The debate over assessing how our children are doing in school -- based on the results of one standardized test or another -- is probably at least as old as the Department of Education itself.

There is another way parents can assess how their children are doing in school -- talk to their teachers.

The kids have been in school for more than two months now, certainly enough time for them to adjust to a new school year and for the teachers to have a baseline for each student's strengths and weaknesses. Now that the excitement of Halloween is over, and before the craziness of the yuletide holiday fully engulfs us, parents should take advantage of the temporary lull to reconnect with how their kids are doing in school.

Talk to your children about school, their likes and dislikes, and listen for clues about areas in which the child may be struggling. Next, set up a meeting with your child's teacher, the one who knows firsthand how your child is doing academically and what kind of work lies ahead to achieve certain grade-level goals.

Many area schools have already set up parent-teacher conferences to allow for that one-on-one assessment that is so lacking in standardized tests. Parents and teachers can talk about more than numbers on a chart, but also about your child's particular gifts and attributes which can be harnessed to ensure their academic success.

The website FamilyEducation.com offers a number of tips for a more successful and productive parent-teacher conference: Be prepared (talk to your child and make a list of questions to ask); start off on the right foot with positive comments about the teacher and the classroom; stay on track; listen to what the teacher has to say; stay calm and objective (remember, the teacher is trying to give you an honest assessment to help your child improve).

In order to help your child have a successful school year, you need to know what is expected of him or her, academically, from now until June. You can find out by asking some questions.

What skills and knowledge will my child be expected to master this year? What will my child learn this year in key subjects like math, science, history, and English? Are there challenging academic standards in place at this school, and how do they compare with those at other school districts? How will my child be evaluated -- what tests are used and how often? What can I do to stay more involved in my child's academic progress?

With parents and teachers working together, the potential for the student's success is unlimited. As FamilyEducation.com noted, "a better informed parent equals a better student."