At the Reclaiming the Promise of a Quality Public Education event recently hosted at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, hundreds of parents attended a variety of workshops designed to help them understand what the new English and math standards will mean for their children.
The Common Core standards, which have been adopted by most U.S. states, define what English literacy and math concepts K-12 students are expected to understand at the end of each grade, with a heavy emphasis on college preparedness and workplace skills. The English standards include requirements for reading, writing, speaking, listening and even the use of media technology. The math standards also include communication, requiring students to not only be proficient in a variety of mathematics domains, but to also be able to communicate precisely and clearly when discussing math problems and concepts.
Communication is central to the outreach effort. Mayor David Canepa noted that about 64 percent of the school district’s students are bilingual. Because many of the students’ parents are English learners, Spanish and Arabic translators were on hand for the Reclaiming the Promise event.
Special-education teacher Elaine Francisco said the event was the culmination of a series of parent education workshops the district has been holding, and noted that parents who missed the event could attend the next workshop in April.
Melinda Dart, president of the district’s teachers union, American Federation of Teachers Local 3267, said the Common Core standards partly grew out of the need to better prepare minority students for careers in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Among Common Core’s English requirements are literacy in science and technical standards, but Dart noted that students will be challenged to meet such requirements if they don’t have English-language skills.
Early childhood educators Hind Hasan and Kifah Gheith provided translation services for at least 25 Arabic-speaking parents who attended the event.
Hasan said Arabic-speaking students face as many challenges as their parents in achieving English proficiency. She noted that the event had plenty of free English- and Spanish-language books available for kids, but there were no Arabic-language books provided.
“Kids need to fit in,” she said, “and that makes them feel like they don’t fit in.”
Hasan said she favors immersion programs that allow students to be taught science and math in their native languages before they’ve gained English proficiency. But Dart said schools can’t legally offer immersion programs unless parents request them.
“We told the parents, you have to ask for these programs if you want them,” Gheith said.
The district’s next parent education workshop is scheduled at 6 p.m. April 30 at Marjorie H. Tobias Elementary School. Francisco said district parents who want to attend are encouraged to contact their children’s schools for more information.
The American Federation of Teachers invites parents and educators from all school districts to visit the following sites to learn more about the Common Core standards: www.colorincolorado.org and www.sharemylesson.com.