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Pro-Common Core Math Instructor: Kids Are 'Clean Slate,' Parents Must Be 'Retrained'

Pro-Common Core Math Instructor: Kids Are 'Clean Slate,' Parents Must Be 'Retrained'

The frustration and confusion over the Common Core math curricula aligned with the nationalized standards has opened up the role of parent “instructional coach,” educators who are teaching not only students, but also parents, in the strange and non-instinctive ways of the nationalized math standards.

Lyndsey Layton at the Washington Post reports that elementary school parents, especially, are upset because the Common Core way of math leaves them unable to assist their children with homework. Throughout the country, school districts are holding special classes for parents and offering “homework hotlines” to help them understand Common Core math.

“The kids who come to us are a clean slate,” states Jennifer Patanella, an instructional coach with the Rochester, New York public schools who teaches parents in the strange ways of Common Core math. “It’s the adults who have to be retrained.”

“Almost every parent comes in and says, ‘This is not how I learned math,'” states Melissa Palermo, a fourth grade teacher who also now coaches other teachers in math in the Nathaniel Hawthorne public schools in Rochester.

Palermo is a proponent of the Common Core and says her students are reaping the benefits of being able to show a more sophisticated understanding of math and an ability to perform operations they would otherwise not have learned until they were older.

“The toughest part is the homework part because parents, it’s so hard for them, ” Palermo said. “A lot of parents, they doubt themselves because there are all these models and things they’ve never seen before.”

In Las Vegas, instructor Bill Hanlon is teaching a five-month course in Common Core math strategies to a class consisting of 50 parents.

“They’re a little frustrated because they can’t help their kids,” said Hanlon. “One of the messages I give to teachers is that if you’re going to send home stuff that parents have not seen before, send a note explaining, this is what we’re doing and why and a couple of examples. Otherwise, you’re going to get a lot of complaining.”

“The new math standards are encouraging students to think deeper,” says Diane Dunaskiss, principal of the Pine Tree Elementary School in Lake Orion, Michigan. “Part of that deeper understanding is to take what you’ve learned and apply it to what you’re doing in real life.”

Dunaskiss has hosted a Common Core math night for families at a local supermarket where parents and kids were taught how many boxes of pasta to buy for a dinner for six if each box contains four servings.

At a similar Rochester event, more than 200 parents attended a recent “Family Do the Math Night,” in a district where 84 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.  The event offered free dinner and door prizes as an incentive to parents.

“I’m not prepared for this. I’ve been out of school since ’77,” said Vivian Gambill, the parent of an eighth-grader, who said the event still left her baffled about Common Core math. “I’m still having some struggling moments. But now I have some web sites I can go to.”

Similarly, Willie Howard attended the event with his two granddaughters and followed the teacher’s instructions to subtract 23 from 46 by drawing a series of circles.

“I don’t know about this,” he said, looking at his circles. “There’s a whole lot more process to this. And kids, they get distracted easy. They say it’s better. But I don’t know.”

The Common Core standards were developed by three private organizations in Washington D.C.: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and progressive education company Achieve Inc. All three organizations were privately funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and none of these groups are accountable to parents, teachers, students, or taxpayers.

There is no official information about who selected the individuals to write the Common Core standards. In addition, none of the writers of the math and English Language Arts standards have ever taught math, English, or reading at the K-12 level. The Standards Development Work Groups did not include any members who were high school English and mathematics teachers, English professors, scientists, engineers, parents, state legislators, early childhood educators, and state or local school board members. 

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