3 Ways to Evaluate Your Child’s Academic Progress (That Aren’t Grades!)

Report cards aren’t the only tool for assessing your child’s academic progress. In fact, they only tell part of the story. To better understand your student’s educational and cognitive growth, consider using these three forms of evaluation.

#1: Set up a meeting with the teacher(s). 

You don’t need to wait until the parent-teacher conferences are announced to set up a meeting with their teacher(s). Make a list of specific questions related to your child’s individual progress, such as:

  • Have you noticed them struggling in any subjects?
  • Are there any subjects in which you’ve seen progress?
  • Does my student always turn in their homework on time?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses in your class?
  • Does my student participate in classroom learning and discussions?
  • Are they reading at the right level for their grade?
  • What things can I work with him/her at home to support their progress?

Also, don’t be afraid to ask if there are any behavioral problems the teacher has noticed (e.g., “spacing out” or getting out of their seat frequently) that you should be aware of. Sometimes issues like hyperactivity or inattention can be a symptom of a learning struggle. Left unaddressed, it could be impeding your student’s academic progress. 

#2: Ask to view your student’s assessments.

Depending on your child’s age, they’ll be taking a variety of assessments throughout the school year. But for the most part, there are three general types of assessments for which you can request to go over the results. These include:

  • Diagnostic: Used to determine what students already know before learning, these assessments help the teachers understand the student’s strengths and weaknesses. They don’t affect the student’s grade but can serve as a valuable tool in understanding what knowledge might be missing. Examples include a questionnaire in which students rate their knowledge on a topic, pre-test questions (with answers that can be compared to the final test answers), and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).
  • Formative: Designed to take place during instruction, these assessments aren’t counted toward grades and can help a teacher tell if one or more students understood what was taught, read, or discussed. Examples include gamified quizzes (e.g., Kahoot), self-evaluation, peer-evaluation, and exit tickets (used before the students leave class).
  • Summative:  Often tests, exams, or projects, these end-of-unit or end-of-lesson assessments determine what students have learned. Examples include portfolios, unit tests, finals, midterms, performances, and presentations.

Although you can certainly ask that the teacher go over some of these assessment results, your time may be limited. Don’t be afraid to request copies of important papers in order to review them at home in further detail. A quick Google search will help you find articles or videos that explain the different tests and what to look for in scores and results. 

#3: Observe them—and listen for cues. 

Observing your child’s behavior at home and listening for clues about school can provide some insights into their performance at school. 

Does your child come up with excuses to avoid doing writing homework in English or take longer than “normal” to complete math? Do they struggle to read or remember what they just read? If they’re capable of reading to themselves, do they snuggle up with a book in a corner or avoid reading altogether? You may even notice that they struggle to read to you at night and ask you to take over.

You may even notice that your child gets annoyed or avoids the topic if you ask about school, their grades, or their performance on a certain quiz or project. Likewise, they may constantly come up with excuses to miss school, even feigning illness (or having an actual stomach ache from anxiety or headache from stress). Of course, that’s not to say that school avoidance can always be attributed to a learning struggle. But if you think that may be the cause of your child’s sudden changes in behavior, consider having their cognitive skills tested to ensure they’re strong enough to help your student live up to their academic potential. 

Put these three tips to work to try to evaluate your child’s academic progress. Although teachers are often the first ones to notice when a student struggles, taking the initiative may help you uncover more about how they’re doing in school. And the sooner you determine if there’s a problem, the sooner you can determine which solutions will help them get back on the track to academic success!

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