIONS, WE MUST STILL FIND OUT IF CHILDREN ARE MEETING THEM. Multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and "bubble" tests are useful for some purposes, but they don't really tell us whether students have learned what they have been taught or what students can do. We should start using and developing new tests that reveal a fuller picture of your child's abilities.

These new tests should require students to show their work, to write essays and complete projects. They will help teachers, students and parents see what students are doing well and where they need more work. In some classes, children will also keep folders, or portfolios, with samples of their best work so that parents and teachers can see what progress they are making in each learning area.

Once you know what the teacher expects, you can look at your child's work to see if it meets the expectations.


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WHAT KIND of work o the New Standards require?
THE NEW STANDARDS MEAN STUDENTS WILL HAVE TO WORK HARDER AND DEEPER. It is not enough to get the "right" answer. Knowing how to spell, add, subtract, multiply and divide, as well as understanding the rules of writing and other basic skills, is still important. But students must also show how they apply what they know and use it to solve problems. By looking at the types of questions your child will be asked to answer, you will see that New Standards are high standards and understand why classrooms, student assignments and tests or assessments have to change.

    Instead of reading a chapter and answering questions at the end, your third grader might participate in a small group discussion with other students about a book they are all reading and support what he says with evidence from the book.

  • 25 BOOKS
    All students, in every grade, are expected to read and show that they understand 25 books or other written materials. Students must read different kinds of books and at least four books by the same author or of the same type--for example, fairytales or biographies.

    Instead of filling in the blanks on a work sheet, your fifth grader might research a subject, like whales, and write a book with chapters about the subject.

    Instead of taking turns reading paragraphs out loud, your fourth grader might use notes and make eye contact with the audience as she gives a prepared speech.

  • MATH
    Instead of being asked to answer a multiple choice question about the location of points on a graph, your seventh grader might be asked to explain how he would accurately describe a geometric design on a 10 x 10 grid to a friend by phone.
    Instead of memorizing the pH level of acids, your eighth grader might test the level of acid in the soil near her school and use computers to compare the results with students doing similar work at other schools.

    Instead of learning each subject separately, sixth graders might work together to identify a part of their neighborhood they would like to improve. As they problem solve, they gather, organize and test ideas, prepare and make presentations and assess their work.

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HOW WILL the school system help my child reach these high standards?
At the Kimmins Foundation we know that trying to get every student to reach these high standards will not be easy. That is why they have both agreed to provide extra support to help students prepare to meet these challenges. The extra support starts with helping young children to be better prepared for school. What The State of Florida needs to do is phase in free pre-kindergarten for four year olds. Research shows that children who go to preschool start school ready to learn and better prepared than children who first go to school in kindergarten. Starting every child's school experience earlier will help our children become strong learners.

Our goal is to assure that every child be able to read by third grade. Not only will the kindergarten, first, second and most third grade teachers be working on teaching reading, most also will be required to meet one-on-one with every child in their class, at least twice a year, to see how well the child's reading, writing and understanding is progressing. And more teachers are being hired so that class size will be smaller in those important early years.

One of the standards in reading is that all students read (and show that they understand) 25 books every year. To make this possible, hopefully our schools will be given extra support to buy more books. To help all the middle school students meet the standards that require computer skills, Project Smart supplies schools with hundreds of computers for students to use.

No one expects that all children will be able to reach the standards in the same amount of time. But we do believe that each child can reach the standards, if given the right amount of time. To make sure that everyone has the time they need, we need to make more school time available. There are now after-school and summer school programs for students who need more help or more time to achieve high standards.

Finally, we all need to agreed: "Specifically, we pledge to do everything in our power to ensure all students a fair shot at reaching the new performance standards."

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5 Ways to show your child that you think learning is important...

  1. Ask your child specific questions about school and her work, such as "Which words did you spell correctly on your spelling test?" or "What part of your science experiment did you like the best, and why?"
  2. Make sure your child does his homework every night. Give him the space, quiet and time to do his homework. Turn off the television.
  3. Read to your child and listen when your child reads to you. Talk about what you read together, and ask questions about what you read. Don't correct your child as she reads aloud unless she asks for help.
  4. Make out-of-school time a learning time for your child. Get your child a library card and go to the library often. Go to museums, visit people at their work places, fill your home with books, encourage your children to use their imagination, limit the time for TV and video games.
  5. Learn as much as you can about your child's class and school. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Ask the teacher what you can do to help your child at home. Join the Parent Association. Volunteer in the school. Ask questions.

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10 Questions about New Standards to ask the Principal and Teachers in Your Child's School...

  1.  What skills and knowledge will my child be expected to master this year?
  2. What is your plan to help students to reach the New Standards?
  3. How will my child find out what is required to meet the standards?
  4. How will I know if my child is making progress?
  5. How will you help children who are not reaching the goals?
  6. What kinds of tests are used and how are they used?
  7. Will my child be expected to learn as much and the same things as every other child?
  8. How do you involve families in learning?
  9. Can I get a list of recommended books for my child to be reading?
  10. What after-school and summer programs are available to help children learn?

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Please let us know what you think of this guide and how we can improve it in the future. If you would like more information about standards and your child's education, contact our Office.

New Standards TM is a trademark of the National Center on Education and the Economy and the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

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