Education report: It’s too late for some, but not others, to raise grades

Some failing students can still raise grades

The school year is nearing an end, and some parents are wondering what, if anything, they can do to make sure their child passes a given course or grade level. Help is available.

A lot depends on whether you are asking the question for the first time or have been involved in your child’s school performance all year.

If now is the first time you have become uneasy about your child’s grades, you can relax.

You can relax because it is much too late to be concerned. If your child’s grades only now suggest he or she may not pass, you can stop worrying. Your child will probably fail. You can do little at this late date.

Do not bother teachers or counselors with pleas for help. Your lack of interest earlier in the year when their suggestions might have helped disqualifies you from annoying them now. They should spend their limited time on children for whom it might do some good. You should spend your time during the remaining days of the school year revising your summer vacation plans; your child will be attending summer school.

I know that sounds harsh. It is not what you want to hear, but it is an honest appraisal of the situation. Unless your child’s poor grades are a recent thing, because of illness, say, it is nearly impossible for him or her to learn in a few weeks what other students have taken all year to learn.

What to do

For parents of other students who have recently fallen behind, here are some suggestions:

First, find out what the problem is and how bad it is. That means you must talk to the teacher.

If your child has been doing well until recently, the teacher probably knows when the change in performance occurred and may know what caused it. At any rate, only the teacher knows what your child must do to bring grades into line and change the outcome.

Call the school. Ask for a conference with the teacher and your child’s guidance counselor. I would include the counselor because he or she may have information that the teacher does not. Regardless, the counselor needs to be involved.

Ask the teacher to give you specifics: what, how much and when. This is not the time for blaming anyone — your child, the system or the teacher.

Think of it the same way you would if your child had an illness. Treat the illness. You can later decide if other steps are required.

And, just as with an illness, plan on daily treatments. You and your child must commit to doing what the teacher recommends, i.e., taking your medicine as prescribed. Doctors can’t make you well just because you took the medicine they prescribed, but teachers can give you consideration at grade time if they know you made an honest effort.

That honest effort will mean doing more than just keeping up with daily work. Hence, it means mom and dad will need to monitor closely all daily work and make-up work assigned by the teacher. Your child may need to curtail some after-school activities during this period. You may need to supervise evening time in front of the TV or computer.

Need for cooperation

Parents don’t always understand or appreciate that teachers want students to succeed. They do not like kids to fail and will do everything possible to prevent that. However, they need parents and kids to work with them. They will not reward ineptitude or laziness.

Parents and students should not overlook the grade-raising ability of final exams, in those situations where such exams exist. Mathematics, for instance, is a cumulative subject. That is, every lesson builds on the previous lesson.

Doing well on a final exam in mathematics tells the teacher that you have learned the skills you missed before. The teacher may take that into account when assigning a final grade.

Lastly, students need to keep in mind that even if a failing grade is inevitable, the skills or knowledge they learn these last few weeks of school will help make summer easier.

If you have to go to summer school, you want to make sure you pass and can go on to the next level in the fall.

Giving up is sure to lead to failure. Making an honest effort after talking with the teacher cannot hurt your grade and may help avert disaster.

Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]

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