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Those controversial tests your child is about to take in school? You can opt them out.

There is a lot of debate about Common Core and how it's been implemented.

Those controversial tests your child is about to take in school? You can opt them out.

The time has come, my friends, for Common Core testing. You may have heard of it. It's made numerous news segments recently because not only is Common Core controversial, but loads of parents and kids are actually choosing to NOT take the tests (which are happening now-ish). The refusals are happening in nearly every state that's adopted Common Core tests, but one of the biggest opt-out states so far has been New York.

Before we go into that, you'll need some good starting information about Common Core. With so much confusion, a lot of parents just don't know where to start. There are many links throughout this piece that you can follow to help get you up to speed. And there's a video at the end if you don't feel like reading, but the breakdown here is a good place to start.


What Common Core is:

The idea is to have a national set of standards, or a "common core," for students to meet before college admission. Before this set of standards it was up to each state, and colleges were getting kids who all graduated high school but had completely different proficiency levels in reading and math.

It's easy to see why a national standard appeals to people. It helps to develop college curriculums that make our upcoming workforce and talent competitive with the workforce and talent of other countries by ensuring that college-track kids get to about the same place by the end of high school.

Here's what Common Core is not:

It's not a specific curriculum. How districts choose curriculums to get kids to the established benchmarks of proficiency is their choice. While that's good in a way, it's also been confusing for districts because the tests have been enacted before the schools had sufficient time to research and implement new curriculums. Some districts have even been preyed upon by for-profit companies claiming to sell curriculum packages (textbooks and workbooks) already aligned with Common Core, which are actually about the same as previous textbooks, but with a “Common Core approved" sticker slapped on.

Here's why some people are super into Common Core:

Common Core has been touted as a better way to:

  • Teach kids to separate fact from fiction: Having kids compare two versions of something and pick apart which is more likely to be true is a tenet of reading comprehension benchmarks.
  • Allow states to collaborate on textbooks and digital tools: Having uniform standards means that each state doesn't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to developing systems.
  • Incorporate technology into learning seamlessly: By placing emphasis on tech skills throughout the learning and the testing, it aims to prepare kids for the work skills they'll need.
  • Teach speaking and listening skills: Starting in kindergarten, showing an understanding for rules of conversation like taking turns and asking questions is part of the benchmarks.
  • Teach critical thinking skills: By including questions that push students to make callbacks to the reading material, the tests aspire to hone critical thinking abilities.
"Common education standards are essential for producing the educated workforce America needs to remain globally competitive."

— Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel Corp.

Why some people are really against Common Core:

In terms of how Common Core actually shapes up in the classroom, there are a lot of valid concerns. Interestingly, the criticisms come from progressives and conservatives alike. Here are some common themes.

"I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation."

— Diane Ravitch, education historian who was U.S. assistant secretary of education under two presidents and formerly supported Common Core

That's a boiled down version of the basics of the Common Core debate. And here's where it leaves us.

What is clear is that it's crucial to figure out a healthy way to challenge every child to their true potential and to remain competitive with students from other countries.

What is less clear is whether Common Core is the right vehicle to get us there.

If you like Common Core and think the testing that goes with it should move ahead, there's good news for you. It is being implemented across most of the country this year. It is here and it is happening.

But what's a parent with concerns (or flat-out objections) to do?

It turns out, there's an option for them, too.

It's called the United Opt Out movement, and it's growing in popularity.

It's pretty much a huge wave of parents across the country — stronger in some of the 43 states enacting this testing than others — that is telling the schools that their children are not going to be taking the tests. New York parents have gotten the movement started, and in Long Island, 65,000 of approximately 144,000 students opted out of the tests as of April 2015. The bet here is that if state departments of education can't get enough compliance with the tests, eventually states will revise their tactic and choose another way.

As with any serious decision involving education, there are some pros and cons to making this choice, but it's good to know that parents and students actually have an option.

If opting out of Common Core testing may be the right choice for your family, take some time to find out your state's stance on it.

You can do that by checking out the opt-out guides and choosing your state from the drop-down menu.

In some cases, it's as simple as sending a letter to your child's school.

And if you do take that route, you're not alone. Check out this video that covers some of the protests happening:


There's a lot to consider here, but the the best place to begin is with information. It might prove helpful to show this to other parents you know and see what they've been thinking about this. It's our nations' kids' education for the next ... really long time, potentially. It's kind of a big deal.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.