Steps to take when you are concerned about your child's academic progress
Children attend school in order to learn fundamental skills in order to eventually become productive, contributing members to society. When you send your child to school you expect the teachers to teach and your child to learn. However, not every student progresses academically at the same pace. If your child doesn't seem to be keeping up with what is being taught, struggles with reading, math, or writing, doesn't seem to retain new information presented in school, is struggling with homework, or seems to dislike school then you may want to take the following steps to express your concerns about his or her academic progress.
1. Document your concerns
The first step to take is to document your concerns. Getting a notebook to write down specific examples of when your child experiences difficulties and with what subjects will be helpful in later steps when you articulate your concerns to the school. Keeping work samples, progress notes, report cards, standardized testing results, and teacher feedback helps you to see whether or not these struggles and concerns are consistently present.
2. Make contact with your child's teacher
Make a phone call or send in a note to your child's teacher. Letting the teacher know that you have concerns about your child's academic progress is a good idea because it lets them know that you are invested and following through at home. Teachers will usually have additional information about your child's academic progress, and they will typically offer suggestions for extra practice as well as keep a closer eye on your child's progress in the classroom.
3. Ask for a conference with your child's teacher
A conference with your child's teacher, or team of teachers, is a more formal meeting where you can discuss specific concerns and strategies that have been attempted. A conference is sometimes helpful because there are usually additional teachers involved who can help brainstorm strategies for interventions. In addition, you can develop an action plan with the teacher and/or team in order to monitor your child's progress which can be followed up on at a specific time.
4. Make contact with the principal
Your child's principal may have additional suggestions or know of additional resources to help you with your concerns. She may suggest pre-referral interventions or response to intervention (RTI). These types of interventions may already have been implemented, however, if they haven't, then they will be useful in order to determine your child's response to specific and targeted interventions. The idea behind these approaches is to intervene before your child fails.
5. Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician
At any point in time you can discuss your concerns about your child's academic progress with his/her pediatrician. Your pediatrician is an expert on child development and behavior. They are often able to give suggestions and guidance in how to ask for help from the school. They can also help determine if there is any health or physiological condition that is interfering with your child's academic progress.
6. Refer your child for a special education evaluation
If you feel that your child is not making academic progress or that they have a learning disability then you can make a referral to the school for a special education evaluation. You can ask for this type of evaluation at any point in time. You don't have to wait until after RTI or pre-referral interventions have been implemented. This evaluation is will be provided to you at no charge by the public school, and it will help you and the school team better understand your child's learning strengths and weaknesses.
As a parent you are your child's first teacher. You can tell when your child is having a difficult time making academic progress. You are also your child's best advocate. As his/her advocate you can use some of these steps to help your child get the services s/he needs in order to succeed academically. It is important to know and understand your rights under educational law so that your child receives a free and appropriate public education. If you have concerns or need assistance then it can be helpful to consult with a professional advocate.