SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

What To Do When You Don’t Get the Grade You Expected

Students usually have an idea what they will get on an assignment when they turn it in. Many times, they are right on the mark. But there are times when the grade is much lower than expected. It is important to find out what happened, but it needs to be done in the right way.

First of all, it is important to talk to the teacher in private rather than to ask in front of other students in class. This is a frequent mistake students make. If you say, “I don’t understand why I got this grade” in front of the whole class, the teacher does not have time to go over the paper and discuss the points missed. It is much better to quietly ask for an appointment when you can discuss the grade.

Second, it is best to approach the teacher by asking if he can explain what you missed. When you ask, “Can you help me understand what I did wrong on this question?” in a respectful tone, it sounds better than “Why did you count that wrong?” The first question gives the teacher a reason to want to help you understand, which is what teachers do best. The second question puts the teacher in a defensive mode by making him feel that you disagree with him.

Third, it is important to learn the information you missed, because it may show up again later on a test or exam. More importantly, it might be the foundation future concepts build upon. I have witnessed students miss a question on a homework assignment, later miss it on the test, and then again much later on the exam. Teachers take time to grade daily work so students can see what they still need to learn. Take time to read over questions you miss on daily work and pay attention to comments your teacher writes on it. If you really don’t understand what you did wrong, seek help right then so you will be ready to move forward with the next lesson.

Daily work is great for reviewing what you learn each day in school. When your daily grade is low on a particular assignment, find out why and figure out a way to learn the material. Respectfully ask for help if you need it. Teachers are impressed by students who take the time to review their graded papers and look for ways to learn what they missed.


> Dealing With Disappointing Grades

> Better Grades—10 Ways You Can Help!

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Grades: How Much Do They Really Tell About Learning?

After visiting a school that has made a concerted effort to change how they evaluate their students, I started thinking about the grades teachers give to students. If a student gets a C at the end of the quarter, what does that really mean? Generally, a C means average. So a C should be an acceptable grade. Most students should get a C. But parents expect their children to get A’s and B’s. Here is a different way to think about grades.

One path to the average C is that Adanna, a hard worker, starts out early in the quarter getting very low grades because she is struggling to learn the concepts. Then about the middle of the quarter, because of her hard work, she brings her grades up to C’s. By the end of the quarter she gets very high grades because she finally gets it. If you think about it, the high grades at the end of the quarter show that she actually learned what was expected of her. But because at the beginning of the quarter she did not understand the concepts, her final grade reflects the earlier struggle.

A second path to the average C is demonstrated by Brian, who generally doesn’t work very hard on schoolwork. He is really interested in sports and just wants to maintain a C so he can stay on the football team. Brian could be getting higher grades, but he produces average work for everything—homework, projects, and tests. At the end of the quarter, Brian gets the same grade as Adanna, even though Adanna really understands the concepts much better than Brian does.

This explains why grades don’t tell the whole story. Learning is what is important. How much did Adanna and Brian learn? Can they use their learning to solve new problems and learn new concepts? Are they ready for the next steps? The answers to these questions are so much more important than the grade they made on their report card.

As a parent, you might want to look often at the work your son or daughter is doing. Keep track of their daily journey. What you want to see is progress toward understanding. This is a better indicator of learning than the final grade on the report card. Learning is what is supposed to be happening in school. The final grade cannot tell you how much learning went on.


> What Do Grades Really Mean?

> Report Cards/Grades Articles Archive

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What Do Grades Really Mean?

So many parents worry constantly about their child’s grades. I totally understand this concern, but I do worry about how this can affect children who are struggling in school. 

There are many reasons for a child to get poor grades that are not in their control. Unfortunately, low grades are often blamed on the child without concern for how hard he may be working. Children are called “lazy,” “stupid,” “unmotivated,” and even worse. I have spoken to more than one girl who was told, “Just find yourself a husband who can take care of you and you’ll be fine.” 

Philip Schultz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry, was often called stupid in school. He later wrote, “My image of myself as a dummy is neurologically…wired into the core of my being.” Children believe what we tell them. They especially believe what their parents and teachers tell them, and this self-image does not go away even after great success later in life.

There are a number of reasons a child might have poor grades in school. Many of these can be corrected with proper instruction and plenty of practice. In the meantime, be very careful what you say.

Three common reasons for poor grades are:

Learning disabilities. Many smart children have skills much lower than you might expect. These children are not able to succeed in school because of their low skills in reading, writing, math, or even study skills. They can work very hard, but still not succeed. Children can learn how to compensate for their disabilities if given proper instruction. And remember that low skills do not mean low intelligence.

Attention problems. Some children pay attention to everything in the room equally. Others simply cannot focus their attention on their schoolwork. They are typically called “wiggle worms” because they have trouble sitting still. If you ask them to sit still, they will use every ounce of their energy doing that. Unfortunately, they learn much better if they are actively moving and doing hands-on activities. If you are concerned that your child may have an attention deficit, you probably should have her evaluated by your physician.

Executive functioning disorders. If a child cannot seem to get their work done on time, does the wrong thing, forgets to bring what he needs to school, loses track of time, or is generally disorganized, he may have an executive functioning disorder. Executive functioning plays a huge role in school success. There are strategies to help with this, just like there are with other learning issues.

If you are concerned about your child’s grades, talk to her teacher to find out what she thinks is causing the problems. Tell your child that you would like to figure out why her grades are low. The school psychologist is most helpful in determining what is going wrong and what to do to get help. Most important, make sure your child understands that you know she is not a dummy and that you love her regardless of how she does in school.

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Paying Kids for Grades: Bribery or Good Investment?

“Hey kids: I’ll give you $50 for that A!”

Have you ever paid your kids for getting good grades?

It’s a controversial practice to some who argue that it’s akin to bribing kids for studying hard and getting A’s—something they should be doing on their own anyway.

To many parents, however, it’s a way to get their kids to focus on academics, work diligently, albeit by keeping their eyes on the prize—the cold, hard cash for each good mark.

So, how much is an A worth? Or a straight-A report card? It depends on the parents and the child.

For one New Jersey father, it’s worth a lot: the dad pays $100 to each of his sons for a report card with all A’s. And if the boys maintain A’s all year, they get $1,000. Each.

Before you jump in your car and head to the nearest ATM, keep in mind that not all kids are motivated by the dangling cash carrot.

Though it’s hard to image this not working for most American teenagers.

What about children with learning disabilities? SchoolFamily.com blogger Livia McCoy argues that it's not a fair practice for these kids because the effort they often put in on homework and tests isn't necessarily reflected in the grades they get.

What do you think about all this? Take our poll and let us know if you’ve ever paid your children for good grades.

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The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016