Communication Is Key To Parental Involvement With Common Core Standards

Derrick Meador a well-known writer for for Education and the school administrator at Jennings Public School in Oklahoma, was recently interviewed regarding how parental involvement can help with the roll out of The Common Core State Standards. He has also taught middle school science for seven years, and after earning his Master’s degree, has been principal at Jennings for eight years. Jennings is a pre-kindergarten through grade eight school.

On the agenda for the day was discussion about how increased parental involvement can help students overall success and specifically how parental involvement will help with the implementation of the common core standard. In preparation for the 2014/2015 school year, many states are implementing common core standards into their curriculum. Meador explains what the common core standards are, “The common core state standards are a set of standards that were adopted by the National Governors Association, they were written by several curriculum experts and people from all across the country. They are a shared national standard, which means each state that uses them will have the same set of standards rather than just the stand alone state developed standards. So a student in Connecticut for example may be learning something different when compared to a student in Missouri, but now with the common core standards if a student moves from Missouri to Connecticut they will be learning the same things. It gives more accurate comparisons of what students are doing from state to state than the old way, but they are just a set of standards that outline what our students are supposed to know by grade level in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.”

The standards could be the biggest shift in educational philosophy the United States have ever seen. These changes will lead to the comparison of students from state to state which will allow funding to be tied to student and teacher performance. The standards will also allow students to move from one state to another without being ahead or behind the curve. This means students should be on the exact same keel nationwide. The adjustment of Common Core on teachers and students will be rigorous.

In his school system the transition has been going on for the last few years. Teachers have had to work hard, and learn new teaching methods. Students have had to get used to learning in a different way. Overall, Meador believes that increasing rigor will be a big benefit that will leave students better prepared for college, careers, and the competitive global market. This is one of the mission statements of the Common Core. Students who are able to compete in a global economy, able to implement technology and think critically will make a bigger and brighter workforce than we have seen in years past.

Meador has been quoted as saying, “The coach gets too much praise for winning and too much criticism for losing.” This statement can also ring true for Superintendents and Principals in regards to Common Core standards. To combat this possibility in his school district, Meador has made the decision over the last few years to hire outstanding teachers who mesh well with the district’s vision. This has allowed the school to be surrounded by people who love their job and who will complete their job effectively. These teachers can be moulded and shaped as they progress through their career. If Superintendents and Principals are surrounded by good people, and know their teachers are putting in 100% then regardless of how the transition into common core goes they will be able to work it out.

Meador feels that everyone will feel the impact of Common Core implementation, but none will feel it has strongly as the students, “Students will be most affected. From the start to the finish, I know when we started this process to the rigorous critical thinking, dissecting passages of informational text and being able to write essays, even with math being able to take a problem and defend why you got an answer instead of it being just as simple as 12 +12 is 24, instead of just getting that answer being able to explain the process of how you come up with the answer and explain your rationale. It’s a difficult concept to get and students struggled with it at first but we have seen them pick up on it to become second nature with them, which I think will better prepare them not only for life in general but also for college and whatever career path they take. They are going to be critical thinkers who can disseminate on their own and I think that helps the business community or communities in general with a smarter, more work ready student body as they leave their schools across the United States.”

Community members will also be affected. This impact will come down the road in terms of receiving better workers prepared for jobs and who are able to serve in their communities. The “critical thinking aspect is huge,” and the overall goal of the Common Core standards is to train problem solvers and skilled workers. This will lead to businesses within our communities reaping the rewards from the initiative.

Meador also said, “Community members including merchants, businesses, and tax paying citizens will be affected by the Common Core Standards. A community fully invested in education will reap rewards. That investment may come through donating time, money, or services, but communities that value and support education will thrive economically.”

Community members can lend support to schools throughout the initiation of the common core standards. One obvious way, is by funding programs tied to Common Core. Also, developing relationships with teachers and administrators and mentoring students who are struggling. Volunteers can help with reading initiatives and businesses can assist by offering internships for high school students. These acts can help build relationships with the school.

