LAPS preps for Common Core

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Education > Some 80 parents attend seminar

By Tris DeRoma

Whether they were curious or already knew what it was all about, parents showed up at the Crossroads Bible Church Friday to see how they could play a more active role in their child’s education.

Los Alamos Public Schools is currently switching over to the “Common Core” system of learning, and thought it would be a good idea to host a seminar about it.

The lower floors and rooms of the church were occupied by Sundance Educational Consulting, a company hired by the Los Alamos Public Schools to explain to parents what Common Core involves, as well as teach parents some techniques in Common Core that will enrich their child’s experience in the new system.

“We hope to get parents to understand some of the latest requirements of Common Core,” said Christine Becker, president of Sundance. “But more than that, how they can be involved, and how they can assist their children to succeed with those standards. It’s about parent engagement.”

Courses taught Friday included understanding the stages of development, what parents should expect of their child, how a child’s brain works, and how they can use Common Core to enrich their child’s learning experience in school.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt was on hand to greet the attendees as well as say a few words at the beginning of the event, which lasted until about 4 p.m.

Parent Shannon Ferrell was glad she came. “I know the Common Core standards were new, and I wanted to know more about them so my kids could do better in school,” she said.

One thing she hoped to bring home were ideas on how she could get her kids motivated to do their homework, she added.

Schmidt said he got the idea to hold the seminar after he met the principals of Sundance at an education conference last spring.

“It became very apparent that they could bring together a nice group of educators that are used to working with adults in training sessions,” he said. “What they offered was how they could educate our community on these common core standards as well explain why they were important.

This was one of the first times the district has hosted an event on Common Core.

By the time 2015 arrives, Common Core will be statewide and in every grade. Schmidt was impressed with the turnout, a sign that he thinks means Los Alamos parents are very interested in helping their kids navigate the school system.

“When 80 people pre-register for something, that’s a sign that this is a conversation the community wants to have,” Schmidt said, adding that it was great so many showed up.

“It’s important that parents are made aware that there’s something a little different in the classroom,” he said. “What’s going to be different is the depth that the students in the classroom do investigations. The whole belief system of Common Core is that you need to dig deeper and make sure your knowledge is cemented, you’re not just learning for the reading and then it’s dumped. It’s so embedded, that we keep building on it as you get older, so the knowledge stays with you.”

A key component of Common Core is active parent participation, an aspect that some critics of the system aren’t too sure about; citing statistics that say a parent has to be just as active in their child’s education when they’re 16 as when they were five, which they say may be difficult.

Schmidt said that was another reason why the district decided to have a seminar.

“Informing the public and giving it a chance to participate in the conversation is the Los Alamos way,” he said. “This is a venue that whether you believe or don’t believe in the Common Core system it gives you a chance to be educated to the point where you can make a decision in a more informed fashion,” Schmidt said.

Common Core is a state-led initiative to get every school system in the U.S. onto one common, standard level of competence in the basics: math, reading, writing and the arts.

It is also through common core that its creators hope children gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of each subject they learn as well, so American school children will know just as much as their counterparts in other countries.

“The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad,” said a statement on the organization’s website.

“Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies…”