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Your Child's Not Doing Well in School, Now What? Tips for Improvement

Updated on May 4, 2014
A child struggling with school
A child struggling with school
A child getting frustrated
A child getting frustrated

If your child is struggling in school and you are looking for suggestions as to how you can help steer them in the right direction, these practical tips can be set in motion almost immediately. If your child is serious about improving and is willing to buy in to these interventions, better grades will be on the way.

1. Check their attendance. Are they coming to school every day with the exception of extreme sickness or emergencies? Is he/she going to every class? Attending class everyday allows you to receive instruction on new material. You are able to ask questions when they arise. Teachers are willing to go the extra mile for the students who are trying to help themselves.

Missing class frequently only leads to a downward spiral of issues. Your child now goes into catch up mode. They must make up the previous day’s work. The teacher does not have time to go back and re-teach the earlier work. The only way to get caught up to speed is to come after school to get extra help. Remember, teachers are there to provide extra assistance to clarify material that you are struggling with. They are less willing to help a student who misses 25 days a semester (That’s 50 days a year!).

If your child is absent, they must be proactive in finding out what lessons were taught and to pick up any make-up work. Teachers may teach 150+ students daily. This will help them service your child better. Also, turn in the make-up work in a timely manner. Most times a student will get one day per each absence to turn it in. Most teachers will not accept the work if you turn it in three weeks later.

2. How much time do they spend on homework and studying daily? It is a reasonable expectation that High School students do one hour of homework and studying a night. If they are taking advanced coursework, add additional time. My daughter who is in third grade has 30-40 minutes of homework a day. There is something wrong if your child says they don’t have any work and their report card is sprinkled with D’s and F’s. The popular feeling with many students is that homework is not that important. “Why do I have to do it if I already know the material?” I will just ace the tests? Well, grades in K through 12th are usually made up of multiple components: Tests, homework, class participation, homework, and projects. This helps balance a student’s grade out if they may not be a good test taker. Homework may account for up to 30% of a grade. By not doing the homework, the highest grade you can achieve if all of your other work is perfect is a 70%.

3. Have student stay after school to receive extra help for tutoring. Most teachers are available after the regular school day to give extra help. This can be more effective since the teacher is able to work with students either individually or in small groups. Ask the teacher what their after school schedule will be for the upcoming week so they can plan accordingly.

Come with specific questions for the teacher. The time they are spending with your child is to supplement what has already happened in the classroom. What part of the math problem do you not understand? Try to work the first step so they can show you whether you are moving in the right direction. Trying the problem also shows the teacher that you have given some thought and effort in solving the problem.

4. Study with a group. This strategy has proven to be successful in the college arena. It’s confusing as to why more middle and high school students don’t do this more. Multiple brains are better than one. If you get stuck on a problem or issue, a group member can help you synthesize your thoughts and information to find a suitable answer.

How much time does your child spend on homework and studying per night?

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5. Have a parent teacher conference to see how you can help your child. Parent-Teacher conferences are good to get feedback on what you child is doing in the classroom. Are they actively participating? Are they staying engaged or are they doing things like putting their head down, playing with their cell phone, or excessively socializing? Having conferences allow the both parties to build a relationship. The teacher can place a face with the child. Parents get a sense that you care because you took out the time to speak to them on how you can collaborate to help your child be successful.

6. Hire a tutor to go back over the basics. Many times a student falls behind early in their educational career. Unfortunately they may get pushed forward to higher levels of work without mastering the basics. In order to be successful with middle and high school work, they must revisit the foundation work. This is vital for reading and mathematics. For example, if your child having trouble with reading and reading comprehension, they may have to build their phonics and pronunciation skills. Gaining an understanding of prefixes and suffixes along with learning root words will help them decipher the meanings of words. To catch them up more quickly a tutor may be the best option. For Profit companies, paid tutors, as well as community organizations can be good resources.

7. How is their behavior? Acting out in class causes an unfortunate domino effect with the student. You get in trouble. You get sent to the office where you are missing valuable face to face instruction time with the teacher. You are then isolated in a separate area to complete your work because you weren’t able to act appropriately with others. You’ve now lost even more classroom instruction time. Because of multiple infractions, you have now been suspended from school for a few days. Ultimately, you will now be playing catch up because you have lost more face to face instruction.

