Every parent wants to know what their children are learning in school and why. So, parents ask questions about the curriculum that is being taught. An educator’s role is to share the curriculum with every stakeholder in the community.
School administrators and teachers should take advantage of every opportunity to engage with parents as partners in education by responding to these questions. Even better: make answers to these questions public and accessible even before parents ask them.
Here are 8 questions that parents ask teachers:
1. What subjects are being taught to my child?
Beyond common subjects, your school may only teach music every other year, for example, or teach history in the first half of the year, and geography in the second half. Depending on schools, subjects can be named differently. For example, social studies includes social sciences, history and humanities, but these subjects may also be instructed separately. Parents also want to ensure that their children arrive at school prepared to learn. Knowing when their child needs to bring his or her math textbook to school or pack an extra snack for an after school activity gives parents the ability to prepare ahead. Parents may also want to know which subjects a student learned that day to encourage discussions over dinner at home.
2. What are the most important ideas my child needs to understand this year?
Knowing the most important ideas that their child needs to learn allows parents to explore additional activities that they can do at home. Parents may not be able to work through curriculum standards, but want a brief understanding of skillsets kids are learning. Key Ideas and Essential Learnings provides a conversation starter better than “what did you do at school today?”
3. What does my child need to do to succeed?
Every parent wants to see their child succeed. Giving them an idea of what skills their child needs to master, and what mastery entails in each subject provides parents with an idea of what type of homework to expect and how to help.
4. How is my child assessed?
The nature of assessment and evaluation has changed significantly in a generation. Many parents may not understand terms like “formative” and “summative”, their purpose, or how assessment fits into classroom instruction. Parents don’t need to become masters of pedagogy. However, they will need to understand the calculations of final grades and students performance. Also let them know what format assessments will take — for example, multiple-choice tests, essays, or presentations. Parents may prefer some forms of assessment over others and may want to know how certain skills evaluated given the type of assessment. You can use an LMS or SIS to share this information with parents or free tools like Markboard.
5. How often are reading, writing and math skills taught?
Communication and math skills are crucial for students no matter where their education takes them, especially in our information economy. Parents want to know that their child will graduate with sufficient proficiency in these skills.
6. How frequently is the curriculum reviewed?
There are often changes in curriculum standards to improve education and student outcomes. Due to shifts in technology and the economy, schools need to update parents on constant changes such as updates made to the curriculum. Post your curriculum through Chalk’s curriculum platform and make it clear to parents and teachers that it is a living document that is up to date. Let parents know how the curriculum review cycle, and what this process involves. Whenever possible, involve parents in the curriculum review process. This can be as simple as sending a survey to parents of graduating students asking them if they think that their child is prepared for the next phase of their education or the workforce.
7. Which standards are being used in my child’s classes?
Let parents know if your school uses Common Core Standards as well as any other relevant standards. If some specific standards are not going to be taught to students at your school, or if you add any additional standards, make sure that the reasoning behind these choices is explained to parents. Considering sending parents a link to descriptions of each standard, and include the relevant standards in each subject’s syllabus.
8. Why are standards important to my child’s education?
Each institution has a different approach to standards and what they mean for their students. Parents will ask about your philosophy on standards, curriculum and the decisions you make. Create a website that includes education outlook, a brief curriculum guide, and how standards are involved. You can also send a handout home with students on the first day of school to give to their parents.
How to Effectively Communicate Curriculum Goals to Parents
- Create a school website including all of this information — Many websites offer website hosting and domains for very a limited annual fee. Check out easy to use websites such as wordpress or weebly.
- Include information in each class syllabus — Send a syllabus home with your students for each class indicating key learning goals, relevant standards, and how they will be evaluated in the class. Also send home a timetable of their year or term so that both students and parents will know when classes occur.
- Create a Google Calendar that is shareable with parents and students — This calendar should be shared with parents and students so that they know exactly what classes they will have any day and is an easy way to make sure everyone is aware of school assemblies or other special events.
These are 8 examples of questions parents ask. Answering questions similar to these that your students’ parents have about your curriculum is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Don’t wait until parent-teacher interviews for these questions to come up! Work with everyone in your school to provide this information to parents before they even ask. Use free tools and technology to communicate with parents.