Making Parents Aware of Common Core

As I continue to prepare for next school year, I keep coming back to the idea that most parents are unaware what Common Core is and how it is going to affect their students. I decided I would email a letter to all parents who had a working email address in my district’s student management software.

But, what I am going to say?

“Dear parent,

Math class will look different in almost every way for your child next year.

Sincerely,

Andy Harridge”

Although it is accurate, that really tells them nothing. I was hoping I could find someone else’s flashy, informative parent letter through Google. All I read was wordy, dull letters that teachers could understand, but the average parent would have stopped reading after one paragraph.

So now I’m back at square one. I felt that in the letter/email, the following things needed to be covered:

  1. This is a national change to education. The change is being made to better prepare students for college and the workforce.
  2. Lessons are going to be much more student driven than teacher driven. Students will be coming up with ideas, concepts, and definitions through exploring instead of me telling them all of this through a lecture.
  3. In my class, homework is going to be much less of drill and practice and more writing of explanations. Instead of 20-30 questions per lesson, students will have very few, if any items to answer.
  4. Tests and quizzes will be given more often and will tell me what I need to reteach and who needs to be retaught.  Students will have an opportunity to retake a quiz or test if they did not master the material the first time. Like homework, tests and quizzes will be made up with fewer questions and more explanations.

My finished product looks like this: (here is a copy of the letter in Word)

Dear parent or guardian,

My name is Andy Harridge and I will be your student’s math teacher for this 2013-14 school year.  During this school year, you will see many differences between my math class and what math class looked like when we were in school. These changes are due to the nationwide movement towards the Common Core State Standards. These changes are being made to better prepare students for college and the workforce. Currently, 45 states have adopted these standards, with full implementation and testing to be done during the 2014-15 school year.

The first change you will hear about from your student will be how classroom lessons look. Lessons will be much more student driven than in the past with students coming up with ideas, concepts, and definitions through exploration instead of me telling them all of those things through lecturing. There will also be much more application of concepts to real-world scenarios than was done in the past.

Another change that students will notice is that homework is going to take less time. Instead of students doing 20-30 practice problems every night, students will have very few problems, if any at all from day to day. The homework problems the students will have to do will involve more explanation and writing instead of getting one correct numerical answer.

The third change in my classroom will be on tests and quizzes. Tests and quizzes will be given more often and will tell me what needs to be retaught and what students need the reteaching. Students will have an opportunity to retake a quiz or test if they did not master the material the first time. I will use a grading system that encourages students to do well the first time, but also improve on the second try of a quiz or test. Like homework, tests and quizzes will be made up of fewer questions, but will involve more writing and explanations.

If you have any questions at any time, please reply to this email and I will respond to you as soon as I can.

Sincerely,

Andy Harridge

I have not emailed parents yet. If you have any things you think I should change or any opinions on this, please comment. I’m hoping I didn’t create yet another wordy, dull letter that parents are going to stop reading after the first paragraph.

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8 comments

  1. Andy,

    Thanks for posting this. I’m thinking about using a version of this for parents of a whole school district. Would you be opposed to me using some of your language?

  2. I can’t tell, Andy, if you’re happy about these changes or dreading them. A parent could read this either way. If they think you’re dreading the changes, they may infer things you don’t intend. But you can’t sound too gleeful or they’ll be suspicious of that. A solution may be to include a sentence in each explanatory paragraph that explains further why you think this is a good change and why students will benefit. Or, include a concluding paragraph in which you acknowledge that the change may not be completely smooth, but two or three expected outcomes you believe will benefit these parents’ students.

  3. Thanks for this and I plan to send a letter to my parents this year. Many parents are use to their children having 10 or more problems to solve and when I send 1 problem solving activity for homework where students have to explain their own strategies, parent think I’m not giving enough homework. This will help! :)

    1. My colleagues and I talk about this always after conferences. Many parents compare their student’s education to theirs. I also once had a parent want their child to have more homework because they were tired of keeping them busy after school. The change will take some time. Good luck this year!

  4. Andy,
    If you already emailed this ignore my post. I wanted to tell you that I love the parent interaction, but my first response to looking at the message was “Whoa, that is a lot”. I agree that parents need to be part of this buy in, but remember less is more at times.

    I love your enthusiasm and I am thinking of stealing this idea! I am thinking after the first week of school after the parents might have questions.

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