It's time for those three little words that elicit as much emotion as any in the English language: back to school. For students, this time of year generally is greeted with groans and whines, although we're guessing that, deep down, most of them are excited to reconnect with friends and return to a learning environment. Believe it or not, a lot of students enjoy learning and being challenged; just don't ask them to confirm that.
For parents, this time of year generally is greeted with smiles and cheers, even if those huzzahs are kept hidden from the kids. But that feeling of respite soon will give way to the reality that you miss having the little ones underfoot all day long.
Most public schools in Clark County begin the 2013-14 school year next week, and some private schools already have opened their doors for what promises to be a nine-month journey of adventure and exploration and success intermingled with the occasional failure. It's all part of a growth experience that will render students nearly unrecognizable by next summer.
Locally, parents should feel fortunate that their public-school students are in good hands and are receiving an adequate education. State officials released results of standardized tests on Monday (detailed school-by-school results were published in Tuesday's edition of The Columbian), and area high schools made strong strides in closing the gap between their scores and the statewide average.
For example, Vancouver Public Schools saw 79.9 percent of high school students meet statewide standards in algebra I/integrated math I. That was an improvement from 65.3 percent the previous year, and was just a tick behind the statewide average of 80.7 percent. In geometry/integrated math II, the Vancouver schools saw 86.7 percent of students meet the state standard, compared with 68.7 percent in 2012.
"I'm very pleased with the results," said Mike Stromme, associate superintendent for Vancouver Public Schools. "I think the principals are pleased, too."
At Evergreen Public Schools, the scores reflected similar gains. Particular improvement was noted at Evergreen High School.
Of course, going back to school is about more than preparing to succeed on standardized tests. Some of the most important lessons will involve the socialization and the friendships that are generated in the lunch room or on the playground. Learning extends far beyond the classroom, as lessons that can last a lifetime come from interacting with peers -- both friends and foes.
In order to make sure that students are prepared to get the most they can out of the school year, experts recommend some tips:
• Make sure they have all the necessary school supplies and clothes.
• Focus on proper nutrition -- healthy breakfasts so students are ready for the day and adequate lunches to avoid a midday crash.
• See to it that their vaccinations are up to date.
nHave all the required paperwork filled out, especially if a student requires medication while at school.
• Ensure that they have a quiet, consistent space for completing homework after school.
Even more important, perhaps, is the need to maintain strong communication with your student throughout the year. School can be rife with pitfalls as students navigate problem areas such as bullying or academic troubles, and parents should be available to help guide them through that.
Overall, school can and should be a rewarding experience for students and parents alike, the kind that leads to huzzahs from all involved parties.