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My son is smart but doesn’t perform well on tests. How can I help him do better?

February 28, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A student struggles during an exam.

Question: My son is smart and does well in school but doesn't perform well on tests. I'm worried he won't get into good colleges because of his SAT scores. What can I do to help him?

Answer: People refer to this phenomenon as the Poor Test-Taker Syndrome. Don’t worry, it’s not a disease and it can be changed. It requires strategy, practice, and patience.

Try these tips that might help your son perform better on tests:

  1. Practice makes perfect. Create practice tests for your son in the subject he will be tested on. After he completes a test, grade it and let him know which answers were incorrect. However, don’t tell him the right answers. Let him retry the questions he missed and learn the right answers by rereading the text. Keep practicing!
  2. Calm down. Exams are often timed, which can result in anxiety for your son. He might be rushing through the questions and making careless mistakes. Remind him to breathe deeply before the exam starts and remember that he is a great student in class. These exercises should help him focus and remember that he already knows what the test is about.
  3. Learn concepts instead of memorizing. Memorizing is not always useful if your son is under pressure. Help him understand the concepts behind the facts he is studying. After he reads a passage, ask him to briefly summarize what he just read, which will help him understand the concept rather than memorize an answer. If he understands the material, he should perform better on the test.

If none of these strategies are helping your son with his test scores, talk to his teacher, school staff, or your healthcare provider to determine if he has a mild learning disability.

We discuss addressing difficulties, emphasis on critical thinking, and homework support in greater detail in in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book series. Please refer to pages 50, 66, and 85 in Through Elementary and Middle School for more information.

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7 Outcomes of Effective Parent Engagement

January 27, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

How time is spent from birth through high school. Because 92 percent of a child's life is spent at home, parental engagement is critical. It starts with you.

For a long time schools have focused their energies on parent involvement, measuring how often and how many parents show up to events and parent-teacher conferences. The higher the numbers, the more schools think they have high parent engagement. But parent involvement and parent engagement are two very different things.

An effectively engaged parent not only supports education at school, but also supports it at home. Such a parent engages in quality communication with teachers and school officials as well as with their own child. An engaged parent attends to the needs of the child while building the foundation for academic success. After all, 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent at home while only eight percent is spent at school.

How do you know when you have effective parent engagement? Look for the following seven outcomes that are clear indicators that parents are effectively engaged at your school:

  1. Higher Attendance Rates – when parents make education a known value at home, they make school attendance a priority. Engaged parents insist their students show up to class ready to learn.
  2. Higher Graduation Rates – when parents have high expectations of their children, children thrive and succeed. Engaged parents encourage their students to persevere.
  3. Lower Teacher Turnover – a school culture that is built on family engagement and participation reduces the burden on teachers and allows them to get back to what they love: teaching. Engaged parents help to keep teachers from burning out.
  4. Lower Rates of Bullying – children learn morality, kindness, and compassion most effectively at home. Engaged parents focus on their child’s citizenship and personal value system.
  5. Higher Self-Control – parents provide necessary structure in a child’s life. Engaged parents set boundaries that students thrive within.
  6. Better Nutrition Choices – the habits that are developed at home are habits that a child will carry with him or her into adulthood. Engaged parents make health and well-being a priority.
  7. Higher Scores – decades of research have shown that one of the prominent components in children who succeed is having parents who are fully and effectively engaged in their education and their life. Engaged parents lay the foundation for success.

Parents will always bear the burden of a child’s growth and development, so when schools make parent engagement a priority, they are making their students’ success a priority.

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Respect Your Child’s Teacher

January 6, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Respect your child's teacher

While your child’s educational success starts at home, as soon as your child starts school, his or her teachers will be sharing that responsibility with you. By giving your child’s teacher the proper respect and receiving respect in return, you will start to build the kind of partnership that will promote your child’s academic success. Sarah Cripe, a pre-kindergarten teacher in Kalamazoo, Michigan, offers these tips on how to work with your child’s teacher:

  • Get to know your child’s teacher. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the school year and tell the teacher that you want to know how your child is doing throughout the year. This gesture shows the teacher that you are an involved parent and they will try to help you.
  • Ask the teacher what you can do to help your child succeed. You are both working toward giving your child a bright future. Share your goal for your child so they can help him or her achieve it.
  • Don’t judge a teacher based on a bad previous experience. Unfortunately, sometimes your child will have a teacher who is not as invested or effective as you might want. However, don’t bring that negative experience into a new school year. Give the new teacher a chance to work with you and help your child succeed in the classroom.
  • Be involved. Make sure your child finishes his or her homework every night. Ask your child about his or her day at school. By being involved in your child’s education at home, you can monitor his or her success and address concerns as soon as they come up. If there is a concern, discuss it with your child’s teacher.
  • Speak directly with the teacher. Don’t express teacher concerns in front of your child. These actions could hurt his or her relationship with the teacher. Schedule a meeting to discuss the concern with your child’s teacher first, and if necessary the principal, rather than involving your child or saying something in the heat of the moment that you might regret later.

