Parents’ Perspectives on Common Core State Standards

Introduction

Many parents and educators have agreed that the education system in the United States is constantly changing. Over the past two decades, a massive amount of dollars has been spent on resources to reform and improve the education system (Weiss, 2015). Many other curriculums and initiatives have preceded the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Policymakers have imposed themselves on educators’ practices and curriculums a myriad of never-ending series of tests in the expectation of holding teachers and students accountable for improved performance (Ravitch, 2014). This qualitative study explores the parents’ perspective of the CCSS and how effective it is to their children learning within two middle schools that are located in the urban area within New York City. In the first middle school, the students come from low-income homes and have the following ethnic groups: 72% African American, 11% Hispanic, 13% Asian, and 1% Caucasian. In the other middle school that will be used in this study, most students are from middle-income homes comprised of the following groups: 14% African Americans, 39% Caucasian, 33% Hispanics, and 11% Asian (Weiss, 2015).

The CCSS’s initiative has created several concerns, especially concerning parents and their children’s academic development (Porter & McMaken, 2011). A major issue that arises is whether equity was extended to parents when important initiatives like the CCSS were implemented. Burke, Marshall, and Stotsky (2013) agreed with Portor and McMaken (2011) who reported that parents, especially those with children in the lower grades need to be informed if their children are mastering the existing curriculum. Parents should also know what the standards are and what areas will they address. If parents are not included, they inhibit a meaningful education reform (Burke et al., 2013). Consequently, this concern drives this research to discover parents’ perspectives on the CCSS and how the policy affects their children’s educational growth. In taking this approach, this paper reviewed theoretical and empirical literature to determine the implications of parents’ perception of the CCSS, and ascertain how justifiable the policy-makers decisions were. The researcher utilized ProQuest, Sage, ERIC databases, peer-reviewed journals, articles, and dissertations, to uncover what literature says about this topic.

The social justice framework will serve as the theoretical framework for this study. Bray and Kwo (2013) affirmed that the focus of equity is social justice. They claimed that equal distribution of primary goods is one of the means of social justice, however, the transformation of the process and the system is necessary to obtain freedom. This equity is a significant part of social justice. As a result, these researchers confirmed that the goal of the social justice process is to establish a just society wherein any individual or group cannot be discriminated against for race, belief, class, gender, disability, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. Studies have shown that the principle of social justice is generally associated with equality or equal opportunity in a society. These claims present serious implications for parents’ perspectives on the CCSS and how the policy affects their children.

As indicated by Coleman (2010), inequality is demonstrated when any stakeholder is not considered in any major decision-making process of an organization. Coleman (2010) argued that all stakeholders should have a voice when important educational initiatives, such as the CCSS, are implemented. In regards to this issue, the claims of Bray and Kwo (2013) are consistent with the findings of Coleman (2010). However, the scholar rendered an important service in pointing out that adequate provision was not made in the CCSS for parents of English Language Learners (ELLs). Coleman (2010) argued that there is always anxiety among parents when the guidelines on the academic language are mostly vague and parents experience barriers such as educational and language deficiency, time constraint, and economic status. Wong and Ortega (2015) support Coleman’s (2010) claim that ELLs were not taken into account in the rushed implementation of the CCSS.

Researchers, Bray and Kwo (2013), claim that social justice allows for fair play, which ultimately affects parents’ perspective on the CCSS. This study seeks to determine if parents’ perspectives on the implementation of the CCSS created inequality for certain stakeholders. However, the researchers’ view of the importance of social justice primarily focuses on equity. The policymakers repeatedly ignored the fact that compassion, an aspect of social justice, advocates for a new approach to a modern problem. The establishment of a rationale for this study is the degree to which satisfactory outcomes are realized and is dependent on an organized approach to the factors that drive the study. It is organized to confirm or invalidate parents’ perceptions of CCSS, expose the inequalities if any, in the implementation of the CCSS, and attempt to create corrective measures. The review enables the researcher to gather information from parents through questioning, compare different theories and approaches, explore different methods and learn from other people’s experiences. The research topic is a fairly new area of study and much research has not yet been conducted.

