It’s late August, and thoughts are turning toward getting the kids ready for school. It seems hardly a few weeks ago that school was over for the summer, and here it is time for them to go back.

Kids will be in a higher grade than last year, and they are speculating about their new teachers. Every teacher has a reputation about being harder or stricter than others, about being nicer or not so understanding as others.

Some kids will be entering middle or high school, and have all the anxieties of being the new ones in the building. Will the older kids be rough on them? Will it be OK because some of their friends are coming with them to the new place?

Parents remember their own fears and anxieties when they were young. Later in life, these dreads seemed exaggerated. Things generally worked out, perhaps accompanied by some bullying or whispering about them. But, it was long ago. To kids today, though, it is right now.

So, another school year begins. This is the rhythm of life.

In addition to this preparation for the new school year, parents should be aware of three factors they will see in schools this year that weren’t so evident last year:

Teachers have been preparing to use different material and ways of instruction in reading/English language arts and mathematics. Kids may come home with homework that looks different than last year, and certainly different than when parents attended school.

The source of these changes is what is called the Common Core State Standards. Those changes are meant to help kids to learn more demanding material and to better use their minds to think things through. Then, kids will be better prepared for college and to get a good job.

Teachers have been preparing for this change, but many would like more time to become better trained. To complicate matters, some political groups are raising a stink about these standards. Although some may be well meaning, their concerns are mostly figments of their imaginations and self-produced illusions.

A Gallup poll of U.S. school superintendents shows that two-thirds believe the new standards will improve education in their communities. These standards are more rigorous than previous standards and “will ensure that students who graduate from high school are more ready for careers and college…” according to a report from a different poll of superintendents in 48 states. Seventy-three percent of those school leaders think the political debate has gotten in the way of successful implementation, and that “the political backlash mostly stems from misunderstanding and misinformation…”.

So, ignore the political snipping. More important things are at stake — like your kids getting into college and getting a good job when they finish school.

A couple of other changes may not be as obvious or as discussed as this effort to get kids better prepared for life. One is that school finances are better than they were last year. The economic recession of a few years back really shook some schools. Teachers and principals thought they might lose their jobs and certainly any increases in pay.

That is now settling down. The economy is in better shape. States have more to spend on education. And, things are beginning to return to normal.

The other big change has been coming for years. Nationally, the majority of students in the public schools for the first time will not be white. They will particularly be Latino, and also Asian-Americans. Those have been the increasing portions of the student population. This change won’t be evident in every school, but it will be in many.

Thus, life goes on. It is the season for school, and summer will be left behind.

Good luck to the students, and please take advantage of this chance to learn more. Good luck to parents too in getting through this, and please remember that your kids key off you in taking school seriously or not. Please remind them that the better they do, the easier it should make getting a good job later. No guarantees, of course; but they will increase their chances of doing better.

Soon, it will be fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Life goes on.


On August 19, 2014 this appeared as a blog by Jack Jennings in the Huffington Post.