Director of Curriculum for Farmington Schools, Janet Hunter, left, answers questions from Parents concerning the newly adopted Common Core State Standards
Director of Curriculum for Farmington Schools, Janet Hunter, left, answers questions from Parents concerning the newly adopted Common Core State Standards initiative on Thursday at the Farmington Municipal Schools central office on Dustin Ave. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Some Farmington parents have a better understanding what the "Common Core" standards mean for their children following a lunch time meeting held last week by Farmington schools officials.

Members of the curriculum team for Farmington Municipal Schools held its first monthly meeting Thursday in a series about changes in educational standards, including the Common Core State Standards initiative.

The Common Core State Standards initiative is a single set of standards for English language, arts and mathematics courses that the district and state of New Mexico have adopted along with 44 other states.

Proponents say the standards will help set clear goals for learning across the country and prepare students to graduate high school with better critical thinking skills as well as the ability to provide evidence to support an argument. Some opponents say the standards open local school districts to federal interference.

District Director of Curriculum Janet Hunter said the point of the meetings is to help inform parents about the changes.

"We knew at the beginning of the year that with the changes to Common Core and standards-based grading, there would be a lot of questions from parents," Hunter said.

Hunter and curriculum coordinator Julie Mitchell hosted the meeting in the district's board room as they tried to answer questions from about 20 parents covering a multitude of subjects, including questions not related to Common Core.

A number of parents voiced concerns about their children not being challenged by class work, whether the standards are being implemented prematurely and confusion related to the standards-based grading systems.

Parent of five Farmington public school students, Mark Johnson, addresses his concerns about the newly adopted Common Core State Standards initiative on
Parent of five Farmington public school students, Mark Johnson, addresses his concerns about the newly adopted Common Core State Standards initiative on Thursday at the Farmington Municipal Schools central office on Dustin Ave. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

The standards-based grading is a way for teachers to provide information to students and parents about what students understand and don't understand, Hunter said.

Parent Mark Johnson said he was worried pre-algebra would not be an option for sixth-graders at the middle schools. One of his children will be a sixth grader next year.

"To me, Common Core could be OK, it could be bad, it's too early to tell," Johnson said.

Johnson said it seemed to him most of the problems with understanding Common Core stem from miscommunications among administrators, teachers and parents.

"When you have parents that think the world of their children, it's emotional," Johnson said.

Liz Stockham, a parent of two students in Farmington schools, said she has attended a few meetings about the Common Core changes and she believes the changes could be positive but had reservations.

"It's going to help the lower kids get up to level and we'll have to see what happens with those who are not considered gifted but are bright," Stockham said. "There is a little area (where) they're not sure what they are going to do there."

Hunter said the district would be working on providing more information and resources on the changes on the district's website.

"That paradigm shift in really transforming our system is what we're doing and it takes a while to get everyone on board for that," Hunter said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.