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Common Core: Using Standards to Engage Parents as Educational Partners

Nancy W. Sindelar

Common Core: Using Standards to Engage Parents as Educational Partners

Most parents desperately want their children to get good grades, be accepted into college, be employable, and be prepared to compete in world markets.  Their cries for accountability and higher student achievement have brought about standards and standards-based testing. 

Though No Child Left Behind and the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been surrounded with controversy and resistance, the development of standards and tests to measure student achievement based on those standards have brought benefits to teachers, students and parents.

Benefits of Standards Development

  • The Common Core State Standards clearly define what students are expected to know and do at each grade level.
  • Breaking test data down by subgroup data has made schools more aware of low achieving sub-groups, and now low achieving sub-groups can no longer be hidden by the overall achievement of majority populations. This will help in closing the achievement gap. 
  • A recent DOE proposal may give families the ability to track their child’s readiness and their school’s effectiveness in preparing their child for a career or college. (U.S Department of Education, Blueprint for Reform College and Career Ready Students, 2010)

These changes make it beneficial, if not crucial, for teachers to understand the basics of testing and be able to explain the various purposes of testing to parents and community members as well as use standards and testing to engage parents in the education of their children.

Communicating Standards to Parents

One way teachers can engage parents in the educational process is by communicating the standards their children are expected to know and be able to do.  The new Common Core State Standards clearly state the expectations for each grade level and provide examples of real world application. 

When parents are aware of the standards they can partner with teachers to support classroom learning activities and vocabulary building with real world applications found at home. 

The following are just a few of the standards that can be reinforced at home.





Kindergarten Math



Identify and describe shapes (squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, cubes cones, cylinders, and spheres.


Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientation or overall size.


While driving in the family car, ask the child to identify shapes he or she sees along the way.  Buildings can be rectangles; the sun can be a circle, etc.

Grade 2 Math

Measurement  and Data

Work with time and money.


Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies…

Play store at home. Give your child  dimes, nickels and pennies, and ask your child to buy something for fifteen cents.

Grade 6 English/Language Arts


Vocabulary-Acquisition and Use


CC6L4 c.

Consult reference materials, (e.g. dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses) both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine clarity or its precise meaning or part of speech.

Use new vocabulary words at home.  Encourage your child to look up word meanings either in home dictionaries or online.


Grades 9-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies

Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

CC9-12 WHST9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.

High school students have lots of opinions.  Ask them to support their ideas and statements from what they have read in the newspaper or online.  Ask them for evidence!

Grades 9-12 Math

Statistics and Probability

Using probability to make decisions

CC9-12 S-MD4 Develop a probability distribution for a random variable defined for a sample space in which probabilities are assigned empirically, find  the expected value

Find a current data distribution on the number of TV sets per household in the United States and calculate the expected number of sets per household.  Ask your child how many TV sets  s/he’d expect to find in 100 randomly selected households.


Helping Parents Understand Test Results

Parents should also be able to understand and interpret their child’s test results. 

While some parents believe tests put too much stress on their children, it’s helpful to explain to them that the use of standards-based assessments supports fair and relevant instruction and the monitoring of students’ progress toward standards. Parents need to understand that the testing process helps children achieve at a higher level than if they were left to move through the curriculum with their learning unmonitored and their needs for intervention and enrichment activities unaddressed.  

Help your teachers implement Common Core Standards with professional development training.

Testing makes students accountable for standards they have studied and helps them to demonstrate their proficiency in these areas.  By using test results, teachers then are able to plan instruction based on students’ proficiency in these areas. 

When students’ knowledge of skills is formatively assessed along the way, test results become a powerful source of helpful information for parents, students, and teachers. When testing is viewed as a tool to help teachers guide instruction and a means to monitor student progress, “testing” becomes much less stressful for all concerned.

Turning Parents into Partners in the Testing & Learning Process

You can encourage parents to be your partner in the educational process with the following suggestions.

  • Read and understand the standards your child is expected to know and be able to do at his/her grade level.  Discuss these expectations with your child.  If your child finds one of the expectations difficult, discuss it.  Help your child find “steps to success.”
  • Help your child to see the real world applications of what s/he’s learning in school.
  • Read your child’s test report.  Understand your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses.  If you don’t understand the format or the content of the report, contact your child’s teacher and schedule a phone call or a meeting to discuss the report.
  • Learn what enrichment activities are available at the school to build on your child’s areas of academic strength as well as the interventions available at the school to help your child remediate any weak academic areas.
  • Encourage your child to listen carefully to test-taking directions and ask questions about any instructions that are unclear.
  • Don't be overly anxious about test scores, but encourage your child to take tests seriously.  Tell your child that the best way to prepare for tests -- whether they're teacher-made or standardized -- is to study and know the subjects.
  • During test days, make sure your child goes to school having had a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast.

Engaging Students in the Standards

In the best of all worlds, all parents would follow these suggestions for helping their child to do well in a standards-based curriculum and assessment environment. Realistically, this doesn’t always happen. 

Many students have academic problems because education is not a priority for their parents.  Thus, in addition to sharing the suggestions with parents, students also need to be informed on how they can be successful in a standards-based environment. Communicating the standards, the learning targets, the expectations for assignments as well as building structures to help students see areas of strength and weakness and next steps for improvement are all part of this process. 

In addition to working with parents and students, sometimes it’s also possible to reach out to a tutor, a coach or family member who will guide the student through the challenges of meeting standards and taking tests

Remember that testing alone does nothing except select and sort students and schools into categories, but standards and the results of standards-based assessments give us, as teachers, vital information to inform our instruction, monitor our students’ learning, and engage both our students and their parents in the learning process. 

By communicating to parents the standards their children are expected to know and be able to do and by explaining the benefits of standards-based testing, parents become our partners in the education process, and we are empowered as teachers.

How do you engage parents as educational partners? Share in the comments section!


Book Dr. Nancy Sindelar for a Common Core State Standards training in your school.

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