Article

Massachusetts Gives Parents a Hand with Standards

It can be hard for any parent to feel confident when trying to understand or support a child’s education. For most of us, it’s been so long since we were in school that we can no longer remember when things were taught. Plus, so much has changed. You might find yourself with a furrowed brow at the dinner table, staring at your daughter’s homework and wondering if it is too difficult or too easy.

Massachusetts to the rescue. The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, along with the state PTA, has made a set of Parent Guides that lay out, in plain language, the concepts students should learn for each grade in Language Arts, Math, and Science.

Most guides of this sort are not exactly parent-friendly. These are different. They are simple and brief. For instance, check out the math section of the third grade guide. You will find that students should “Know multiplication and division facts up to 9 x 9 = 81 and 81 ÷ 9 = 9.” Pretty clear, right?

The guides include helpful conversation starters for parents (“Can you tell me about something you read today?”) and special sections for families whose children are learning English. Even better, they’re available in four languages (English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and simplified Chinese).

Don’t live in Massachusetts? Don’t worry. Chances are, your state’s standards are almost identical. To the degree there are differences, you are likely better off aiming for what kids are learning in Massachusetts anyway—it’s the top performing state in the US.

My advice is to print out a copy of the guide for each of your children and review it yourself first, then sit down with your child and go through it together. Let them know what they should be learning this year. Then put it aside and come back to it once or twice, including at the middle and end of the school year, to see if everything has been covered.

Thanks, Massachusetts, for making a parent’s job slightly easier.