After reading all of the comments on the What Common Core is NOT blog post and Facebook shares, I’ve identified perhaps an even greater problem: parents simply do not know how to advocate for their children. They are concerned for their children’s educational futures and want to help, but may not realize they have the ability to do so. Concerns may emerge from the public’s (mis)interpretation of the inner-workings of individual schools and school districts, a general feeling of helplessness because the problems in education seem so widespread, and perceived lack of time to properly advocate for their children.
With so many parents resistant to the effects of educational reform (specifically the adoption of Common Core standards), the attitude we are displaying to our children may be one of hopelessness, defeat, or just plain frustration. Remember that your children need your support in their education. We don’t have to agree with educational change to be supportive of our children’s educational journeys. We can’t fight all our children’s battles, we cannot be in their classrooms everyday, and we certainly cannot do all their work for them, but we can be their voices at a level they cannot be themselves. Here are a few ideas:
- Do you truly dislike the Common Core standards? Have you read through your child’s grade-level standards and find them inappropriate/unacceptable?
- This is probably the toughest battle to fight because of how universal these standards have become. If this is the issue, you may need to explore your options: charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling. Learn more about how Common Core standards are being implemented in a variety of educational settings. Perhaps you can find an alternative to the public school system that more closely aligns with your educational philosophies.
- Is the problem at the State/Federal level? Do you disagree with the decisions made by elected officials?
- Learn about the candidates, vote in elections, write to your politicians, create petitions that are signed by other parents, maybe even educators. Also learn about your local school board members and attend school board meetings. Make your voice heard.
- Has your school district adopted a curriculum that you believe does not meet the needs of your child(ren)?
- Learn more about your school district’s process for adopting new curricula. Is it a team decision? Can parents be part of the team? How often are new programs chosen? How many programs are being evaluated each time? What are the criteria for evaluating curricula? Are their alternative curricula being chosen for struggling learners?
- Has your child’s teacher been properly trained in the chosen curricula?
- Can parents attend workshops? How thorough is the training? Is your child’s teacher being mentored by an administrator, team leader, or department chair to create appropriate lesson plans to meet the needs of a diverse population of students? To what degree does the teacher have to follow the chosen curricula and how much can he/she bring her personal teaching style/perspective to his/her instruction? Are you able to look ahead at the teacher’s edition of the textbooks to see what your child will be learning next to help prepare him/her? Can your child’s teacher meet with you after school to review how particularly-challenging material was taught during the school day so you can support your child at home?
- Is your child’s teacher a good match for him/her?
- Is your child’s teacher meeting your child’s individual needs? Is he/she running a well-organized classroom with a clear plan for classroom management that allows him/her to maximize instructional time? Does she demonstrate a variety of ways to learn, with the use of hands-on learning materials?
- Does your child need more support?
- Learn more about how your child’s school provides support to struggling learners. Is there an afterschool tutoring program? Are there small pull-out groups during the day? Does your child possibly have an unidentified learning disability or language that makes learning more difficult? Address any of these issues with your child’s teacher or school administrator.
- How can you find the time to advocate?
- We all have challenging schedules that make finding additional time a challenge, but technology makes this much easier. Email your child’s teacher, see if he/she gives parents a personal cell phone number to call after hours, use Skype or Google+ for face-to-face conferences when you are unable to get out of work in time to meet in person, ask the teacher to write a note in your child’s agenda when important information needs to be sent home. Open all modes of communication so you are in constant contact with your child’s teacher.
Unfortunately, the school environment can be intimidating for children and their parents, but we need to be our children’s voices if we are unhappy with their educational settings. I hope you find these ideas to be helpful. Please comment with additional questions, ideas, and suggestions.