Common Core Testing FAQ

Want to find out more about the Smarter Balanced state tests aligned to the Common Core Curriculum?  This FAQ page responds to questions Gladstone parents are asking, and provides you with resources to find out more.

If you don’t see your question listed, email it to Leslie Robinette at

Q: My worry about Common Core is that it is too much, too soon. Our kids need to learn how to learn, how to think, and how to problem solve before all the memorizing starts.
A:  The good news is that the Common Core is actually more focused on how to learn, how to think, and how to problem-solve. It is not about memorizing. Scholastic describes and illustrates the key changes in teaching reading, math, and writing in this short article. 

Q:  I read this article in the Oregonian about the new tests. What kind of third grade math problem requires an hour to complete?
A:  The Smarter Balanced tests include Performance Tasks in reading, writing, and mathematics that challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to real-world problems.  They will involve a collection of questions and activities that are coherently connected to a single theme or scenario. These activities measure depth of understanding, research skills, and complex analysis. Each performance task will take one or two class periods to complete.

Here is an example of a third grade math performance task:
Mrs. McKegney wants to replace the rug in her classroom with tiles. The tiles are 6 inches on each side. The rug is 6 feet by 9 feet. How many tiles does she need?

The tiles are sold in bundles of 5. Each bundle costs $1.
How many bundles are needed?
How much will she pay for the tiles?

Write a letter to Mrs. McKegney clearly explaining your solution to her tile problem and how you went about solving the problem. Be sure to include a visual representation of your solution and observations that you made.

Q:  I’ve forgotten all that high school math!  How can I help my child?
A:  There are lots of ways you can help your student succeed, even if you are not a math expert.
1) First, look at the textbook.  Gladstone schools has Common Core-aligned math books for every grade level.
2) Ask your child to talk you through the problem and explain their thinking to you. This is a skill they will need for the state test.
3) Remind your Gladstone High School student that free help is available at Saturday school, most Saturdays from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., with teachers on hand to answer questions.

Q:  Are Gladstone kids are prepared to pass these grueling tests?

A:  Comparing the new Smarter Balanced test scores with the old OAKS test scores is not appropriate because they measure different sets of expectations.

The new Common Core tests are harder, and both teachers and students are still adjusting to a new way of teaching and learning. All Oregon school districts anticipate a steep drop in scores in the first year or two.

Educators know it may take a few years to determine the effectiveness of this new approach to teaching and testing. In the meantime, teachers will continue using an array of strategies to measure student progress in the classroom.

Q:  What is the Common Core curriculum for my child’s grade level?
A:  The National PTA website has free Parent Guides to Student Success for each grade level and high school subject. Find them here.