by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Johanna Haag, Molly Jo Alaimo, Cristina Fiori
Like most parents, Johanna Haag had lots of questions about how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) would affect her daughter, a fifth-grader at New Traditions Elementary School in San Francisco.
“I had a lot of concerns. I had read some negative press. I wanted to know what was really going on. My biggest question was what the Common Core would look like in my daughter’s classroom.”
She went to a PTA meeting packed with parents, where United Educators of San Francisco members provided some answers. But first, parents filled out a survey, so teachers could address specific concerns.
Fifth-grade teacher Molly Jo Alaimo and third-grade teacher Cristina Fiori explained that many teachers have already implemented CCSS into instruction. They told parents that school staff believe in the new standards because they encourage children to be critical thinkers, write well and prove their work instead of just showing right answers.
They also gave some examples of how they would teach certain lessons. For example, Alaimo explained how her students recently read a fact-filled piece of nonfiction, came up with questions based on the facts, and then answered their own questions, which led to students defending their personal opinions on whether the government should raise the debt ceiling. Parents in the audience were amazed to think their youngsters could be thinking about such a weighty subject.
Fiori explained that instead of just teaching her students one math equation, students learned how to solve problems in multiple ways, using manipulatives, drawing pictures, and sometimes coming up with formulas on their own, deepening their understanding of math concepts.
The presentation allayed Haag’s concern that cursive would be eliminated and students would only be working on computers. Teachers explained that California’s version of the Common Core includes cursive.
“Most parents walked away from that meeting feeling pretty good about the standards,” Haag says.
When it comes to informing parents about the Common Core, Alaimo and Fiori say it helps to be as transparent as possible, offer real-life examples and compare how something would be taught under the old standards and under the new ones.
And it might be helpful to tell parents about the resources offered by the California State PTA.
“The PTA supports the new standards because we believe they provide a road map for student learning and help ensure that our students have the knowledge and skills they need to engage in complex work and learning environments,” says President Colleen A.R. You. “We believe the new standards help define not just for our kids, but for our parents, what students should take away from schooling so they can be prepared for college and careers. The Common Core State Standards set high expectations for students, and we believe they represent powerful and positive reform in our educational system.”
She encourages teachers to have meaningful conversations with parents about CCSS at back to school nights, parent conferences and open houses, and to steer parents to the California PTA website, www.capta.org, which has broken down standards in easy-to-understand language according to grade level.
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