There probably hasn’t been a more controversial change in education policy than the implementation of Common Core, a new set of standards that proponents say will make education across the country more consistent.
“What obscures the debates about Common Core is that many people think that it is a set curriculum, says Scott Farber, the founder of A-List Education, a test prep and tutoring company that works with students throughout the East Coast. “But it’s not. It doesn’t say things like, ‘You need to read these 10 books.’ Instead it sets aspirations and benchmarks for schools.”
Farber and his company run in-school and after-school programs in several states, including Pennsylvania and New York. He says the parents he works with often pepper him with questions about the standards. “The math in particular has been difficult for people to adapt to,” he says. “It’s because math doesn’t look like the math that parents remember.”
Farber offers these tips for families tryingto navigate the new curriculum.
Know what’s happening in class: According to Farber, studies have shown that American parents are more involved in their children’s schools than families in other countries. “But parents should become more directly involved with what’s happening in the classroom, not just doing things like volunteering with the PTA — which is also very important — but also knowing what’s happening in class.”
Organize meetings with school administrators: “One of the things we’ve been doing is encouraging schools to give presentations to parents about the changes,” he says. “The whole goal is to provide a stronger sense of the knowledge.
Research the tools being used: “It’s important for parents to know what books are actually being used in class,” he notes. “What assessments are being used to judge the students’ progress? When they know what those are, things become easier.”
Farber also recommends parents encourage their children to read a variety of books and stories, particularly nonfiction, at home. “In college, most students — unless they are English majors — are going to be reading mostly nonfiction,” he says.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.