Good grades don’t necessarily indicate that a student is actually learning the material. We need to look a little more closely to understand whether or not kids are making real progress.
Good Grades Vs Good Learning
One of our students told his tutor he’s doing fine in Spanish 2. He’s not having any trouble with the work, and he’s getting an A. But his tutor sees it differently. Through their in-session work, she’s observed that the student has not mastered the core vocabulary and verb conjugations he should have by this point. She’s very concerned about what this means as the content builds upon itself. At this rate, she doesn’t see how he’ll be ready for Spanish 3.
Why We Can’t Settle for Fine
As tempting as it may be to say, “You know what? Grades are good, let’s coast a while,” we first need to know what the grades are actually reflecting. If it turns out that they’re not a good indication of learning, then coasting now might mean being lost later. We want kids to set up solid foundations, especially in classes like math and world languages. It’s also useful to think beyond grades for upcoming challenges like the ACT or SAT, and being self-sufficient in college.
There’s another reason we want to keep our eye on learning: motivation. You can’t underestimate the jolt of a light bulb moment! When students make new connections because they’re appropriately tasked, they want to learn more. If school is easy, those electric instants don’t exist, and you have a disengaged child.
Assessing the Situation
Here are some questions that will help you gain a better understanding of your child’s progress:
- What content area skills should they have mastered by the end of this quarter or semester? How will you know if they do?
- What are grades based on? For example, are homework grades based on completion or accuracy?
- Are they reading every day? What kind of text (e.g. novels, textbooks, primary source material)?
- How often are they writing a paragraph or more?
- How much time should your child be spending on homework daily/weekly? Are they?
- Are there any long-term assignments or projects? These are opportunities for your child to learn and practice executive functioning skills like organization and time management.
Beyond the “work” of school, pay attention to your child’s demeanor and attitude. Are they often frustrated by a specific class or at a certain time of the day? Are they putting off homework to the last minute, or not doing it at all? Was there a class that was very challenging last year that is a piece of cake this year?
Obviously, this sort of behavior could crop up during the best of times. What you want to notice are patterns. It can be easy to miss signs that may indicate your child isn’t developing skills.
Making It Stick
If you discover that your child needs a boost, there are several steps you can take. Start with the teacher. They’ll be able to give you pointers whether your child needs to participate more, meet with them before a test, or brush up on a few concepts.
A few of our favorite resources are Khan Academy, ALEKS, and IXL. They’re great spots whether your child needs review or enrichment. A little bit of time every day will make a difference! If you need some help figuring out where to dive in, your child can take one of our reading, writing, or math diagnostics.
Good executive functioning skills are key to learning. When students don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day, they’re able to focus on academic content.
Finally, help your child engage in non-school learning. Sports, improv, music, dance, art, volunteering, genealogy…anything that will help them show up, sustain attention, and make connections. As one of our students told us, “The more dedicated you are to anything, the more dedicated you’ll be to school work.”
We’re here if you need us!