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Ask an Expert: How is my child really doing in school?

EdNews Parent experts Ilana Spiegel and Amy Turino offer some help to parents who are confused about their child’s academic performance – or lack thereof.

Q. In the beginning of the year my son’s first grade teacher told me how well my son was doing and even recommended him for gifted and talented. But I just received his report card and he is listed as not proficient and needing improvement in almost every area. How do I address the teacher about this? This comes as a real surprise.

A. For many students, being identified as gifted does not necessarily translate to good “grades.” And it is hard as a parent to reconcile how your son can be so capable and have such potential, be gifted, yet not be performing at a “proficient” level.

When you begin your conversation, say just how unsettling it is to read a report card that shows your son is struggling when your understanding was that he was recommended for the gifted and talented identification.

Ask his teacher to unpack this disconnect by showing you both work samples and the results of standard measures like DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) or a levels test. Both grades on a report card and information for a gifted and talented identification should include a “body of evidence,” or multiple measures and perspectives.

Ask to see the results of any testing, formal or informal, as well as work samples and anecdotes from the classroom.

Bear in mind, report cards measure progress toward standards (proficiency) and work habits. If he “needs improvement” in work habits then chances are the teacher does not have the “evidence” to support a proficient grade. Many gifted learners have a difficult time producing written work, or evidence, especially in the early grades. Often times, for children like your son, their reading and speaking levels can far exceed their written expression, but they are often evaluated on their written expression.

Ask for a follow-up

The first place to start is understanding the result of the recommendation for gifted and talented in the fall. Did this recommendation result in any screening or testing? Is your son a student classified as gifted and talented currently?

  • If all you have is the recommendation of the teacher in the fall, but there has been no follow up. Then start with a conversation that asks for follow up. Offer that you agree with the teacher’s assessment in the fall and the possible lack of performance on the current report card could be indication that the general classroom is not challenging enough for your son.
  • If screening or testing for GT has taken place and your son did not qualify. Think back and/or talk with the teacher about how the process happened. If your son was aware that he was screened for GT and didn’t make the cut, he could be processing this internally and not trying hard anymore because he could be associating success and being smart with the label of GT and not the effort or passion that one puts into their work. After getting perspective the solution comes from just having open dialogue with your son about his learning, how he feels as a learner and being there to support him.
  • If screening or testing for GT has taken place and your son did qualify, what supports have been put in place? Is the general education teacher getting support to plan for differentiation and meet the needs your son? Is there a GT teacher that meets with your son or could start supporting his learning in addition to the classroom teacher? These would be answers that could be gathered by contacting his classroom teacher and talking about the needs you perceive your son having.

In any scenario, the key is to open lines of communication. You have obviously been taken aback by the report card, so start a dialogue, with your child, with his teacher, and see what answers start to emerge.

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