The move towards common academic standards in almost all US states may seem like pretty arcane stuff to those who don’t work in education, but it will soon have an impact on families across the country. Schools and districts will have to all they can to prepare families for the change.
A recent story  in Education Week drives this point home. Here's what it reports about changes to math instruction in Maryland, for example: “In the past…kindergartners were expected to be able to count up to 31, by ones; the new standards ask them to count to 100, by both tens and ones. In addition, she said, they are asked to start counting from any number.” That’s a pretty enormous shift. In high school, “about 40 percent of concepts now taught in Algebra 2 will shift to Algebra 1.”
Parents will soon see the difference, and some districts are doing all they can to make sure they’re on board. The Education Week piece reports that Howard County, Maryland “has started to communicate with families, whether at back-to-school events, in newsletters, or on the district website, to make sure they understand the changes coming. In fact, the district is planning a broader public relations campaign, with brochures, public forums, local TV spots, and even podcasts.”
The new standards are raising the bar for students. Once new tests come on line, many students who were “proficient” under the old regime may find that they’re no longer anywhere near “proficient.” That can come as a real shock for students and their families. The last thing schools and districts need as they do the hard, hard work of implementing new standards is a public backlash.