1. Check to See Why Grades are Falling
Have your child monitor their grades, with your supervision, on a regular basis. In the larger local public school systems all of this information should be available to you with a quick check online. Look at the grades listed for each class and consider the following possibilities: Is your child not completing classwork assignments? Are they receiving zeros on homework for not turning it in? Are test and quiz grades low?
2. Check in with your Child
Make time to have a daily discussion with your child about how things are going in school. Make the focus of the discussion effort and learning instead of outcome or grades. If grades are low or there is missing work, talk to your child to find out why. Are there classes where they are having trouble with understanding concepts? Do they have trouble keeping up with assignments in order to turn them in? Are they forgetting to complete homework? Do they feel distracted or have trouble paying attention during instruction?
3. Contact the Teacher
Check with the teacher to find out why your child is struggling. Ask about your child’s motivation and participation in class, effort, organization, time-management, level of understanding, and quality of work. This should give you some insight into why grades may be low. Focusing on the cause of the problem instead of the grade will allow you to make a plan with your child and the teacher so that they can be more successful in the future.
4. Make a Plan
Work with your child and their teacher to make a plan. The plan should address the area that is causing your child to struggle. If they are having trouble staying organized, set up a binder system with a place to keep work for each class, assignments, and completed work to turn in. If they are not understanding concepts, consider the possibility of seeking out additional help if offered by the teacher or from a tutor. If they are not completing homework, set a certain amount of time, based on their age, for them to work on assignments each day; if they do not have assignments to fill the time, have them review notes or read.
5. As Much as Possible, Try to Focus on Learning and Effort Instead of Grades
A focus on grades is a short-term fix which may actually result in less learning, boredom and anxiety. It can also make students risk averse, causing them to choose safety instead of challenging themselves because they fear making lower grades. A focus on grades teaches your child that having a certain number is what is most important. Consequently, they will learn to work just hard enough to achieve that number which can start a constant battle over study skills, motivation, and understanding. And if they learn to memorize just what they know will be on the quiz or test without actually ever understanding the why or how that make these concepts applicable to real-life situations or practical use, they are not getting the maximum benefit from their education. Instead, learning should focus on understanding the material in context. Putting more effort into really understanding the material is not a quick fix but often results in higher grades for the long-term in high school and college when more critical thinking is required and scores really count.