However, the following are the key concepts that are connected to the problem:

  1. History of Common Core State Standard (CCSS)
  2. Problems with implementation of the CCSS
  3. Parent involvement in the implementation of CCSS
  4. Professional development
  5. Accountability

History of Common Core States Standards

This section of the literature review examines the researcher’s discovery of the history, adoption, implementation, expectations, and benefits of the CCSS. The adoption and implementation of the CCSS are one of the latest educational initiatives that swept the United States (Burke et al., 2013). The CCSS is inarguably a top-down initiative to which the states were forced to respond in order to qualify for “Race to the Top” funding. With no experience as an educator, researcher, or reading specialist, Coleman and Pimentel were considered the chief originators of the (CCSS) for the English Language Arts (ELA) 3c Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and, Technical Subjects presented by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers.

It is further stated, that the CCSS surfaced from a unique interconnected powerful private, federal, and philanthropic interest entrepreneurs and private Washington-based organizations. They had a heavy financial sponsorship of the world’s most powerful mega-philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Engage, 2010). However, the U.S. Department of Education was responsible for convincing the states to adopt the standards.

On June 14, 2009, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech, encouraged states to participate in obtaining a portion of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA). Duncan’s requirements were clearly stated, any state that wanted to be a participant of the Race to the Top Fund to receive $4.35 billion would have to adhere to 4 criteria set forth by Duncan. These 4 criteria are Better standards, better teaching, better schools, and data-driven results. In addition, Duncan’s fourfold reform should be a priority in each state’s application. In 2009, 42 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted the CCSS (Wong & Ortega, 2015). According to the policymakers, the CCSS has important components that would help students gain the critical thinking skills needed to be successful in this globally competitive environment (Zimba, 2014). Hess and Hatfield (2014) further presented the purpose of the CCSS as to increase academic rigor and prepare students for college and career.

Based on the Blueprint for Reform, the Obama administration placed emphasis on college and career standards. The intent of these standards was to improve the current ones stated by the Council of Chief State School Officers while increasing accountability and reforming the low-performing schools. The Blueprint of the CCSS established clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and accomplish in Mathematics and English Language Arts from kindergarten through 12th grade. As students advance through grades, the new ELA/literacy standards showcased a growing complexity of grounded evidence from both literary and informational texts. The shift in CCSS Mathematics would build on the best of existing standards, place emphasis on fewer topics, help students build a stronger foundation that they can use in the classroom and at home (Adair, 2010). The procedures will measure students’ progress throughout the school year and ensure that they are on the pathway to success in their academic careers (Ravitch, 2015).

Despite these good intentions, the advent of the CCSS was a primary stimulant in parents’ reactions to the recent changes in education. Ravitch (2014) stated that parents took issue with the CCSS and the manner in which the policymakers developed these mechanisms to effect the changes. Burke et al. (2013) agreed with Ravitch (2015) and exposed that the CCSS were developed to give corporate interests financial leverage in the marketplace. In this context, the CCSS English Language Arts and Mathematics were hastily adopted by 45 states. Therefore, the indication is clear that the CCSS creates serious concerns to parents since it impacts the classroom directly and indirectly. As a result, the evidence presented justifies the need to determine parents’ perspectives of the CCSS. Contrary to the policymaker’s positive expectations of the CCSS, Hess, and Hatfield (2015) strongly suggested that parents may be reactive to changes that impact their children’s academic curriculum and subsequently, assessment, content, and /or instructional practices, generate controversies. Consequently, these concerns give rise to the issue of the implementation of the CCSS.

