Educational Needs That Can be Added to the Back-to-School List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the time parents start to purchase school supplies and clothes and wait for summer to end so that a daily normalcy is returned to as formatted by the school year calendar. Besides stocking up on supplies and clothes for school, parents can be proactive and add data requests from the school to the list. It’s best to request data prior to Parents’ Night which is often held in late September/early October; otherwise, it might be too late into the school year to glean information about your child’s math profile (particularly if your child is entering middle school) that can help with any remediation.

There are two items that a parent can request prior to the school year that will help support individualized learning – your child’s score and analysis from the 2017 spring state math assessment, and the online local support program your child can use to support his/her individualized plan to improve mathematically. Some online sources of support/data districts use are, Knowre, IXL, I-Ready, Castlelearning, Khan Academy, which may have in the past year been used to evaluate your child’s math skills/concepts and develop a remediation regime that was individualized for your child. It’s important to find out where your child left off and did he/she finish the proposed practice regime.

With the two sources of data (state and local assessments), you can ask if this year’s teacher has been informed about the academic status regarding your child’s math progress. If the data information has been shared with your child’s teacher, you can ask how the assessment data is going to be used to develop an instructional plan to support any skill/concept gaps identified in the data report. It has been my experience when I conduct workshops for math teachers that assessment data is not readily shared with the teachers at the beginning of each school year, if ever. This is no one’s fault, the industrial model of teaching in which teachers teach 125-150 students a day does not allow ample time for the math teacher to review each student’s profile. You as a parent may be able to monitor your child’s practice and progress.

In elementary schools, there is usually no problem, as the conventional public elementary school classroom size ranges from 25 to 35 students that one teacher oversees. Elementary teachers have a very good handle on the individual needs of each child. The issue becomes the transition of that data to middle school teachers. If the data is sent to teachers in the middle school, it is often too late. The school year has begun and the “one size fits all” math curriculum has been implemented. The teacher usually begins with a general review assuming that all students may have forgotten skills and concepts learned in last year’s math class.

What you want to know is the remediation plan, and is there a parent portal where a parent can access the online support technology. Khan Academy and Castlelearning have a program to help parents navigate the online program. The next step is to familiarize yourself with the use of the program so that you can make sure your child is using the technology and the teacher is receiving the feedback.

The same holds true for those students entering high school. Please do not feel that it is too late to intervene in your child’s math education. I know, as a parent myself, by the time high school rolls around – we are tired- especially if we have a child who has not fit well into the industrial model. The data the parent of a first time high school student should request is the 6-8th-grade state assessment scores. If those scores are a level 1, 2 (not meeting grade level standards) or a low level 3 (barely meeting grade level standards) your child may have difficulty in Algebra. Usually, students who attain a level 2 in grade 6 remain at level 2; the reason being that teachers are not given the time to evaluate the state scores and develop a plan to provide the individual math support to help the student achieve a level 3.

Parents can request data for their child transitioning from grade 6 to 7, 7-8, 9-10 with the same intent. What does the state assessment tell me about the skills and concepts my child has mastered? And what does my child need to improve on?

You have every right to request the data and have a trained professional (principal, assistant principal, math supervisor, teacher, guidance counselor) review your child’s state/district assessments prior to the opening of school. If you have difficulty with this process prevail upon your PTA and ask for a meeting to discuss the issue. As a teacher and administrator, I have always been able to explain to parents what areas of math their child needs improvement in and present a plan as to how that child can improve. With today’s online support technology for math education, it is imperative that parents know how their child is supported.

Lastly, if your child is off the charts (a level 4) on the state assessment, please make sure that there will be math instruction that is rigorous and challenging for the students who have mastered the grade level math skills/content. I have seen “one-size-fits all” math curricula be aimed at the middle level, a level at which not many students exist. If your child has done their math homework in a few minutes – then it is not challenging.

Good Luck, and please let me know how you make out.

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