What if My Child Isn't Doing Well in School?

Tips for helping a struggling student

Special Needs Schools
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Many private schools, particularly in the older grades, have demanding academic requirements, and it's normal for students to struggle a bit initially. After all, learning comes from contending with unfamiliar material and pushing oneself into an area of marginal comfort or even discomfort. It's also natural for students to achieve good results in one subject area but to find other subjects more difficult.

After all, it's hard to be John Steinbeck and Madame Curie all wrapped up in one bundle.

Most students will eventually find their groove at their new school and begin to better acclimate to the new workloads and after school demands. However, some students may continue to struggle in one or more areas, and this can be a matter of concern for parents. The student may also feel discouraged, which could have a further negative effect on his or her performance, plus the teachers may show concern. Don't fear, though. We have four tips to help struggling students perform better at school.  

1. Evaluate Time Management

Private school can be exciting, especially if the student attends a boarding school. Longer days, more free time, sports and afternoon activities, and more time for socialization. It's important to first and foremost look at the student's time management skills. Is he or she devoting enough time to studies, or are other extracurricular activities monopolizing their time?

This can often be a quick and simple solution, but helping your child simply create a more regimented schedule that ensures enough time is being spent on studies. 

2. Is the Student Studying Right?

Going online with time management, students have to develop good study habits in order to succeed in difficult schools.

Being bright is not enough. It's important to be inquisitive and to care about what you are learning, but you also must make sure that you are studying efficiently and effectively. That means that you have to use the right tools to help you retain the information, and you must have a well-ordered organizational system that helps you keep track of your work and plan ahead for projects and tests. Many schools offer online learning management systems that can help a student better prepare. Procrastination and cramming do not lead to as positive results as studying over time and planning ahead do. These are good habits to develop for life after school as well.

3. Does the Student Have Learning Issues?

Some students struggle because they have undetected learning disabilities that are getting in the way of their performance. Even bright students can have learning challenges, and these issues may be picked up only in the later grades when academic demands on students increase. If parents or teachers believe that a student who has chronic difficulty in school may have a learning issue, the student can undergo an evaluation conducted by a professional. This evaluation, sometimes referred to as an psycho-educational evaluation or a neuropsychological evaluation, helps break down what's getting in a student's way in a non-punitive and non-stigmatizing way.

Part of the outcome of an evaluation can be recommendations about how a student learns best, including potential accommodations, or changes in a student's curriculum, to help him or her. These accommodations can include, for example, extra time on tests, if it is warranted, or use of a calculator on math tests, if allowed. The student must still do the work, but he or she can have support programs in place to help him or her succeed. With these accommodations and help in place, such as the support of a learning specialist or resource room, it may be possible for the student to stay in his or her original school and to succeed.

4. Evaluate the Student's Fit with the School

While this may be a disappointing solution, sometimes, it's the right one. The best private school for any child is the one that fits him or her the best.

 That means that the child can succeed in the school academically, emotionally, and in regards to extracurricular interests. While it's not necessary to be the top student, a student should place roughly in the top third or at least half of his or her class, particularly in the upper grades, to have a better shot at college admissions. If the curriculum is far too demanding, the student may not fare as well in college admissions, and, more importantly, the student will not be able to grasp enough of the curriculum to learn the material well and to develop good skills. A student who fits well with his or her school will also be able to develop confidence and a sense of achievement. If a student is not a good fit, he or she may have to change schools.

Article updated by Stacy Jagodowski