By establishing a relationship and keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher, both of you can work toward the common goal of helping your child succeed in school. For more tips on helping your child succeed in school, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books.

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Parents as Involved Partners

November 11, 2013

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

Parents as Involved Partners

Parent involvement is an essential element in a contemporary, up-to-date school today. In all kinds of schools, from public to private and in between, principals, teachers and administrators devote much time and energy to involving parents in their children’s schools. Parents are recruited to help in classrooms, to lend a hand in the front office, to organize fundraisers, and to chaperone field trips and prom dances. Some parents serve on school committees and on the PTA.

These parents are clearly involved. The problem is that they are involved in helping the school but not their own children. A recent book by journalist Amanda Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, looks at the implications of this kind of parent involvement. She spent a year studying schooling in several countries and found that the results of a 2009 study in 13 countries were true: the children of parents who volunteered in their school performed worse in reading than children whose parents did not.

The explanation is fairly simple: most parents today have limited free time. The hours parents devote to helping the school operate could be better spent helping their children at home.

Dr. Herbert J. Walberg has calculated that from birth to age 19, the average child spends 8 percent of his or her time in school and 92 percent at home. Whether we choose to or not, our children will learn from us. This learning begins at birth and continues right up to kindergarten. During these years children acquire an amazing amount of knowledge. They learn to walk, run, and play games and sports. They acquire a language (sometimes two), they learn to read, and they develop social skills. They explore their world, starting with what they see in their cribs and continuing through their home and neighborhood. 

This is quite a curriculum. It can be very challenging for many parents. Unfortunately, most schools don’t become involved with these children until they are officially enrolled in school. So parents need to seek help in being the first teachers from social agencies, formal and informal groups of parents, family members and whatever help books and videos they can find.

Once the child enters school, the parent is largely relieved of the responsibility for formal education; the professional teachers take over. The parent’s role shifts to two major responsibilities: supporting the child in learning what is taught at school and advocating for the child with the school.

Supporting learning at home involves such activities as:

Readiness
Insuring good health, seeing that the child eats properly and sleeps enough, making sure the backpack has the required books, pencils, assignments due, etc.

An Environment for Learning
This environment can be a room or a desk in a corner or the kitchen table. It must be free from TV, music, phones, and other distractions. Multitasking rarely works for studying.

Homework
Parents should guide and supervise a child’s homework but not do it. Know the assignment and the due date and check to see what grade the teacher gives.

Communicate
Speak with the teacher on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. Advocating for one’s child may require intervening when grades are suffering or if a behavior problem has occurred. This doesn’t mean a confrontation with the teacher or the principal. Most issues can be resolved if the parent and the teacher or principal work together.

Parental involvement shouldn’t be about parents helping the school. Rather, the parents should be helping their children succeed in school as involved partners.

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We Need YOU: Parental Engagement Tips from a Teacher

November 11, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

ExpertAdvice_AttendOpenHouse.jpg

As a teacher, I have found that successful students need engaged parents to support them. Parents, as the school year is well underway, I would like to request your continued support of your child’s education. The school year is a marathon and every child needs a strong network of adults to make it through the race to the next grade and eventually to college. Through increased parental engagement, you can help make this school year successful for your child. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Update your information. Sometimes, when a teacher is trying to reach a parent, they find that the contact information available in the school database is out of date. If you have moved or changed phone numbers, please contact your school’s attendance office and provide the new information. Having the correct contact information creates the right environment for a timely communication flow between the school and home.
  • Take advantage of technology. All schools have undergone a technological revolution in the past ten years. There are many more tools available to parents to monitor what is happening with their student at school. Your child’s grades and attendance data should be accessible for review via the Internet at all times now. These systems can also send you text messages if your child cuts class or his or her grade dips below an acceptable level. Technology allows parents to be a much more active participant in their child’s education. Please contact your school’s main office to learn how to connect with these applications.
  • Attend an open house or parent-teacher conference. In November, most schools have just completed the first quarter grades and will host an open house or parent-teacher conference night. Please make a point to attend. It demonstrates to your child that you care about his or her education and provides an opportunity to meet the teachers and staff that work with your child everyday. Schools also use these events to showcase programs and services that are available for parents to help boost their engagement in their child’s education.

Keep communication lines open with your child’s school by providing updated contact information, using educational technology, and meeting with your child’s teachers and school staff. By following these tips, you will get the most out of your engagement and increase your child’s success in school.

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