Parents often don’t know
how their child is doing in school. While they certainly hope her
work is average or above average, they have only a vague notion of
what the school expects. Curricula vary from school to school, even
from class to class. One school system may introduce multiplication
tables in second grade while another waits until third or fourth
grade. Schools offer only minimal information about coursework and
expectations. This makes it difficult for parents to judge how well
their child is mastering the material.
If you’re having trouble evaluating your child’s progress, first
check the work she’s bringing home. (You may have to search the
bottom of her backpack for crumpled papers.) What kinds of
assignments is the teacher giving? Are directions clear? Does the
level of work seem appropriate?
See what kinds of comments and grades the teacher is putting on the
papers. You may be dismayed to find red “X”s and negative comments.
Such markings don’t necessarily mean your child is doing poorly.
Many teachers single out mistakes, ignoring the many correct answers
on a page. Sometimes make your own evaluation of your child’s
Talk to your child about her class work. Does she feel she’s doing
well? Keeping up? Kids usually know where they stand in the class.
You may hear, “I keep getting bad grades on my spelling papers,” or,
“I finish reading before anyone else does.”
You can learn about the school’s curriculum and standards by talking
to your child’s friends—those in her class and those in other
classes. Ask what they’re doing in school. Be specific: “Are you on
sub traction? Have you studied the planets? Do you write reports?”
Whenever you have questions, talk to your child’s teacher. Find out
specifically what material is covered in class. Ask for suggestions
to improve your child’s performance and offer any suggestions you
Report cards are the standard means of teacher-to-parents
communication. Yet, a series of check marks or letter grades without
written comments is often not enough. Does a “B” in social studies
mean your child is truly mastering the subject, or does it mean
she’s a cooperative student who hands in her worksheets on time?
You want your child to get good marks and you also want to know that
she’s learning. Unfortunately, grades don’t always reflect mastery.
One second-grader, for instance, had neat, legible handwriting. Her
teacher wanted her to write on paper with oversized lines. The girl
had trouble making exaggerated letters and therefore was given a low
grade even though her writing looked like that of an older student.
Another child was good at math, but balked at doing repetitive, easy
drill work. He got a low grade that did not reflect his high
At times you may feel your child is receiving a mark that’s too
high. You know she doesn’t understand her science book, yet the
teacher gives her a high grade for being neat and paying attention.
Since grades may or may not accurately reflect progress, rely on
your instincts as well as on graded papers and report cards when
judging your child’s achievements.
You can sometimes learn more about how she’s doing by examining the
results of standardized tests. After she’s been tested at school,
ask if you can see the results, including a comparison of her scores
with those of her peers. If the school isn’t required to disclose
results, consider having your child tested by an educational
specialist. If the testing shows she’s learning well, you’ll feel
reassured. If it shows less favorable results, the specialist may be
able to discover the reasons your child is not doing as well as