Halfway Point

How to use mid-year report cards as a useful tool to help your child succeed

Whether your child brings home a straight-A report card or one that is much more discouraging, according to Jennifer Quinn of Huntington Learning Center of Billings, MT, parents should spend sufficient time reading their child’s report card and talking openly with him or her about it.

“Report cards present critical information about your child as a student - skill proficiency, work habits, progress toward grade-level standards and more,” says Quinn. “Think of it as a periodic ’academic checkup,’ and use the knowledge gained to help your child stay the course or improve in areas where he or she is struggling.”

Quinn offers parents the following tips at midyear report card time:

Go through the report card on your own before talking with your child. Reacting strongly to a bad report card in front of your child will likely make him or her feel worse, and may exacerbate the problem. Take time by yourself to read your child’s report card from start to finish, reading all teacher comments and identifying patterns of improvement or decline in all subjects. Approach all conversations with your child about school calmly and with a positive attitude about how you can work together to address any issues.

Congratulate effort and progress. Remember to praise your child for the hard work and persistence it took to earn that high grade, rather than only acknowledge the achievement itself. Alternately, on a report card with lesser marks, be sure to point out any encouraging comments or signs, instead of focusing entirely on the bad. Take notice when your child improves a grade or makes a positive change (such as finishing homework early or staying organized).

Address “easy” subjects, too. High marks across the board may make you proud, but be sure to talk to your child about how he or she feels about each subject. Does he or she describe school as “boring” or “too easy”? If you notice that your student spends very little time on homework and consistently receives report card grades that indicate he or she is at or above proficiency standards, talk with his or her teacher to ensure your child is being appropriately challenged.

Partner with your child’s teacher. All teachers welcome parental involvement, and the more in touch you are with your child’s teacher, the better it is for your child. Check in with the teacher throughout the school year and ask him or her for suggestions to keep your child on track. At report card time, schedule a time to speak to your child’s teacher to clarify any comments and gain more insight into your child’s progress.

Pay attention to habits and behavior at home. To make the most of your relationship with your child’s teacher, you will want to share your own observations of your child. What does your child say about school? Does he or she seem focused? Interested in learning? What concerns do you have about his or her listening skills? Attention span? Attitude?

Foster open communication with your child. Children who are having difficulties in school often feel angry and frustrated, and the last thing they want to do is talk about it more with a parent. Approach the situation delicately, and let your child know that you want to help fix the problem. Talk to your child about school often - about the subjects he or she enjoys as well as those he or she does not. When your child does open up, listen carefully and avoid rushing to judgment.

Report cards are meant to help you stay informed of your child’s progress in school, but Quinn advises parents to keep the report card in perspective. “It’s understandable for parents to be concerned, even panicked, when their child brings home a poor report card, but keep in mind that the report card is a tool for parents,” says Quinn. “A bad grade does not mean your child will never succeed. What it means is that there’s something going on, and you should investigate. With support and help, your child can become a better and much happier student.” SFM

Jennifer Quinn is the owner of Huntington Learning Center in Billings.  For more information about Huntington Learning Center please contact Jennifer at 406-651-5880.