Pr. George’s has ‘parent empowerment’ event

September 24, 2013

Most of the 40 people who attended the parents’ forum at Largo High School on Monday night are trying to take a more active role in their children’s education.

Then there were Emma and Harry Andrews.

The couple’s three children graduated from the county schools. And the last of their five grandchildren graduated about six years ago.

But there were the Andrews, sitting in the back row of the high school gymnasium. Emma Andrews scribbled notes while A. Duane Arbogast, the chief academic officer, and others explained the new academic standards that have changed classroom instruction.

Monday’s forum, which was sponsored by Vice Chairman Carolyn M. Boston (District 6), offered parents an opportunity to learn more about Common Core and ask any questions they had about the new school year.

Under a new state law passed this year that changed the governance structure of the school system, the county school board is responsible for increasing parental and community engagement.

Asked why she decided to attend the forum when she doesn’t have children in the system, Emma Andrews said: “All of [the students] are mine. I don’t have a choice. And all the teachers and principals are my service providers and I have to hold them accountable. Plus, I want to set an example for parents.”

Arbogast told the audience that while there has been considerable national debate about Common Core, the standards were created for consistency. He predicted that Prince George’s, like other jurisdictions, will experience a drop in test scores in the coming year.

Arbogast also offered examples of how the new standards have changed instruction. For example, previously, a teacher would talk about the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” and then instruct students to read it. Now, Arbogast said, a teacher might have the students read the letter and then discuss what they learned from it about King and what was going on in the country at the time.

He suggested that parents read stories to their children that they may think are difficult to comprehend. “The text you read to them has to be hard,” he said.

Sheila Jackson, director of school improvement, said the “best way to improve our schools and ensure our children achieve is for our parents to be involved.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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