How can my child get his (or her) grades up?” This has to be one of another the most frequently asked questions of teachers. Unfortunately, many well-meaning parents ask the question at the wrong time—when the child is already failing math or subject.
This isn’t something that is uncommon. Bad grades, especially Fs, can leave students feeling defeated. It can also cause them to develop a ‘why even try?’ or ‘I hate math attitude’. If not dealt with early on, failing grades tend to have a snowball effect. Before you know it, it’s not just one concept or topic that the child doesn’t understand, but the subject as a whole.
Regardless of how far behind a student its, there are ways to get grades up that don’t involve tears or shouting.
Get Grades Up–Suggestions
Look at the Numbers
Before you call or e-mail your child’s teacher and say “why is my child failing math, reading, etc.” take a good look at their grade report. Many schools like the ones I have taught in now have online student portals. Here, parents can look at each individual assignment score as well as the overall average. If this isn’t offered, ask your child’s teacher for a breakdown. Doing so can help you quickly pinpoint the issue and come up with solutions.
Let’s take this common situation as an example:
Derrick is scoring well on tests but isn’t doing his homework or bell work. Every day when he comes home, he tells his mom and dad that he did his homework assignments at school. The parents don’t press him because the test grades he brings home for them are passing.
Half-way through the semester, Derrick brings home a progress report with a failing math grade. How could this be? His parents are angry and demand a meeting with his math teacher. During the meeting, they learn that Derrick has only completed 3 homework assignments and spends his classwork time talking.
Embarrassed, the parents don’t even take the time to ask important questions like “how can Derrick get his failing math grades up?” If the parents had taken the time to look at the numbers before the meeting, it would have been much more productive for all parties.
Talk to the Teacher
Even as an educator, I tend to get nervous when I have to talk to my kids’ teachers about their grades.
In the situation above, Derrick’s father was a little aggravated with his son’s teacher. He felt that she could have reached out when Derrick grades first started slipping.
It’s important to remember that although great teachers look for ways to help struggling students excel, some teachers have 50 or 75 students. At the least, they are teaching 20 per day. This makes it easy for failing grades to go unnoticed. Because of this, you have to be your child’s advocate.
Send an e-mail or make a phone call requesting a meeting and then make a list of any questions you might have. Here are some suggestions:
- What do you see as my child’s strengths?
- What does he or she need to work on?
- Is my child on grade level? Where does he or she rank?
- Can we talk more about your homework policy?
- What can I do at home to support you (and my child)?
During this meeting, you might also want to make a request of the teacher. Although your children probably won’t like it, extra homework could help them play catch up. More practice time will also allow for the development of better skills (see below).
Extra homework won’t improve your child’s current grades but there are a couple of things that might. The first is partial credit. If your child has missed a lot of assignments, ask the teacher if he or she would consider giving partial credit if completed now. You might also ask about extra credit. Bonus assignments can help get failing math grades up significantly.
Beef Up Basic Skills
The final step is to work on basic skills. Most of the time, when grades are dropping, it is because there is some kind of foundational weakness. Especially when failing math, it is hard to improve without filling in the gaps.
- Providing skills-based practice at home through workbooks or interactive programs.
- Looking for real-life learning opportunities to support skill-based learning
- Finding a tutor to assist if other options aren’t working
Argo Prep’s K8 interactive math program is a great place to start since it has videos, practice questions, lessons, and practice tests. Interested in signing up? Reach out today.