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Colorado Academic Standards give parents peace of mind

As a dad, I worry if my kid is eating enough, getting outside enough, washing his hands after he uses the bathroom, and so on.

I worry about bigger things too — like if he is learning everything in school that he’ll need after he graduates and (hopefully) go out into the real world.

When I sit down to help him with his homework, I can see that he sufficiently uses formulas to solve math problems, but he can’t tell me what those formulas mean.  He misses the bigger connections to the real-world application of those math problems.

I worry that, as he progresses from grade to grade, knowing just enough to get by won’t cut it.  That when he goes to college, he won’t be adequately prepared for the high expectations he’ll have to meet there.  As a parent, I need to know that my child is getting the skills he needs to thrive and one day compete for the jobs of tomorrow.

This year, Colorado is implementing a new, more rigorous set of expectations in schools across the state.  The Colorado Academic Standards cover 10 essential areas – math; reading, writing and communicating; world languages; science; social studies; comprehensive health and physical education; and music, visual arts, theatre, and dance.  These new, more comprehensive standards are raising the bar in education and are based on an accumulation of best practices in education developed by experts with input from educators and parents.

The Colorado Academic Standards offer a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our kids succeed.  They will help our kids build a foundation in critical thinking and focus on the real-life application of those skills.  Students will spend less time memorizing facts and more time understanding the why behind what they’re learning.

And they’ll spend more time on fewer subjects, really getting to the core of what they’re learning.  For example, in English language arts, students will read more non-fiction texts, like foundational American literature, spend more time analyzing them, and then apply what they’ve learned to real-life situations.

The new standards are also leveling the playing field.  Parents who have had to change their child’s schools mid-year know there’s a risk that their child’s new class might not be in the same place academically as his or her previous class.  This lack of consistency from school to school has given our kids an uneven chance at success.  Colorado Academic Standards are setting high expectations for what all kids must know, no matter their zip code or circumstances.

Under the Colorado Academic standards, teachers have a clearer understanding of the benchmarks each student must meet at each grade level.  By spending more time on core subjects, teachers can more easily individualize those benchmarks based on how their students are performing.  This piece of the puzzle is crucial, which is why teachers are getting a lot of support in how to create the best lesson plans and guide their students toward meeting the expectations.

By raising our expectations for what our kids need to know, we’re improving their education and their chance at success after they graduate.  Colorado Academic Standards are giving parents like me confidence that their kids are gaining the skills and knowledge they’ll need to get to the next grade and to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.