Recognizing Student Struggles 3 of 7: Identifying the Warning Sign--Grades

As part of the Recognizing Student Struggles series, this feature explains what a sudden decline in grades might say about a student's curricular experience. It also offers suggestions for the most appropriate methods of correction should your child's grades suddenly drop.

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A change in grades from an otherwise successful student is a sign that your child has run into something difficult in their course-work and may not have had a chance to go back and review it. If a student is struggling with a building block concept-for example, phonics in reading or multiplication in math, a diagnostic test can determine when and where the problem occurred. The problem can then be targeted and the learning gap that existed can be filled to make a smooth, firm foundation for new and continuing lessons.

To determine if your student's poor grades are a sign of learning gaps, speak with your child or their teacher about when the decline first occurred. What was your student studying? Did the material suddenly turn in a new direction? Maybe there were other signs you didn't pick up on, did he or she experience an attitude change at that time? Did their social habits change? Determining if your student missed an essential element in their lesson can save you and your child a lot of trouble by enabling you to seek the right kind of efficient help. If needed, you can find a tutor capable of bringing your child back to where he or she left off. This necessary backtracking will allow your student to build the one skill that he or she missed, thus allowing them to move forward on their own. If you only address the lesson your child is currently struggling with, there's every chance that the skill they never learned will create another problem in the future.

Make note of the grades that your child brings home. Monitor his or her temperament and enthusiasm about school and studying. Good students often find themselves disappointed and discouraged by bad grades, which can affect their confidence and their relationships with others. A sudden change in grades is a clear sign that your child has missed an important lesson or concept in school. The faster you and your child can master that lesson or concept, the faster your child will be able to return to the classroom with the confidence and know-how he or she needs to continue to succeed in more difficult and accelerated lesson plans and activities.

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