The start of every school year brings excitement, nerves and anticipation. For both parents and students. There’s no shortage of things to address, including shopping for supplies, making time for meet-the-teacher night or completing all the necessary forms and paperwork.

At times it can seem overwhelming, but parents should use caution to avoid spreading that stress to youth, since each new year brings new opportunities and fresh challenges. As you look forward to the start of school, consider how best you can aid the learning process and jump start your student’s enthusiasm. The most basic way to accomplish this is to maintain a positive tone about all things school-related, and create an atmosphere of learning in the home. And to set the stage for success, foster high expectations for academic achievement; that will help to ensure that your child will aim high and achieve their best.
Support every effort they make, even the mistakes, since that’s how learning happens. Ask questions about what they’re learning and be sure to check homework. Monitor the progress reports that their teacher provides and stay informed about what happens in the classroom. And make time to read every day – it’s a skill that will inform all other skills.

Beyond finding ways to support your student, their teacher needs your backing, as well. Consider volunteering in the classroom or for special school events. Read the correspondence they send home. And most of all, voice your appreciation throughout the year and remind them that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

As you create this year’s to-do list, here are three things to know about getting prepared:

1. Switching from summer fun mode to a structured school schedule can be tough. In the weeks leading up to their first day back, help children prepare by creating a regular sleep schedule and getting them plenty of healthy food. Kick-start their academic mode by encouraging them to read more, practice their writing and math skills, and even discuss how they’re feeling about the coming year. The first week back in class will be a lot easier on you, your child, and their teacher if you take some time to prep.

2. Watch for your child’s AzMERIT score reports, which will likely come from the school in the first weeks of the year. The report will show how your child performed in English and math last year, and will display you how your child did in relation to his peers in the school, district and in the state. It also provides you with more detailed information about your child’s mastery of specific content within each subject. Just keep in mind that this is only one test, and shouldn’t be used as the sole evaluation point for the year. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to reach out to your child’s teacher.

3. Students aren’t the only ones getting graded. New A-F letter grades will be assigned to schools this year. They’ll be graded on a different set of criteria than in the past – look for them to be released in September. The grades rely primarily on AzMERIT test results, growth of achievement and English-language learner performance. But they’re not the only way to evaluate an institution so be sure to consider other factors, such as class size, extracurricular opportunities and other things that are important to your family.

A quality education can open many doors, so don’t assume that your child’s teacher is responsible for all of their learning. Parents who are actively engaged have students who fare better academically and even set the tone for education beyond high school by encouraging young people to love learning of all sorts.

Expect More Arizona is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan education advocacy organization working to ensure every child receives an excellent education every step of the way. For more information visit ExpectMoreArizona.org.

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