I recently attended a meeting on improving science education. Those in attendance included experts in the field of science curriculum, engineers, educators, and representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education. About midway through the discussion, I was discretely asked if I understood what was being discussed. Terms and acronyms like Common Core, ELA, NAEP, STEM, and others were introduced into the conversation with no explanation – as if they were part of everyday language.

I started thinking about how this language could be perceived by parents as a special code, known only to those in the field of education. And I must admit I am guilty of using many of those same terms and acronyms when I am presenting information to parents. More often than not I am asked to elaborate regardless of the topic or acronym.

I hear from many educators and administrators across the state that it can be difficult to engage parents and families in education reform efforts and that parents, at times, do not seem interested. From my perspective, it isn’t that parents are not interested; it may just be the way the information is presented. All that alphabet soup can be confusing if it’s not something we use in our everyday conversations. I believe that at times parents are given too little information, or are overloaded with facts and data. And while facts and data are very useful and can reinforce why reform efforts are necessary, they don’t give parents specific information on where they fit in to the bigger picture and how they can help their child be successful.

I’m not advocating for the information to be presented to parents in a rudimentary form, I am just encouraging those presentations to be geared towards parents, not the education community. Parents need to be given tools and resources to help support their child at home and reinforce concepts that are being taught in the classroom.

Back to the meeting I attended. Because of the position I hold, I did understand and was able to contribute, somewhat, to the conversation. I am fortunate to be able to play a supporting role in education reform. I am also willing to do my part to decrease the educational acronyms and increase the relevant, useful information in my presentations across the state. I am hoping others will agree to do the same.