BARSTOW • When Barstow mother Marisa Adams helps her third-grade son with homework, she's surprised how difficult it can be.

The curriculum for a third-grader is much more challenging than she remembers. For her son's word problems, she often finds herself looking up words to help him figure it out.

"The difference from when the parents went to school and now is that the expectations are higher," said Teresa Healy, assistant superintendent of education services for the Barstow Unified School District. "Our goal is creating awareness to parents, showing them how they can support that learning at home."

For this reason, each school is planning meetings between teachers and parents over the next few days. The district plans annual parent conferences for teachers and parents to discuss the student's progress as well as explain the grade-level standards and benchmarks.

"It's a chance for every parent to meet with the teacher and see their (child's) first report card," Healy said. "It's a good way to make sure your student is on the right track."

Skyline North Elementary School has had 100 percent parent participation for the last four years — some meetings arranged at the parents' homes.

To Skyline Principal Kim Barilone, parents are the key to their child's academic success.

"Participation is very important to us," Barilone said. "We see our parents as partners. I don't mean to be cliché when I say this, but it really does take a village."

Parents are expected to help with homework and also help practice skills their child needs improvement in. Healy and Barilone agree with Adams that the state standards for learning challenge students much more than generations past.

For example, the state math standards for third-graders requires them to perform simple algebraic formulas as well as map out geometric shapes using exact measurements with the help of rulers and protractors.

"It's different than when we were in school," Healy said, chuckling.

Barilone said some of the curriculum can be difficult even for parents who may have forgotten what they learned years ago. Several Barstow schools, including Skyline, offer homework help resources to parents on their websites.

Adams fears her son may fall behind other students if she didn't stay on top of his school work.

"If you don't get involved with what they're doing, they're missing out on learning," Adams said. "What could be more important?"

For students kindergarten through eighth grade, school is canceled Tuesday and Thursday will be a minimum day.

Barstow High School will be having parent-teacher conferences the evening of Dec. 7. Parents can request a meeting by contacting teachers individually.

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