How can you stay in the loop with your middle schoolers' grades?

Dear Mrs. James,

When I ask my middle school-aged son how he's doing in school he always says, "pretty good." I see him (with my own eyes) doing his homework and never got anything home from his teachers stating otherwise. Imagine my surprise when I received his progress report filled with Cs, Ds and Fs. I had no idea he was failing and I am so angry with his teacher for not keeping me in the loop. I work two jobs so it's hard for me to keep tabs on him. I can't have my son fail 8th grade. Help!

Sincerely,

Jackie Portman
Columbus

Dear Jackie,

I truly understand your frustration. Unfortunately, I get questions like this all the time. Fortunately though, I have an answer for you right up my sleeve! Let's break it down.

First, when you're wondering how your son is doing in school, you can't just simply ask him and expect to get the correct answer. Not happening! Neither can you sit back and wait around for his teacher to keep you in the loop. It's your job as a parent to keep yourself in the loop! Sorry, I know you didn't really want to hear that, but it's true.

Yes, he's in middle school and you need to let go and let him show a little responsibility (this is precisely why he needs to be grounded or punished for his hideous progress report). However, don't completely let go. He's not an adult yet and will still need close supervision in certain areas. Don't hover, but don't completely release the reigns.

Here's my solution. Immediately (and I mean like right now) contact all of your son's teachers and tell them you would like to have a weekly printout of your son's grades. This should be fairly easy for most teachers as many of them use computerized grade books these days. This will keep you in the loop. Remember, just because you see your son doing his homework doesn't mean he is turning it in.

Having a weekly progress report lets you know right away when your son isn't meeting your expectations. It will also let him know where he is. He may actually think he's doing "pretty good" because he's been doing pretty well on the tests, but not realize how detrimental not turning in the last four homework assignments has been to his grade. Try that and see if it helps!

Keep up the good work!

Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

I have twin daughters and we worked really hard studying for the Ohio Achievement Test last year. Three or four times per week we worked through these different workbooks I bought at Holcomb's, the teacher store. However, the scores were worse. Yes, I said worse. I feel so defeated and I don't even want to tell my daughters. What am I doing wrong? I feel like giving up.

Sincerely,
Heather Wilson

Hi Heather!

What a great question. I'm sorry you feel so discouraged, but trust me; we can fix all of that right now! Let's take these lemons and make lemonade! First, I am very proud of you. How wonderful it is to see that a mom is taking control of her children's education! You're not waiting around blaming this person and that for your child's scores; you're taking the bull by the horns and giving it your best shot! Go girl! I love it!

Here are some simple tips that I think will help you. I think what may have happened is you went on OAT overload and confused the girls even more than they were when they began. That is very easy to do. The workbook you bought at Holcomb's could be completely different than the one they are working from in class, which makes it easy for confusion.

You may also explain the topics different than the teacher, which is also confusing. In addition, the OAT study sessions three to four times per week gave your girls the impression that this test is very, very, very important. Therefore, it probably brought on unnecessary stress and pressure to do well. Unfortunately, many students break under that amount of pressure.

I think it's great that you are doing what you're doing. I just think you need guidance from someone more experienced in the field. Ask your daughters' teachers for guidance or hire a test prep tutor to walk the three of you through the best ways to study for this particular exam. Work hard, but work smart! I hope this helps!

Keep up the good work!

Love,
Mrs. James