Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources

The Parent Toolkit: A Roadmap to Children's Academic Growth

By Monica Fuglei

Leaving the hospital with my first baby, I was shocked that there was no exit exam (other than a quick car seat check). While I was armed with a new parent kit that included checklists on care and feeding, ideas for bonding with my newborn, emergency information, and growth charts, I felt woefully underprepared to navigate parenthood.

How can parents help children become successful students?

As my daughter grew, I remember lamenting that she didn’t come with a manual; when she began preschool and elementary school, I was even more overwhelmed. Like many parents, I consistently feared I did not know or understand what was expected of my child or how to help prepare her to be a good student — and I wasn’t alone.

When children start school, there is a whole new world of paperwork and standards and report cards and parent teacher conferences to deal with. While teachers and administrators do what they can with new parent seminars, Back-to-School nights, and regular interaction with parents, sometimes parents are unable to articulate their questions or are afraid to ask them at all. Parents need a easy-access school resource to check in on where their children should be, where they are headed, and how to get there.

The Parent Toolkit: An instruction manual for kids from pre-K to high school

The Parent Toolkit is a collection of free resources for parents of children from pre-K through high school. Developed by NBC News Education Nation (and sponsored by Pearson), the toolkit serves “to help you track and support your child’s progress at each stage.” Like the parent packet I was given as I left the hospital with my newborn, the Parent Toolkit includes guides, resources and tips for parents.

Academic growth charts

In a time with significant changes in benchmark standards, it can be difficult for parents to know exactly what their children are studying. In addition, it can be challenging to understand how a child develops intellectually at different ages and stages. The toolkit’s academic growth charts break down learning expectations for each year from preschool through twelfth grade.

Each grade includes benchmarks for that year along with tips for mothers and fathers of children in that specific grade. The current growth charts only cover academics, but the toolkit plans to add social development and health and wellness sections. While parents of young children may be accustomed to getting this information at yearly checkups, such primers are increasingly rare as children age and gain more medical privacy; the Parent Toolkit can help fill that gap. These grade-level breakdowns of benchmarks can be an excellent way of communicating in-class curriculum choices to parents.

Parent-teacher conference guide

The tips and guides section of the toolkit also includes a handy parent-teacher conference guide that covers elementary and middle school, then each year of high school. The guides have checklists to help parents prepare questions or concerns in order to make the best of limited parent-teacher conference time. The tips section is  linked to grade-level benchmarks found in the growth charts that are broken down into math and English Language Arts. These tips offer specific, hands-on suggestions for parents to support their children at every stage of educational development.

Links to academic, national and state resources

The additional resources section is broken into four categories: national, math, English Language Arts, and resources by state.  These areas include links to websites like the National Education Association, free tutorials on Khan Academy, activities to practice reading and writing at ReadWriteThink, and state-specific information such as school district handbooks.

The Parent Toolkit is an excellent supplement to regular teacher interaction, providing information and reassurance as well as resources and suggestions to help parents can work both alone and with teachers to give their child the best possible educational support. Although many parents feel comfortable discussing benchmarks with their children’s teachers and are well-prepared for parent-teacher conferences, those who feel overwhelmed when their child struggles in school or want tips on communicating with teachers will find the Parent Toolkit a very helpful school resource.

Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.

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