How well is your child doing in school?

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

It's November. Thanksgiving is coming and the winter holidays are just around the corner. It's hard to believe nearly a third of the school year is over! You probably have been to at least one parent/teacher conference and received a report card for your child.

For most of us, the report card and conferences are filled with "good news" and "bad news." The good news is your child is doing well in some areas and the bad news is he or she could use improvement in others. These reports are typically based on grade level expectations for both academic performance and behavior.

When a report card indicates your son or daughter is not performing at grade level, the question to ask is: "How far below grade level is he or she?" The farther below grade level, the greater the amount of extra effort needed to be successful on the next report card.

In March 2009, children in grades 3-8 will take the Ohio Achievement Test, and 10th-grade students will take the Ohio Graduation Tests as a requirement for graduation. It's important for you to talk with your child's teachers to know if he or she is performing at grade level.

Ohio law requires schools to identify students at risk of failing, or those who have already failed subjects assessed by these tests. The law also requires schools to provide the necessary support and intervention services to get students to perform grade-level work. Schools have to make sure every child, at every grade level, and for every subject (reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and writing) is on track for success. Interventions for some children must begin as early as kindergarten. For other students, the interventions may be intense but short in duration.

Since the Ohio Achievement and Graduation Tests are given in the spring, now is the perfect time to talk to your child's teachers about what is going to be done to make sure he or she is prepared to stay on track and pass these examinations.

If you want to research the tests yourself before you talk to your child's teachers, go the Ohio Department of Education website, and under the Families icon, click on Statewide Testing Website. You can also log on to The Families webpage has a section called Getting Involved with your Child's Learning which can give you guidance on what your child should know by grade level and subject.

Key things parents can do to aid in their child's success:

  • Make sure your child is in school. Being out of school means your child is losing instructional time. Lost instructional time translates into poor grades.
  • Ask your child's teacher how to keep track of your child's progress, perhaps through a daily notebook or posting student grades online.
  • Review your child's daily assignments and monitor if he or she is turning in work on time.
  • Ask your child's teacher for a way to communicate directly with him or her about your child's progress.
  • If your child continues to have difficulties, ask for a meeting with your child's teacher and guidance counselor to determine appropriate interventions.
  • Make sure your child is actively engaged after school (including completing homework) and during summer breaks.
  • Find out what you can do at home to extend and expand the learning that is taking place at school.
  • Look for no- or low-cost youth activities in your community. For example, Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, libraries and city parks offer after-school programs.
  • Make an appointment with school officials to discuss a plan to help your child be successful.

Key things schools can do to help your child succeed:

  • Provide you with detailed information about the areas in which your child needs improvement.
  • Keep you informed of your child's progress on a regular basis, not just when report cards are issued.
  • Provide small group instruction or individual tutoring at school, or connect you to an outside provider.
  • Give you information about school- and community-based resources such as after-school or summer school enrichment programs and tutoring.
  • Link you to other services that can help your child succeed, such as health and social services if needed.

Fall is early enough in the year to determine where your child's progress is heading in each subject, and it's the perfect time to make sure you're involved in making it a great school year.

Mary Lou Rush Ph.D. is executive director of the Center for Students, Families and Communities at the Ohio Department of Education. Dr. Rush is an educational psychologist whose primary responsibility at the department is to recommend policies and practices to address barriers to children's ability to learn.