Problems with Implementation

The literature indicated that a major concern of many researchers is focused on the implementation of the CCSS. For instance, Jenkins and Agamba (2013) observed that there are missing links in the CCSS such as timely implementation, professional development, parental involvement, and budgeting. Jenkins and Agamba (2013) revealed that the most difficult challenge presented by the change to the CCSS is in their implementation. However, the challenge of implementation apparently is not related to the difficulty of the task (Jenkins & Agamba, 2013). Instead, the time difference between adoption and the desired outcomes has created apparent difficulties for implementation (Loveless, 2015). Zimba (2014) presented comparable reasons for the concerns regarding the problem of implementation. He questioned if the standards are fairly reasonable, why are they so controversial, causes fear and false impression among parents. Further, he exposed examples of social media of parents experiencing confusion, exasperation, or anger about the changes to their children’s schoolwork affected in the name of standards. Zimba (2014) cautioned that the concerns of parents contain wisdom that principals and superintendents should not dismiss. More importantly, in this time of transition, school leaders should be vigilant to solicit parents’ views about curriculum options being considered for the school. If parents have concerns, school leaders should respond to them in a substantial way by providing reputable websites and printed literature.

Parents are concerned about how their children, in particular English Language Learners (ELLs), will receive adequate instructions when teachers are experiencing challenges with the CCSS (Wong & Ortega, 2015). Another example of Jenkins and Agamba’s (2013) concern is the view that public support for the CCSS is diminishing; and this claim is also supported by Hess and Hatfield, (2015). Although the majority of the states still have the CCSS as part of their curriculum, there is a constant decline in the number of states that are still using these standards (Hess & Hatfield, 2015). For example, Hess and Hatfield (2015) reported that Massachusetts’ publicly announced its intention to abandon its steadfast commitment to the CCSS. This decision drastically hurts the credibility of the CCSS and strongly supports parents’ desire to address the problem of implementation. They further suggested that there are concerns for parents because the implementation of CCSS that would equip schools nationwide with a comprehensive outline of students’ intended objectives has created major confusion and setbacks.

The challenges of the CCSS implementation, present serious implications in terms of the support teachers have in facilitating parental involvement. Strauss (2014) found this troubling as he further exposed weaknesses in the CCSS implementation. For example, according to early childhood experts, the implementation of CCSS is not aligned to the appropriate development of students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 (Strauss, 2014). This critical concern even pushed some supporters of the CCSS initiative, including Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President, to suggest revamping these early education standards. The CCSS implementation has, therefore, attracted considerable discussions and controversy concerning reforms in the American education system. These concerns present serious implications for parents’ perspectives of the CCSS (Strauss, 2014).

Parent Involvement

Parent involvement has been recognized as academically valuable by researchers, educators, and individuals in general (Irvin, Farmer, Leung, Thompsom, & Hutchins, 2010). Jesse (2010) supported this view when he suggested that a critical key to students’ academic success is increasing the involvement of parents. Irvin et al. (2010) confirmed that substantial research reveals the importance of parents’ involvement and their children’s success (Adair, 2010). However, while Cheairs (2015) supported Irvin et al. (2010), Cheairs (2015) observed that there are different educators’ perceptions relative to the role of parental involvement. In a qualitative study, survey data revealed that while parents desired increased communication between school and home, teachers valued active parental involvement and administrators expressed the importance of a strong administration, teacher, and parent relationship. For that reason, this relationship will affect the parents’ attitude to the CCSS.

Advocates of the CCSS confirmed that parents’ involvement is critical to the accomplishments of desired students’ test achievements (Hinkle, 2011). Sheridan, Knoche, Edwards, Bovaird, and Kupzyk, (2010) agreed with Hinkle (2011) that parents ultimately have the biggest impact on their children’s approach to school and no time is more essential than during the CCSS era. They agreed that parents’ perspective in regards to how the policy affects their children warrants the need to understand what the CCSS are and how they will impact their children’s future. LaRocque, Kleiman, and Darling, (2011) supported Sheridan et al. (2010) when they suggested that parental involvement is the critical missing link in school-home achievement. Their study indicated further what schools can do to implement effective parental involvement. I agree with these researchers that parents need to be more involved in their children’s educational learning. For example, at the middle school where I teach, most parents show minimal participation. Hinkle (2011) recommended that parents need to communicate more effectively with their children’s teachers about homework, project completion, and due dates while stressing the value of education.

