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SAN JOSE (Bay Area) -- San Jose resident Marichu Manaois wants to see her high school aged daughter Isabella succeed in school. And like a lot of Filipino parents, for Manaois that means doing things the old fashioned way – cracking the books and spending hours on homework, all the things she knew as a student in the Philippines.
But with recent changes in the classroom – ranging from increased use of technology to the introduction of the new Common Core standards – Manaois says her daughter’s education has become all but invisible to her. She admits she’s at a loss as to how to help.
“I don’t see her do any homework. I expect her to bring books home to work on, like in the old country. But she doesn’t,” says Manaois. “I don’t see any resources the school gives her, so I really don’t know what the problem is when she tells me ‘it’s hard’.”
California adopted the standards in 2010 and schools across the state have been busy putting them in place ever since. The more rigorous standards put greater emphasis on such skills as critical reasoning and communication, and create more space for technology. Earlier this month California students began sitting for the first official Common Core–aligned assessment, known as the Smarter Balanced, a computer-based test that measures student progress under the standards.
Speaking in a mix of Tagalog and English, Manaois explains, “I can’t really supervise [my daughter] that much because I work nights … [and] I can’t teach her because I don’t understand the lessons.”
She is not alone. Despite efforts by school districts around California to inform parents about the changes, parents like Manaois are still in the dark. Many say they struggle to make sense of all the notices they get from school, or they ignore them completely along with piles of junk mail.
That information gap means that when it comes to their kids getting ahead academically, parents and their children can sometimes be working at odds with one another.
Manaois’ daughter, Isabella, is in the 9th grade at William C. Overfelt High School in San Jose. She’s currently taking Pre-Calculus, and says she wants to major in psychology in college. She says she’s tried explaining the changes in school to her mom, insisting the textbooks they get at the beginning of the year “don’t really matter because the information is different” from what’s available online, and that she does “most of [her] assignments in school and on-line at the library.”
But, she adds, her mom isn’t convinced.
A mother of three, Manaois’ eldest daughter was born and educated in the Philippines, where she says there is more of an emphasis on hard work. Her two younger U.S.-born daughters, she grumbles, are “too lazy and don’t study,” habits she blames in part on the increased use of technology.
“Sometimes too much technology is not good because they end up lazy,” says Manaois. “I keep telling them to study hard and prompting them, ‘are you graduating?’”
But for Albert Datuin, a junior at Overfelt, the embrace of technology has been a welcome change. Datuin arrived with his family from the Philippines in 2014, and still struggles with English. Despite that, he says “school’s easier here than back home,” citing the digital devices used in class which he says make learning more engaging.
They also make it easier to explain his answers in math class, another shift with the Common Core from previous teaching methods, which asked students to simply arrive at the correct answer. Under Common Core, students must now be able to articulate the process. And that can be difficult, especially for English learners.
“I can solve the problem,” says Albert, who notes that math is one of his stronger subjects, “but when they ask me to write it in words, I’m glad I can get Google to translate from my cell phone.”
Albert plans to skip college and enlist in the Navy, where he hopes to become a medical specialist. He says he appreciates the fact that students here are encouraged to communicate more openly about what they are struggling with. In the Philippines, he notes, peers would often “talk about you behind your back.” The shame, he continued, often kept him silent.
He is less enthusiastic about the increased amount of in-class group work that students are now doing, saying it mostly leads to “more talk and less work.” Often, he says, he just hunkers down and finishes the work, looking up only when he needs something from another student.
As for Manaois, while not as up to speed on developments in the classroom, her children’s academic success remains priority. Like a lot of working-class immigrant parents she sees education as the cornerstone of a better life for her kids. “We want you to graduate so you can have a life my husband and I never had,” she said, turning to her daughter. “I can’t guarantee that the opportunities will be there forever.”