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Bad Report Card? Here's 3 Positive Ways for Parents to Respond

Grades aren't everything - but letting your kids know that you care about their school performance is very important.

A less than stellar report card has come home with your child, what do you do?

Take a Deep Breath

One bad grade or report card is not the end of the world.

The first thing parents need to understand is that most grades are a function of three basic components: work completion, accuracy of the work and participation. While every teacher will weigh these elements differently, A+ students are the ones who do 100% of the work, 100% correctly, 100% of the time.

If your child is getting 100%, they’re not being challenged!

Perfection is an impossible standard to hold anyone to. But it’s the easiest way to think about a path forward when your student comes home with a troubling report card.

Talk With Your Child

Before you go running to the teacher - talk with your child. Give your child the opportunity to explain what drove their low grades. Let your child know you plan to ask the same questions to their teacher.

The following three questions should help you understand what happened and get your student back on track:

1. Do you do all your work?

Is homework handed in on time? That means ALL the homework, classwork and any other class projects assigned. Letting seemingly insignificant assignments go undone, get turned in late or incomplete can easily add up.  

If the answer here is, “no,” you may have found the culprit. Student planners and more structure around academics can help your student remember to do their work, and keep them focused on getting work done before other rewards (screen time, play time, etc.) are earned.

2. Are the concepts understandable?

If your student does all the work, but consistently struggles with the material and got low marks, there could be a number of causes, but you’ve identified a driver of the low report card.

Low performance can be driven by a lot of things and it’s going to be important to talk through with your student what is driving their struggles. It can be anything from classroom distractions, to different teaching styles and even just needing some more tutoring on a few core concepts that bypassed your student for any number of reasons. The important thing is to identify what your student might be struggling with and make sure they know it’s always smart to ask for help if they're not fully grasping a concept.

3. Are you participating in class?

Grades for participation or class behavior can ding even the most successful students.

The most advanced students can get easily distracted and act out when they’re not being challenged, just as the kids who need the most assistance help with concepts will act out to cover up their difficulties. Understanding how your child acts and interacts in the classroom is the last piece of the puzzle.

This is the toughest question to get a self-aware answer from your student, especially for the younger ones. An easy way to figure it out is to ask them to talk about what a normal school day looks like for them. What were the exercises they completed? How long did it take them? What was the most interesting/least interesting parts of those activities?

If your student is bored they will frequently describe that emotion. If they felt overwhelmed because they didn’t have the skills to complete the work, they will tell you that and it’s important to understand how they reacted to that adversity.

If this is the area where your child struggled, it will be important to put together a game plan with them and the teacher to stay engaged in the classroom.

Talk With Your Child's Teacher

As mentioned at the beginning, you’ll want to check in with your student’s teacher and make sure your child knows that this is your plan.

If it all checks out, getting insights from the teacher on how to address the area of struggle will help you and your student craft a plan. If the teacher has a different perspective than your child, the best next step is to set up a meeting for you, your student and the teacher to understand why their experiences and perception of the drivers of the report card might be different.

About the Author

Evan has years of experience working in public schools throughout the United States as a Teach for America Corps Member and Director of School Operations in Washington D.C. Currently working as the Director of Strategy at Educents, he remains passionate about setting up children to succeed in education.

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