Importantly, Adair (2010) and Jesse (2010) viewed that educators need to focus continuously on the reestablishment of parent-school relationships. It is the responsibility of the school leader to implement a cohesive parental involvement model. For example, Khalifa, Arnold, and Whitney (2015) reflected on two court decisions in cases governing parental authority to make decisions about their children’s education. These cases found that parents took a stand for their children’s educational rights and success. Even within the court’s decision, society has a moral duty to act justifiably and children excel when parents can make decisions about education. The literature review provided evidence that parental involvement is a crucial component in facilitating a child’s academic development and in preventing learning problems (LaRocque et al., 2011). Similarly, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement gave a recommendation in 2004 that when parents are involved in their children’s academic development, there is not only significant improvement in academic performance but also positive outcomes in their attitudes and behavior. This causes the school to be more effective in its academic programs. Cheairs (2015) agreed that parents’ involvement positively impacts students’ academic performance. Gregory, Skiba, and Noguera (2010) further suggest that increasing this involvement may narrow the achievement gap between high and low-performing students.

The literature indicated that there is a significant relationship between the academic achievement of children and parental involvement in school. For example, Holcomb-McCoy (2010) stated that parent involvement is regarded as a strong predictor of students’ academic progress. In a study of early childcare and youth development Wilder (2014) observed that improvements in parent involvement led to a decline in problematic behaviors and improvements in social skills. However, the study did not predict the changes in achievement. They observed that children, whose parents were highly involved in their academic programs, significantly strengthened their social functioning and had fewer behavior problems. There are perceived barriers to parent-school involvement. In spite of the benefits of parental involvement, there are mitigating factors that determine parents’ overall attitude towards school involvement. For example, Cheairs (2015) observed that socioeconomic status and educational achievements play a critical role in parents’ perception of the schools’ academic programs. Language inadequacy and culture can also impact parents’ involvement. Cheairs (2015) suggested that parents who are not fluent in speaking, writing, and comprehending the English language may be reluctant to participate. Additionally, cultural issues invariably influence parents’ relationships with schools. These observations help support the need to discover what the parents’ perspectives of the CCSS are. An essential consideration is a relationship between children of minority families and the accompanying risk factors. The US Department of Education reported that trends in education indicated that numerical growth among the children of minority families influenced the growth in family risk factors correspondingly. These risk factors seriously affect students’ academic progress.

Professional Development

How parents perceive the CCSS seemingly impacts the importance of the professional development of teachers. When teachers receive the professional development they are better prepared to apply the CCSS in the classroom and guide parents through its implementation (Jenkins & Agamba, 2013). The advent of the CCSS necessitated drastic changes in various aspects of the education system (Ravitch, 2014). Therefore, the need arises to enhance professional development in order to promote effective learning and teaching (Jenkins & Agamba, 2013). Baker and Oldham (2015) stated that the CCSS is geared towards increasing academic rigor. This heightens parents’ concern about the policy and how it will affect their children since teachers were not prepared, they did not receive proper training before the implementation of the CCSS (Wong & Ortega, 2015). The new standards require dramatic changes in pedagogy for teachers to be successful. Teachers must learn new content at the conceptual level and change their instructional practices in order to provide lessons that increase the student’s rigor, problem-solving, and critical thinking (Ravitch, 2015). One very critical area of CCSS is its implementation in the classroom. In order for teachers and parents to work together, parents have to rely on the teachers’ knowledge of the subject matter.

Likewise, when teachers receive professional development on the CCSS, they will be able to effectively explain the progression of these standards to parents (Sakarneh, 2015).

