Talking Common Core … with Parents

Last night, we had our sixth grade curriculum night, and it was a fantastic turnout by parents. We didn’t have a ton of time with each class of parents, as they were moving through their child’s schedule, but along with talking about the books we will be reading and the kinds of writing we will be doing and the technology we will be using, I also focused my presentation on the shifts that are underway in our state’s curriculum (i.e., Common Core).

I want parents to understand how things are changing with the Common Core and what that means for their children in my classroom.

As a parent, I don’t think our state or anyone involved in my children’s school district has done nearly enough to give me information about what the influence of the Common Core is having on the learning environments for my children, which leads me to believe that probably very little is changing and little is taking place. Which worries me on a few levels: first, given some past history, some of the teachers my children have had could use a little shake-up (sorry, I hate to talk bad about colleagues in other school districts but we have had our frustrations with mediocre teachers). Second, the state assessment is about to completely change in the next year or two, and I wonder if my boys’ teachers in even understand that. Given the nearly zero amount of information flowing from the classrooms to our home, I’d say .. I don’t think so. And finally, given the push for higher level thinking expected out of my children in school, I want to know how I, as a parent, can help my kids and their teachers with these changes.

With that in mind, I try to bring forth as much information about our own ELA shifts as possible. I highlighted:

  • the move towards more informational/non-fiction text
  • our use of more complex texts that force students out of their comfort zones
  • teaching of  advanced research skills when using the Internet,
  • the need for more and more writing in the classroom
  • the highlighted domains of argumentative/persuasive and expository writing.

In discussions afterwards, a number of parents expressed an appreciation for the information overview, and we talked as a group about what this means for their children, and how, quite honestly, we are still figuring out the right balances of these new standards. I had an interesting discussion with a dad, who remembers even to this day the high school class he took in which he read “the classics,” and he worries about the loss of prominence of fiction reading and short story writing. I assured him we would be still be working on those areas, just not as much as in the past.

Still, I tried to keep it positive, without coming across as if I drank the Common Core Kool-aid. I noted that many of the shifts are important and critical skills for people to know in the informational age, and we would do our best to bring these 11 and 12 year old students along. But I was also frank in noting that developmentally, some sixth graders are ready for those complex, critical thinking skills, and some are going to struggle mightily. My role, I told parents, is to help my students make progress long multiple lines, and I asked them to make sure they stay involved, too.

Peace (in the core),


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