Parents want the best for their children. When we talk with parents around Tennessee, we hear again and again: “I want school to push my children’s thinking and expand their minds.” Tennessee’s new, higher standards for learning in English and math do just that, while preparing students for a successful future.
By the end of the decade, nearly two-thirds of new jobs will require education after high school. Nearly all parents – 94 percent in a national survey – think it is important for their children to attend college. However, ACT has found that less than one-fifth of Tennessee students graduate high school fully prepared to continue their education. In today’s economy, competition for jobs comes not just from across town but from around the world. Our state has to make sure students are ready for life after high school.
Standards determine the knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn in each grade and subject. Tennessee has raised the bar in the classroom by adopting higher expectations in math and English language arts.
- With these standards, learning focuses on real-world skills like critical thinking and problem solving, the kinds of skills needed for success in college or career training and the workforce.
- Students are no longer just memorizing the right answer; they are learning how to find the right answer, how to prove that it is the right answer, and how to use that answer in a meaningful way.
- The standards progress with the students, building on the foundation in the early grades to create a ladder for climbing to college and career readiness. For example, math classes in elementary and middle school teach the concepts to prepare students for Algebra I.
Raising the bar and expecting more is hard work, particularly for students and teachers. New standards mean new ways of teaching and learning in classrooms, and ultimately more challenging school work and assessments. To stay the course with higher standards and expectations, parents, businesses, and communities need to be vocal about the importance of better-preparing students for the future. Tennesseans are up to this challenge.
Parents and other adults set the stage for success by supporting students at home. Here are some important steps to take:
- Set aside time every day when your student can concentrate on reading, writing, and math.
- Ask your students questions about their school work and encourage them to explain how they got to an answer. Remember that students are learning to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. Asking questions is a great way to help them learn.
- Utilize new resources and tools, and prepare your student to do the same. The new assessment will likely be taken online. Schedule computer time at home or at a local library so your child can get additional practice with their computer skills.
- Talk to your child’s teachers often and ask how you can help at home.
Remember that parents can be strong advocates for their children’s best interests. In 2015, a new assessment will replace the TCAP tests for math and English language arts to better measure student learning. This kind of assessment will give teachers and parents a tool for gauging where a student stands on the path to college and career at each grade level, not just at the end of high school.
Join us in calling for a high-quality assessment, which should:
- Inform you as a parent on exactly where your child stands, in comparison to his or her peers, on the path to college or technical training, career, and success after high school.
- Test students in engaging ways to deliver meaningful results about their reading skills, reasoning skills, and writing skills. Assessments that are only multiple choice do not achieve this because they do not allow students to show that they know both the right answer and why that answer is correct.
- Accurately test what students know so that teachers can improve their teaching and ensure that students get the help they need to reach learning goals.
With your help and support through every step of the process, Tennesseans can ensure that very student graduates high school prepared for the future.