Elizabeth Pfiffner

Common Core Standards Will Benefit At-Risk Students

As part of the school team, school social workers share the goal of ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education. We work with students and their families to address personal, family, and societal issues that create obstacles for learning. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards will create a strong foundation for school social workers in our mission to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for all students.

How Common Core Standards Will Support Students and Families

Consistency in the knowledge and skills taught in schools across the United States promises to reduce barriers to students and families. It will greatly benefit students who find themselves in different schools throughout their education. Children of families who move from one state to another will begin to see less difference in the classrooms of the various states. Change to a new school, for students and parents, causes fears and anxieties that make adjustment difficult. Common Core State Standards will bring more consistency to state-by-state instruction, and when kids feel familiar with the material in their new schools, they will have an easier transition. Resources are being developed to equip families with thorough information about the standards that they will be able to apply across states.

The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) has also adopted the Common Core State Standards, which means the standards will be implemented in schools attended by children of military families in the United States and overseas. Military families experience more frequent moves than most families, and familiar school experiences will help children of service men and women with school transitions.

Components of Common Core Standards to Support At-Risk Students

The Common Core initiative provides information on application of the Common Core State Standards for English language learners and students with special needs that will assist teachers and support staff in adapting standards for these students. Also, because of the foundational standards in the majority of states and with the DoDEA, states and schools will be able to collaborate on best practices for students with special needs, which will empower teachers to more effectively educate these students.

Within the Common Core State Standards are standards that support social and emotional learning. Throughout the grade levels are standards that focus on the skills of self-reflection, social interaction, and collaboration with peers as part of the learning process.

Improved Parent Involvement

The Common Core State Standards, in bringing consistency to schools across the country and on U.S. military installations, will make the education system more navigable for parents, thereby enabling them to collaborate with their local schools and advocate within the education system. School social workers and school staff can assist parents by providing them with information about the Common Core standards (see the list of resources below). School social workers and school staff can also encourage parents who are moving to find out about the status of the Common Core State Standards' adoption in their new location.


The Common Core State Standards will create an educational environment in the United States that is more accessible for students and understandable for parents. Consistency and more opportunities and tools for greater collaboration among students, parents, and educators will enhance education for all students and remove barriers for parents and students. As such, school social workers see that the Common Core State Standards promise many new opportunities and tools for addressing learning for every student.


A Parent's Guide to the Common Core Standards

Spotlight on the Common Core State Standards—What Do Parents Need to Know?

Parent Roadmaps to Common Core Standards

National PTA Guides to Individual State Implementation Plans and Guidelines

The Common Core and ELLs blog from Colorín Colorado

Fewer, Clearer, Higher Common Core State Standards: Implications for Students Receiving Special Education Services (PDF)

2012 Proposed National School Social Work Practice Model Executive Summary

Common Core State Standards Initiative

U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity

Elizabeth Pfiffner is a practicing school social worker in the Mead School District in Spokane, Wash. She received a bachelor of arts degree in applied psychology and her master's of social work from Eastern Washington University. She has been an elementary school social worker since 1989 and also holds her elementary principal certification. Pfiffner is involved in work in the state of Washington to develop trauma-sensitive practices in schools and is a member of the Washington Association of School Social Workers, whole child partner School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), and the SSWAA Ad Hoc Committee on Common Core Standards.

Comments (3)

Frederick Streeck

February 1, 2013

Thoughtful and timely.  Thanks Elizabeth for leading in this discussion.

Dot Kontak

February 1, 2013

Thank you for elaborating on the relationship of School Social Workers to the Common Core Standards!

Mita Vogel

September 30, 2013

I could not disagree with you more.  CCSI is HORRIBLE for at risk kids.  In fact I would argue that it is horrible for all kids.  It is a money driven system created by folks who do not teach and have not taught.  Further and of larger concern, CCSI is destroying teachers.  As a social worker, I look to the SYSTEM in order to seek answers.  How in the world can CCSI help the system if it is killing the backbone of the system?  Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.  In theory I may seem like a good idea- in practice it is a nightmare.  We need to stand with our colleagues who teach and our kids and families that will suffer from this.  Opt-out of testing- look at the BATS page.  LEARN.

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