In Our View: Optimism rings in school year
As students return to class, we see many reasons to feel encouraged
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Even more sure than a change in the weather, fall is signaled by the return of thousands of students to school. For the majority who attend public schools, the back-to-school migration began last Wednesday in Woodland, La Center, Ridgefield, Hockinson and Green Mountain. Camas and Washougal students hit the doors Tuesday, and the big three districts — Evergreen, Vancouver and Battle Ground — are back in class on Wednesday.School, of course, is both an academic and economic phenomenon. Across Clark County employment picks up as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and support staff are rehired for the school year (most teachers are paid year-round.) Shoppers hit the stores buying not only clothes and the latest fashion in sneakers, but also school supplies. The U.S. Census Bureau says $7.7 billion was spent in August 2011 at family clothing stores, making it their third-best month of the year, after November and December. Traditionally the back-to-school season is the biggest for office stores.
So now that the kids are outfitted, what is the academic outlook? In a word, it's better. After several years of downsizing, budgets in the county's largest school districts are flat this year. Most schools have been able to retain the same number of teachers and instructional aides, and extracurricular activities such as sports and music have been maintained.
Meanwhile scores on statewide testing continue to improve, particularly in math and science. "Students are continuing to make progress," state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn said in a statement. "Science and math scores are up in almost every grade."
Washington students continue to shine in national pre-college tests. Average scores on the ACT exam were up slightly for the Washington state high school class of 2012, even as more students took the test. They earned a composite test score of 22.9, above the national average of 21.1 on a scale of 1-36.
The College Board, which publishes the more popular Scholastic Aptitude Test, announced last winter that Washington students' average score on the three major SAT exams (reading, writing and math) was the highest in the nation among states in which more than half of the eligible students took the test. It was the ninth year in a row Washington students finished first. Our test-takers had the nation's best math scores and tied for first place in reading with New Hampshire. They were fourth in writing.
Though the rhythms of school are unchanged over the decades, technology has changed some of the rules. Here is some techno-related advice from commonsensemedia.org:
• It's appropriate for kids to bring a cellphone to school when they understand it's a tool, not a toy. Check school rules and set expectations with your child about when to use the phone, and make sure they keep it charged.
• Be cautious about having your children "friend" teachers on Facebook or other social media sites. Some schools have rules against this; conversely, other schools may create a classwide Facebook page and use it as part of the curriculum. Parents should investigate and decide.
• Make sure your child takes time to read. Electronic tablets can count toward reading, but make sure that's what the kids are really doing, and not watching videos or playing games.
Between now and June 20 — the last day of school in Vancouver — there's room for optimism and personal growth … and maybe even a snow day!