To the Editor:
As students settle in and parents mark their calendars for Back to School nights — a buzz is in the air. Major changes are taking place this year in classrooms across Maryland, with Common Core State Standards fully implemented for the first time.
It’s an exciting moment for educators and students, as the new standards present energizing opportunities for deeper, richer learning in reading and math, emphasizing critical thinking skills and real world applications.
But it’s not without challenges. To get the most out of the Common Core, school systems need updated technology, textbooks, and materials to teach the new curriculum.
Teachers need training and support to make sure that students are successful. And parents and the public need to be aware that when standards change, test scores initially drop. We saw that in the last school year, when student test scores dropped dramatically as teachers began teaching the Common Core but students were still tested with an old test, the MSA. This will continue until new tests — called PARCC — match the new curriculum, which may take several years.
Although there are many changes taking place in our schools, one thing remains the same: the winning combination of parents and educators working together for student success.
Research consistently shows that parental involvement helps lead to academic success. When education is a priority for parents, it becomes a priority for children too. And the commitment of parents and teachers to work together provides invaluable support to students. With so many changes taking place in our schools right now, that commitment to working as a team is more crucial than ever.
This school year, partner with your child’s teacher by attending Back to School Night and learning more about Common Core and how the work of teachers and students is changing. Your children will need your support as they tackle new kinds of homework, classroom lessons, and tests in coming years. Take the time each day to talk to them about what they’re learning, how they’re learning it, and how you can help. Try to make the conversation about learning during family time. When they struggle, and some will, reach out to your student’s teacher and ask for their help. Set clear expectations about homework and classroom participation.
Helping your child succeed goes beyond the Common Core and beyond just this year. Be sure to read your school’s newsletter — or help write, design, or distribute it! Look for information about schoolwide volunteer opportunities or ask your child’s teacher about classroom needs. Involved parents have less anxiety about their student’s success. Seize that opportunity by helping in the main office, tutoring, chaperoning, joining your the PTA/PTO or helping with a special project. Volunteering doesn’t always mean coming into school, but it does always mean making a difference.
For parents and educators, it’s our obligation to work together to help create the conditions and support that our children need to be successful.
president of the Maryland State Education Association
president of the Maryland PTA