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Editorial: Students back in school with great expectations

Aug. 05, 2013 @ 11:40 PM

For children and teens across the Tri-State, it is time to get back to school.

Cabell and Wayne County schools begin on Thursday, Aug. 8, the earliest local start ever. Students in some counties still have a few more days to sleep in, but over the next few weeks, classes will be underway throughout West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

Just as in year's past, families are busy shopping for backpacks and picking out school clothes. Motorists need a reminder that soon buses and car pools will be affecting traffic patterns and morning commutes. But it also is important for the whole community to be aware that schools in all three states will be looking for a little more from students this year.

West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky all have joined the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is designed to set clearer, higher academic standards that will better prepare students for college and work. Kentucky has fully implemented its program, while West Virginia and Ohio are still phasing in changes, with full implementation expected in the 2014-2015 school year.

Using national standards as a guide, each state has customized the goals for its own classrooms, spelling out the learning expectations by grade for math, language arts and other areas. For example, in West Virginia, a 7th-grade English student should be able to compare and contrast a written story with a movie version of same, and a third-grade math student should be able to solve problems involving measurement and estimation of intervals of time.

But states have flexibility on how to teach the subject areas, and teachers have been receiving special training on creative approaches to encourage deeper understanding and critical thinking skills. Recently, 200 Cabell teachers spent four days in that type of professional development training at Huntington High School, learning best practices and sharing ideas with each other.

However, it is important for parents and grandparents to get plugged in, as well, because the approaches and the expectations may be different from what they remember in school. All the participating states have web sites that explain their standards, many subject by subject and grade by grade. The West Virginia site also features excellent videos with insight from teachers, including Barboursville kindergarten teacher Whitney Stead, who was recently named the state's Milken Educator Award winner.

As readers know, students in our region often trail those in other states in achievement and college and career readiness. In the same way, American students have fallen behind other nations in many areas. The goal of this new initiative is to change that -- to provide a more rigorous, higher quality education that prepares students for success in a local or a global setting.

That will require support at home, and families should make an extra effort to become familiar with the academic goals for their children and help students and teachers meet those standards.

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