Fortunately, it has been my experience as a classroom teacher that parents in my community trust that teachersas well as district and state administratorsare making the best decisions possible when it comes to student learning. Personally, I have not once been questioned about the math standards or curriculum that I am teaching. That being said, since Kentucky adopted the Common Core standards three years ago, I know that there have been more questions than ever regarding the new standards and what changes are in store in terms of assessments and curriculum.
When I asked a parent at my school what her thoughts are about the new standards, this is what she had to say:
"As a parent, I welcome any and all new information about what my children should know at school, and be able to do. I feel that in order for them to compete in tomorrow's job market, I owe it to them to stay informed, and help in any way I'm ableand that includes knowing the expectations. From what I know of the common core thus far, I feel these standards provide more meaningful problem-solving skills, and that is a change I welcome."
Her statement solidifies to me the importance of parent-teacher collaboration when it comes to improving student learning, and implementing the common standards well will require a team effort.
Here's what teachers can (and should) do to communicate standards with parents:
1) Post the standards, or at the very least make sure that they are readily accessible to students and parents. Students should know everyday what they are learning, and what we expect of them. In this Teaching Channel video, Katie Novak explains the power of communicating with students about the common standards. In addition, she asks her students to grade her on the how well she teaches the standards every week. If the students are well-versed on the standards, then the parents will be also.
2) Use available resources (and there are many!). Just last week, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday sent an email to all state teachers that contained a great resource for communicating the common standards to parents. Other resources like these from the New York State Department of Education are also useful when beginning conversations, or responding to questions or concerns.
3) Collaborate with education groups that specialize in parent communicationsuch as your local Parent Teacher Association. In Kentucky, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence works to engage parents and to empower them as education leaders. They offer a variety of trainings through the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership to help parents become better-informed education partners. As one past attendee noted, "We know that when parents are well informed, the effects on school success are magnified."
4) Speak out! As Commissioner Holliday is quoted as saying in this Time magazine article, "Teachers are your best voice in the community." Sometimes we forget this. Teachers are second only to firefighters as the most trusted profession in the country, and it is crucial that teachers use this platform to communicate with stakeholders. Tweet about those awesome "aha!" that happen everyday in your classroom, or email a newsletter home to parents, highlighting the standards that students are learning- and what they are achieving.
What else can teachers do to help parents understand the new standards and become classroom partners?
Ali Wright teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky. A National Board-certified teacher with 11 years of experience, she is also a member of the Center for Teaching Quality's Implementing Common Core Standards team.