There are various reasons why students act out in a classroom. There are times when a child struggles early in their educational career. If they fail to pick up the foundation basics in reading, writing, language comprehension, phonics, and mathematics, they will continue to suffer especially if they are socially promoted. They will then use their behavior as a coping mechanism to mask the fact that they are frustrated because they have no idea how to execute the current work assigned to them. There are other times when a student acts out to test the classroom/school‘s boundaries and limits. They want to know how far they can push the envelope or get away with.

8. Have your child get involved in a club/activity on campus. Many times, the highlight of a student’s day is when the final bell rings for the day and the student heads off to their favorite club. You may find that the sponsor for the club is able to connect to the student where nobody else is able to. Clubs are sometimes able to bring out a different side of a student that regular classes cannot. Connecting them to a club can directly help increase their attendance.

Sports and music are school programs that provide many great benefits to students who participate. You learn discipline from the daily practice and grind. You also learn to be a part of a team, a cog in the wheel. In order for the band to sound well, everyone must be playing the correct note with proper timing. In football, all 11 players must execute their assignment properly for the play to be a success. Both programs not only reveal but help a child to build character. It can help build self-image. Players learn to set goals and to work diligently toward therm.

Example of a Khan Academy Tutorial Video

9. Find out what the student wants to receive from school? Many times students are attending school because it is a requirement; it is what is expected of them. The y wander aimlessly from class to class, year to year, culminating in a big pile of information and data, none of which they know what to do. Start discussing with your child what experiences they would like to get out of school before they graduate. This is a prime time to take classes to see where your interests lie. Wood shop and Machine shop are popular. Classes like Drama exercise your creative sides. Computers and Robotics can lead you to be a techie. As I mentioned earlier, have your child join a sport or after school activity. This may be the one thread that keeps them motivated in coming to school daily.

10. Use tutoring websites for extra help. Tutoring websites like Khan Academy ( have videos showing teachers explaining a topic in detail. If you don’t get it on the first try, you can keep rewinding the video for review. It’s like having your personal teacher at your house. Sometimes students may struggle with a teacher’s teaching style. Having a person teach it in a different manner may be all your child needs. Elementary through Secondary grades (3-12) can find extra help here. Most core subjects along with Test pep is covered. College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy to provide online SAT preparation.

11. Look at results of standardized scores. Are there any discrepancies? Your child may have a learning disability. In class observations along with standardized testing can provide valuable information as to the areas a student is deficient. In certain instances, a student may exhibit decoding and processing issues. Dyslexia is also a common disability. A number of students suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which causes them difficulties in focusing on the task at hand. It is very important that you child gives their best effort so school officials can properly assess their capabilities. If a disability is diagnosed, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 plan will be devised for your child. The plan, along with a student’s hard work can lead to success in the classroom.

12. Have your child learn how to study, not just memorize material. The easy way to get a good grade on your test is to memorize the material the night before and to look at the information again right before the test. However, the info will be gone with the wind soon after. This can be a big issue with math, language arts, and certain sciences. To succeed in Algebra 2, Algebra 1 must be mastered. You must have a good Alg 2 foundation when trying to tackle Pre-Calculus. Once you feel you have learned a concept, look to apply it to a higher order question.

The Cornell Notes system is an excellent example. Students divide their paper in half and take notes in their own words. On the other half of the paper, the student comes up with higher level questions that allow you to synthesize the information you have just learned. At the end/bottom of the page a summary of the lesson is written.

13. Check their report card each grading period. Call the school to find out when each grading period ends. Certain schools have six wee term periods while others have nine or ten. The student should receive a corresponding grade summary for this time period. Once you find your child having problems in a subject, work with them to find out why they are struggling. Speak to the schools to find various means of support.


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    • mosaicman profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Tampa Bay, Fl

      DDE, thanks for checking in from Croatia. These interventions are relevant no matter what part of the world they are attending school. It is true that children do not verbally communicate sometimes when things are not going well. Parents need to pay attention to their non-verbal cues. They must stay in tune with their child so they can notice when they are falling. These tips can equip them with the necessary tools to help them.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Children have issues and don't always want to talk about their not so good days. Parents need to pay attention all the signs greatly mentioned here.

    • mosaicman profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Tampa Bay, Fl

      Thanks for the comment Larry. The info I'm sharing is from 10 years experience in the school system. I guess I took for granted that parents would already know these strategies. My mother was an educator and always stayed on top of things. Please share this info with any kid or parent you feel it may benefit.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very comprehensive overview. If parents and caregivers understood the steps you've laid out for them, school productivity would increase about 100 fold. In my apartment complex it seems apparent to me that many parents don't understand the basic step of just making sure their kids make it to school. Well done.


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