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Learning curve for parents too with CPS Common Core standards

Chris Ball Lincoln Park political scientist stay-at-home dad walks his daughter Sinage 8 school Tuesday August 27 2013. | Chandler

Chris Ball, a Lincoln Park political scientist and stay-at-home dad, walks his daughter, Sina, age 8, to school on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 2, 2013 6:13AM

Chicago schools have been rolling out Common Core standards for about two years, but the academic goals and how they’ll be implemented and measured are far from common knowledge among parents.

Wrigleyville resident Julie Burdette said she saw references to the Common Core on the website of Blaine Elementary, her daughter’s school, and she’s waiting for details. Since the end of the past school year, “I haven’t seen anything.”

CPS gives parents information about the standards on its website and at Communication Action Council meetings. The city’s five such councils typically meet weekly and monthly.

Students’ scores and progression on tests are recorded on report cards, and principals send letters of explanation and more detailed results to parents with students’ take-home materials and during parent-teacher meetings, according to administrators.

Christopher Ball said he is concerned that the standards will become the “ceiling” of what his daughter and others are taught, rather than the “floor.”

“I don’t care as much about the standard, ” said the Lincoln Park resident, whose daughter, Sina, 8, is in third grade at Oscar Mayer magnet school. “I care that my child is improving and learning — that her reading is improving and her math skills are advancing.”

Teachers at Oscar Mayer have told parents that the teachers are ahead of others in implementing the Common Core, Ball said. The principal and faculty first briefed parents on the initiative two years ago at a Local School Council meeting.

“What worries me as a parent is that rather than replace one bad set of assessments with a better one, we will end up having more bad assessment sets that students will have to be trained to answer ‘correctly,’ ” he said.

Anne Carlson, a teacher at Thomas Drummond Montessori School in the Bucktown neighborhood, said her children, ages 8 and 6, last year took tests at Drummond that were aligned with the new standards. The tests left her son mystified, her daughter “very frustrated” and other students anxious and humiliated, she said.

“I see this as damaging, especially for students in low-income communities,” Carlson said. “We are narrowing the curriculum, and the children are not getting the resources they need.”

Sandra Guy

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