One form of technology that Meador wants to try that can help increase parental involvement and secure a good outcome from Common Core standards, is the flipped classroom model. This is where a teacher may assign a video or discussion on a forum, and the students go home and have a discussion over it online with the teacher and classmates. They then come back into the classroom and discuss the content as a class. The teacher in this model isn’t directly teaching the students, but the students work at home, and the teacher is able to expand on the lesson through hands on activities.

Meador feels that his school has a plan for success that other schools can model. “I think it ties in to you have to surround yourself with good people, but it also starts with having a school’s vision that is relevant to your community and not only getting teachers buying in, but you have to sell what your vision is to your student body and the parents of the students. If they don’t buy in then you are just spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. Everyone needs to be on the same page. I try to bring other people to the table to constantly get input from parents as well as teachers. We often overlook how parents and students think about things and instead we just throw things at them, but if we bring them to the table the overall group is more likely to accept things and to at least try it if everyone has a voice at the table.”

Meador believes that there is a need to better disseminate information to parents and students to help them grasp changes and to understand what is going on at their school. He feels that schools need to better disseminate information to parents and students. This communication can help them grasp changes in the school, and give them a better understanding of what it going on. This is especially true since education has changed so much over the past ten years. The kindergarten standards from when parents were a child are completely different now. The expectations are higher and more difficult.  The parental involvement in the early stages is critical because teachers expect the students to come in ready to go. Getting parents to understand this and explaining that accountability to the children and parents is crucial and allows the school to accomplish a lot more.

At Meador’s school, a variety of different communication methods are used. They have school wide meetings where parents are invited into a forum. They also offer meetings per grade. Newsletters and website updates inform parents of basic communication measures. For more important mandates like Common Core, they offer posters throughout the school with links to websites allowing parents to get more information. The teachers have done a great deal of engaging parents in conversations about the changes during conferences and phone calls. The team effort throughout his building has made sure that no parents are left not knowing about Common Core or other mandates and changes that may come up.

Meador has looked into a mobile app for their school system due to parents with busy schedules, the high cost of printing newsletters, and low email open rates. Their school currently uses an app called Remind where they make some announcements. They have also looked into using automated systems to send out notices to parents when their child is absent or tardy. The school is considering moving into sending out texts and automated voice calls due to the fact that so many have cell phones. This {mobile communication} may become the main way of getting messages out to parents and become a main form of communication at his school.

Communication via a mobile app is an excellent communication option for schools who are in the process of educating their parents on Common Core standards. Multiple formats of communication are important because people receive information differently. Parents need to feel comfortable with their schools communication methods. However, due to the advances in technology, and parents on the go, the shift towards cell phone communication is becoming more popular.

The Common Core standards philosophy will affect parents and students and there are a few ways that Meador feels they can prepare for the changes coming in regards to their child’s homework and what expectations may be required of them. He says, “I think parents need to understand that it is not the same as when they were growing up. The expectations are higher for kids today than when they were growing up and they need to understand that the content they are being taught is more rigorous, the homework they will see is more rigorous, and what I would say to parents is if you don’t understand something, get with the teacher and find out what they can do to enhance their child’s education at home.”

Another way parents can help with the implementation is by communicating with teachers. They can let the teachers know they have tried, and ask for help when they do not understand. This communication is key and parents need to trust teachers. Also, teachers need to trust parents and listen to what they have to say. The transition period will require two way communication and students will need to be given extended time for assignments while parents learn how to help their students at home.

Meador shared his final thoughts on Common Core standards, “Standards are standards, it is the teachers who decide and make them rigorous. The teachers are the ones in the trenches making sure the students get what they need on a day to day basis and it doesn’t matter what the set of guidelines are, if the teachers are willing to dig in and make the curriculum more rigorous the standards are still going to be watered down. At my school they are making sure the rigor has increased tenfold over the last few years to make sure kids are ready for those global skills and are ready to meet the challenges ahead of them as they grow up and get jobs and move on into the business world.”

As Meador has said before, “Schools with more parental involvement are almost always the higher performing schools when it comes to standardized testing.”  One way schools can stay on top of the plethora of topics, information and ongoing communication that is necessary for schools to share with parents and students is by utilizing a mobile app. This is one simple way that technology can help in all those areas and more. The mobile app can also allow schools to have links and resources for students and parents regarding the Common Core standards and there are programs available for schools to receive a mobile app at no cost.

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