How to Assess Your Child's Achievement Level

Many parents ask us about how they can effectively assess their child's achievement level. It can be a challenge to interpret the varied messages that parents receive, such as those from their child, the child's teacher and other parents. The key is to properly balance the available information and know when more is needed.

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Collect the Evidence

The first step in assessing your child's achievement level is to collect the objective evidence you have available. This includes progress reports and any item that earns a grade, such as tests, quizzes, papers, projects and homework assignments. This step, by itself, won't fully tell you how your child is doing. It's difficult to know what you have and what you don't have, as though you're assembling a puzzle with an unknown number of pieces.

This step is primarily about establishing a factual base of understanding. As you make progress with your evaluation, you'll refer back to this data set. In addition to looking over the grades these items offer, look also for comments that help you understand the perspective of your child's teacher; these may help you identify patterns or anomalies.

Compare Apples to Apples

When you're trying to determine whether your child is advanced, in the middle or behind, it's essential that you avoid unfair comparisons. It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing your child to his or her peers through conversations with other parents. This can be unfair to your child and misleading for you.

You should assess your child in relation to your child's own education goals. These goals should be based on what is realistic for your child to achieve. For example, a child who has consistently been a below average student shouldn't expect to transform into an honor roll student in a few months. As you begin to gain perspective on how your child is performing, set short-term and long-term goals together and mark progress against past results.

Contact the Teacher

Whenever you have questions about your child's achievement level, you should seek out your child's teacher for guidance. The teacher will have the most complete picture of your child's performance. The teacher should be able to fill in any gaps in what you've been able to assess. Also, the teacher's evaluation typically has significant weight in determining what will come next for your child, whether the future might hold honors or remedial classes.

When contacting the teacher, consider beforehand the teacher's ability to respond to your questions. You'll get the best response if you adhere to any structures the teacher may have put in place for parent dialogue, such as open office hours or scheduled meetings. For teachers with daunting student loads, it may be best to email your questions; this gives the teacher more time to give a thoughtful response to your inquiry.

Ask Your Child

Ultimately, assessing your child's performance should be a collaborative endeavor. In addition to asking your child about how he or she feels school is going, you can involve your child in other facets of your assessment. For example, your child's active involvement in a meeting with the teacher can help the teacher see how committed and engaged your child is to his or her education. Whether you're trying to understand it, or hoping for improvements, your child's achievement is determined by your child.

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