(First published in The Light Magazine September, 2012)
Getting kids ready for back-to-school can be a daunting task for any parent.
Once the lunches are negotiated and backpacks prepared, it’s time to think about how you will ensure your child gets the most out of their education.
Following are five primary areas which parents should consider for evaluating their child’s progress during the school year:
1. While it is important to pay attention to all subjects, it’s especially important to focus on where your child was weak in the past. You can do this by reviewing previous years’ standardized test scores and past progress reports. If you do not have this information, or are not sure how to interpret the test scores, someone from the school can sit down and review your child’s records with you. These records are important because all public and many private schools use criterion referenced tests (CRTs). These tests are used to establish a yardstick that reflects the state’s standards of what every student should be able to accomplish in a given year.
2. Each school year comes with new goals set for students. It can be useful to know what skills your child will be taught and which skills they are expected to master in this new year. To do this, ask your child’s teacher if they have a scope and sequence guide book you can look through, or visit the website: www.corestandards.org. This will provide you with a list of skills students are expected to master at each age and in each subject. However, it’s not all about academics, there are other areas which are worthy of a watchful eye.
3. Monitor your child’s relationships with friends. Pay attention to who initiates contact. Does your child do all the calling and initiating or is it a two-way street? What do you think of who they choose as friends? It is appropriate and useful to ask your child’s teacher about any new friend. Ask if they see the friendship as a good match in regard to common interests and does the teacher see it as likely to be a positive relationship.
4. Observe your child’s relationships with adults, especially the teacher-child relationship. You can accomplish this by volunteering in the child’s class or school or attending a field trip. Pay attention to age appropriate behavior; does your child interrupt the teacher or does the child wait to speak? Is your child able to go back and forth between adult and child communication, meaning can they be a kid but also speak a bit more mature with adults or are they a child who is so “adultized” that they have a difficult time relating to their peers.
5. And, finally, evaluate your child’s confidence level and independence. Are they a leader or follower? Your child’s teacher should have definite opinions on this. Teachers see which students take control when working on group projects and which students wait to be told what to do. Being a leader is good, being bossy is not. Expecting perfection from a child does more harm than good; however, falling back in several subjects or struggling in relationships is reason for concern. By taking the time to evaluate your child in these five areas, you are more likely to catch a problem area early and get your child the help they need from you, the school or local professionals.