Parents need to prepare for the new school year in Prince George’s, too -- Gazette.Net


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Heightened security and new state test among changes



Prince George’s County students aren’t the only ones who will be learning new things when the school year starts in about two weeks. Parents will get some new lessons, as well.

This academic year, all county schools will have visitor management systems (devices that will scan your ID to check it against databases of registered sex offenders and wanted criminals), and temporary buildings — trailers used for classrooms — will now be fenced in to improve security. About $10 million in cameras, electronic access doors and other security measures will be in place in county schools this academic year.

Children will likely notice the difference, too. The Gazette’s annual Guide to Education in Prince George’s County, a special section in this edition, offers tips on how to talk to your child about school violence to help them understand without causing panic.

The guide also addresses other changes this year, such as the test replacing the Maryland School Assessment and High School Assessment. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is designed to match the new Common Core curriculum being used in schools. Some students took part in the PARCC field test last year, but for most students, the test and its format will be new. While the test is designed to be taken online, some schools may opt to do a paper version of what Judy Jenkins, director of curriculum for the Maryland State Department of Education, described as a “beyond the bubble” test.

“You’re not just going to answer questions,” she told The Gazette regarding the PARCC test. “You’re going to have to justify your responses.”

In addition, parents may hear a lot this year about a nationwide emphasis on providing courses in computer programming, one of the fastest growing professions. While computer science programs are growing in county schools, Seattle-based nonprofit Code.org says most schools are not prepared for the growth in the science field.

“According to our estimates, nine out of 10 K-12 schools in the U.S. do not even teach computer science at all,” said Roxanne Emadi, a grassroots strategist for the organization. “Even at schools that do offer it, only about 5 percent of students take the classes.”

To help prepare for the school year ahead, the Gazette’s guide — also available online at www.gazette.net — provides a list of important school phone numbers, school-by-school data and contacts, scholarships available only to county students and more.

Every year brings changes, and this school year is no different. As parents fill the next couple of weeks hunting for deals on school supplies and uniforms, figuring out new before- and after-care arrangements, and searching for lunchbox items children may actually eat, they will need all the help they can get.

Hopefully, The Gazette’s annual guide helps make the start of this school year just a bit easier.