December 19, 2012
I have been in the PTA for 36 years and have found that our recent work connecting with parents about the Common Core State Standards (Common Core) has been the most rewarding project that I have ever been a part of. We have learned that successful implementation of the Common Core means reaching out to and involving all stakeholders involved in the education of students – not working in a vacuum. That includes parents, teachers, administrators, their PTAs, the community at large, and business leaders. Kentucky has done just that and we are on our way to making all of our students college and career ready.
For a little background, in 2009 the Kentucky legislature passed a bill that works to ensure that systems are in place to prepare all students for success in college and career. Adopting high standards is a critical part of this work. Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core and administered assessments aligned to the standards in the spring of 2012. So when National PTA sent out a proposal for grants to educate parents and community about the standards, we knew that we had to apply for this grant to better communicate these new standards throughout our 140 PTAs.
The 15th District PTA of Louisville, KY, began in September 2011 by working closely with the school system’s curriculum executive director to see what our schools were doing with the new standards. Those conversations led to an understanding that in order to help parents and community members understand the changes underway, the Jefferson County Public Schools, the Jefferson County Teacher Association, and the 15th District PTA needed to communicate in a consistent way about the standards.
Through our efforts, we have provided consistent and accurate information to more than 10,000 people through in-person meetings about the history, what standards are, what parents can expect, and how parents can reinforce the standards with their children at home using the National PTA’s “Parent Guides to Student Success.” Through social media, email distributions, and newsletters, we have reached more than 900,000 parents and community members about the Common Core.
Cherie Dimar, 15th District PTA president has said, “Sharing this information about the Common Core State Standards has been a vehicle for us to reach parents, administrators, and community members about the importance of being advocates for children. We are able to talk to parents about the various ways they can advocate for their own children.”
Workshops that are especially dear to our hearts include presentations to non-English speaking parents. During one workshop, we addressed more than 40 parents representing nine different ethnic communities. One man said, “I’m so glad that the U.S. is getting back to higher standards for our children. In my country, we had much higher standards than here.”
We also have held brown bag lunches with community organizations in order to help reach many parents that are unavailable in the evening or during their lunch hour. This has led to partnerships with community organizations like the Network for Community Change, Urban League, Junior Achievement, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s Office Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and others to further our message in the community.
Recently, scores were released from assessments aligned to the Common Core. While some student scores went down, the public was already aware that the bar had been raised and that this was part of a process to improve our system to better prepare our students for success.
We continue our work by reaching out to parents across Kentucky about the new Assessment and Accountability components that affects how Kentucky will hold schools and districts accountable for this endeavor. Explaining to the parents that the bar had been raised in more depth was critical to ensuring that they would understand that their children or the schools were not failing. We worked with National PTA and Communicating for Social Change to develop an Assessment and Accountability Parent Guide to use during our workshops. We are now conducting workshops across the state – so far we have held over 35 workshops with about 20 more workshops scheduled.
Many of our parents love the Common Core State Standards and see why it is so important for our students to be college and career ready. They agree that we must be able to compete in the global marketplace, but are concerned about intervention for students who don’t reach the standards and what will we do with those that perform beyond the grade level standards, as well as what the standards mean for our special needs students. We understand these concerns and look forward to continuing our work to educate more parents across Kentucky.