NEWARK — It’s not every evening that you’ll find parents — after a busy day — going to school for the purpose of enhancing their understanding of what their children are learning in math and how to help them with their homework, if need be.
But that’s what happened last month at three NCSD elementary schools.
Parents attending the evening “Math Night” sessions recently at Kelley, Perkins and Lincoln Schools were given a brief overview, by Superintendent Matt Cook and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Krista Lewis, of the Common Core Standards and the accompanying math modules their children are being taught. Cook explained the rationale behind the nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), development of the Common Core State Standards was to better prepare students graduating from high school for college, enter the workforce or enlist in the military.
“The nation’s largest employers, colleges and universities and the military had been saying kids are coming to them unprepared — not ready,” Cook said.
Cook’s involvement with the standards has been extensive, both professionally and personally, and pre-date his work as NCSD superintendent.
Director of Educational Services and Director of Special Programs from July 2007 until May 2012 in Lyons Central School District, he received extensive training in Albany about the new Common Core standards, that were adopted in 2010, and was in charge of staff and curriculum development related to roll-out and early implementation for the district.
His wife, Anne, is a sixth grade teacher in the LCSD and two of his three children are Lyons High School students, so the new standards also relate to his wife’s work and what his children have been learning in recent years.
Cook told parents school districts could have done and must do a better job communicating the “why” of Common Core standards, including making sure they understand the fact that districts do not get to choose whether or not student progress will be measured against them.
“The standards are non-negotiable,’’ he said. “The state adopted them. How we teach them is our choice. Districts could either have spent thousands and thousands of dollars developing curriculum or implement curriculum provided by the state. Either way, assessments (tests) are based on the standards. Our challenge is to do whatever we can to enable our kids to be successful.”
After Cook spoke, Lewis briefly and simply explained the difference between the old way of teaching math and the math modules, what they include and how they are being taught. Her points were enlarged upon in three, 20-minute-long breakout sessions with teachers for parents at each school that included explanation of terms used in the math modules and parents learning how they can help their children with their homework, if need be.
Judging from reaction and remarks from parents, teachers and administrators, the “Math Night” events — that also included child care and other creative activities for children at Lincoln and Perkins schools — proved to be helpful.
“I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of the three ‘Math Night’ events at the elementary schools,” Superintendent Matt Cook said. “There was a fantastic turnout by the parents who came with great questions and a desire to work with us to help their children. The teachers did a phenomenal job with their breakout presentations and showed how hard they have been working to bring this new curriculum to life for the students.”
See what others had to say about the night of math online at