Every parent wants to know what their children are learning in school. Part of an educator’s role is to ensure that their curriculum is shared with every stakeholder in the community. But beyond this, parents may want to know why certain things are being taught in your school and not others.
Parents may have many questions about the curriculum that is being taught at their child’s school. 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.
1. What subjects are being taught to my child this year?
Although some of the more common subjects are assumed, 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. Some subjects may also be taught under different names. For example, social studies includes social sciences, history and humanities, but these subjects may also be taught 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 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. Many parents want to engage but are not prepared to work through curriculum standards. Communicating 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 but they will need an understanding of why students are assessed and how final grades are calculated. 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 will be assessed given the type of assessment.
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 often is curriculum reviewed?
Curriculum standards are often updated. With today’s rapidly shifting technology and economic landscape, parents need assurance that the local curriculum is reviewed often and up to date. Post your curriculum and make it clear to parents and teachers that it is a living document. Let parents know how often curriculum is reviewed, 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. Be prepared to explain your philosophy on standards and how they are used to influence curriculum decisions. On your school website, include a page describing your approach to education 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 wordpress or weebly. Both are extremely user friendly and getting started will be very easy.
- 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 assessed 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 can be shared with parents and students — This calendar can 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.
Answering the questions 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.