Worrying About Grades and Testing Troubles


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Question: My bright fifth-grader is extremely anxious because report card time is coming. Her fear of report cards just gets worse each year. She says: “I got C grades on a few quizzes. I may not make the honor roll.” What can I do to help her relax since she really is a good student?

Answer: Make sure that you are not putting so much emphasis on grades and report cards that she is afraid of disappointing you. Even if you don’t voice your expectations, she may believe that you expect her to get all "A" grades and be on the honor roll every time. Another possibility is that your daughter may be a perfectionist who can’t face the possibility of getting less than excellent grades.

Try to convey a low-key attitude toward report cards and grades. Don’t ask: How did you do on the quiz or test? Was your homework done correctly? Instead ask: What did you enjoy doing in school today?

To further de-emphasize her fear of report cards, look at her work every day and stress what she has learned rather then comment on the grade.

And avoid giving awards for getting good grades. Your daughter needs to start regarding a lower grade as a sign that she has not mastered some content rather than a disaster that means a lower report card grade. Encourage her to focus instead on learning what she doesn’t know.

Try to help her become more realistic about grades and understand that they reflect all the work that she does in a grading period rather than just a few poor scores.

 

Question: Whenever my first grader has a math test, he gets poor grades even though he has done the same work correctly at home with me. How can this be?

Answer: The reason this happens may be because your son is doing his math homework with you. It’s possible that you are giving him some hints on how to proceed or actually giving him too much help. Try backing off completely from giving him any help with his homework. This includes reading the directions.

Then notice how well he does working completely on his own. It is likely that you will see some problems. You may discover that he is not able to read or follow directions on his own, lacks some basic skills or is careless. Address these weaknesses and his test scores should improve.

Doing the work on his own should also increase your son’s confidence in his ability to do math.

 

Question: Where can I go beyond talking to people in my children’s school district when I have questions about federal education laws, policies and initiatives?

Answer: It can be difficult to contact the right source in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., for answers to questions on topics ranging from special education to No Child Left Behind to school choice. The easiest thing to do is to go online to the department’s Web site at http://answers.ed.gov. This site has the answers to more than 100 commonly asked questions as well as links to additional information both from the department and other sources.

Here’s an idea of the type of questions the department answers:

- Where can I find rankings of public school systems by state?
- What impact does testing have on children?
- How do I determine if a school is providing my special needs child with an appropriate education and services?
- How can I find a legitimate online or distance education program?
- How can I find a quality after-school program for my child?

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