Sakarneh (2015) indicated that an intimate relationship between teachers’ and parents’ perception of the curriculum and its implementation will make a smoother transition in the classroom. Consequently, professional development will invariably influence parents’ perception of CCSS and how the policy affects their children. Zimba (2014) confirmed that there is a ripple effect of teachers’ deficiency in professional development. This effect transitions to the parents in the sense that there is no growth between teacher and parent communication. Zimba (2014) further observed that parents were negatively impacted because of the changes in their children’s curriculum and the increase in schoolwork. Additionally, Udesky (2015) reported that an elementary school teacher at the Aspire University Charter School in Modesto, California, is tackling one of the greatest challenges facing educators. He conducts workshops for parents helping them to understand the CCSS and how to support their children. From a professional standpoint, workshops are essential to educating parents on the CCSS.

The initial implementation stage begins when the actual CCSS is initiated in the classroom by a teacher. Baker and Olham (2015) presented an example of a Kindergarten teacher in a large, suburban school district, preparing to teach a reading lesson. He was concerned about how to address the CCSS in a class wherein more than 50% of his students are English Language Learners, approximately 20% have been identified as Special Education learners, and the remaining 30% are approaching grade level (Trung & Ducreux, 2013). This example shows that teachers need adequate professional development to facilitate all learners.

Accountability

The matter of public education is a responsibility of all stakeholders; however, the level of responsibility varies (Moswela, 2014). This researcher further observed that education is a collaborative relationship in which different stakeholders work as a team to achieve a shared objective. According to Moswela (2014) leadership plays a major role in this relationship, which implies that it must relate to both the responsibility and accountability frameworks. His study also indicated that leadership that is consistently cognizant of its accountability and responsibility, endeavors to build a participatory team in its decision-making process. Policymakers have a tendency to forget that all the stakeholders are responsible for the student’s performance in the classroom or on a standardized test (Moswela, 2014). The state however has the greater burden of responsibility, hence, the state is answerable to the public (Moswela, 2014). This is evidenced by states legislating mandatory attendance laws (Mackey & Duncan, 2013). Ravitch (2015) agreed with the view that states bear a heavy responsibility in the educational process, but suggested that teachers and parents are oftentimes not sure of the method and roles that policymakers impose on them. Moswela (2014) reported that when the state assumes the responsibility of educating the children, the state is morally and legally answerable to them. Hence, the state is being misconstrued and actions become questionable for parents.

If both parties had a better understanding of their expectation, then both groups would work cohesively towards students’ maximum achievement (Weiss, 2015). Accountability is an important factor in the educational system. It helps energize and motivate all stakeholders to develop an internal standard and to be self-critical.

How states handle the matter of education, determines to a large extent, how parents react to any changes in their children’s academic assessments. According to Jesse (2010), parents should be included in the decision-making of the curriculum including the CCSS. Parents have the option to home school or to give their children public education. Whatever decision they make, parents should be conversant with the language of the CCSS; hence knowledgeable to assist their children (Burke et al., 2013). Parents are their children’s first teachers and this is the reason why policymakers should include parents’ input when it comes to educating children (Ravitch, 2015). Parents hold states accountable for accurate dissemination of information; as a result, states must avoid making misleading public statements. Hess and Hatfield (2015) affirmed this statement in remarking on the disingenuous action of the creators of the CCSS. For example, proponents of the CCSS admitted that Massachusetts’ test standards were on par with the CCSS. However, they pushed Massachusetts to accept the CCSS. Such actions forced parents to question the validity of the CCSS.

Summary

This paper sought to examine parents’ perspectives of the CCSS and to determine whether the principle of social justice was violated. Evidence indicates that parents’ concern in regards to CCSS warrants critical attention, despite the seemingly good intentions of the creators. The advent of the CCSS has significantly influenced the parents’ reaction towards their implementation. In every regular discourse among the state government officials and local community members, school accountability is a theme. However, thought must be given to parental concerns in regards to the CCSS in a meaningful assessment of professional development and current resources for both students and teachers, which is critical for students’ academic achievements.

Teachers should not only have a clear vision of the CCSS, but also of what must be accomplished. The duty of all stakeholders is to be actively involved in ensuring that students are college and career ready. The shared partnership, which incorporates parental involvement, is critical in the effective resolution of these parental concerns. Based on the research that I have conducted, I hope to receive more knowledgeable information that I will be able to use to improve the educational arena.

References

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