February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Meet the Parents: Critical for Implementing the Common Core | Editorial

Parent helping kid with homeworkA red flag’s been raised. All states that will follow New York in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—and those related assessments—should take notice. There are lessons to be learned as New York copes with the backlash around implementation that’s coming from parents and teachers alike. I doubt anyone expected the transition to be easy, but the outcry underscores the peril inherent in a failure to communicate well with the school community in advance of instituting a sea change in policy and curriculum. The main complaints? Thus far, too much change, too fast, particularly in regards to testing, which came hard on the heels of the standards’ adoption. Also missing from the rollout, in my opinion, was a meaningful mechanism to engage parents and other caregivers more deeply and much earlier in this significant shift in their children’s education.

What concerns me is the apparent gap between those driving the implementation and those closest to the kids the new standards are supposed to support—that is, teachers and parents. Educators have long been aware of the challenges posed by CCSS. Many are straining to grasp the standards, much less adapt class planning and instruction to meet them, all the while keeping up with their current workloads. SLJ‘s February cover story, “What’s Happening at the Core?” by Sarah Bayliss, details the the complex effort toward adopting CCSS on various fronts. As for teachers, they need much more support—and time—to be effective at this transition. If they can’t keep up, how will our kids fare? Supporting educators with training is critical.

I think that parents, too, need much more information and involvement, as they can function as partners in achieving the standards’ highest goals. Given the rhetoric at town hall and school board meetings, parents are not yet clear on what the Core means, its impact on actual curriculum, and how testing fits in. Moreover, what schools are doing in response to the Core is still evolving.

Educators and administrators should make a concerted effort to inform parents and engage them in the process. But outreach to parents has been all too scattershot and, in many cases, much too late—in reaction to test results. It’s clear that the parental role has been overlooked. That is a misstep from which it could take the pilot states years to recover.

Forget sending home newsletters (that often languish at the bottom of backpacks) and holding town hall meetings after the fact. You want to hear from parents? Send their kids home with tons of homework with no relation to an articulated goal and ramp up testing for what seems like no reason. Instead, administrators at every level should work ahead, educate and listen to parents, and work harder than ever to create a real partnership.

While we may not all agree on the benefits of CCSS, most educators and parents want a successful underpinning for our public schools. We all have a responsibility to foster the best public education, and debate and feedback is part of getting there. I am with those who desire the deep teaching and learning called for in the standards themselves. I also support those who oppose another curricular version of “teaching to the test.” The promise of CCSS may be squandered by botched implementation that watches the clock instead of applying real rigor to creating an effective transition. So far, the powerful role that parents can play has been underestimated and underutilized in this significant initiative in our schools.


Rebecca T. Miller

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.