Are you smarter than a third-grader? Can you ask and answer questions to show you understand what you’re reading, recount stories from diverse cultures and describe how characters’ feelings add to a story?

These are just three of many goals for reading comprehension in third grade under the new Common Core Standards adopted by nearly all states.

Third grade is a critical time in a child’s education, research shows. Students who don’t learn to read by third grade often struggle in later grades and drop out before earning a high school diploma. Parents need to be their children’s first teachers, and read together from day one. But under the new standards, by third grade, fun books are out and “informational texts” are in.

Here are some of the reading goals for third-graders, according to

• Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

• Recount stories, including fables, folktales and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

• Describe characters in a story, for example their traits, motivations or feelings, and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

• Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story.

• Compare and contrast the themes, settings and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters, such as in books from a series.

Kids now face more challenging reading assignments and testing in school because of the controversial new standards, and with the tougher standards comes more testing. As the results for reading and math come rolling in this fall, educators across the country have been warned: Expect a drop in test scores because the standards are up.

New York is among the first states to find that grim prediction coming true. New York’s results, according to news reports, showed that about 31 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded math and English proficiency standards on tests given in April. The previous year, under less rigorous standards, 55 percent of students were considered proficient in English and 65 percent in math.

As North Carolina schools awaited their Common Core testing results, administrators at the K-12 Community School in Davidson, N.C., a public charter school, sent parents a newsletter with this advice: Don’t stress. No parent wants to face a failing score for their child, the letter explained, but it’s important not to hyper-focus on the results. Scores from one standardized test are not the sum total of who your child is and will become.

The results are given in numbers: Level 1 is Non-Proficient; Level 2 is Approaching Proficiency; Level 3 is Proficient; Level 4 is Exemplary. But assigning numbers gives children the wrong message and doesn’t reflect the total picture, said the Davidson school’s administration. The newsletter concluded:

“If you are a parent who faces the disappointment of a score that says 1 or 2, I ask that you first not panic. I ask that you remember that this was one test on one day and that the number assigned to your child can never truly describe your entire child.”

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