Poor grades don’t occur overnight. They are an accumulation of your child’s effort and aptitude on completed assignments. By the second or third month of school, your child should have enough work completed in each class to show exactly how much effort and aptitude they usually demonstrate. 

Using this evidence to your advantage, identify the areas of growth in your child’s academic record right now in order to prevent poor grades before they start. Below are strategies and tips that will show you how.

Know where your child stands

Before you can help improve your child’s grades, you must first know how to find them. Chicago Public Schools use the student-information system IMPACT Gradebook to house student grades. Parents are given a unique, school-issued personal identification number in order to create an account needed to access their children’s grades on demand. With such access, parents may view all the scores their children received on various assignments, which lead to a cumulative grade. Other schools may use a similar system by a different name. Regardless of the system, parents are never in the dark about their children’s grades, even if their children choose not to personally disclose. If you are not aware of your personal identification number, you may contact your child’s school to find out how to retrieve it. If your child’s school does not have such a system, a scheduled appointment with your child’s teacher will get you informed.

Identify patterns

Once you have access to your child’s grades, identify grade patterns, or work with your child’s teacher to do so. For example, if your child currently has a D in English, review each score for every English assignment. Then identify the scores your child received for each type of assignment (i.e. homework, tests, classwork, etc.) When you examine scores by assignment type, you might find that your child usually scores high on homework but low on classwork. Once you’ve identified a pattern or problem area, you can target that area in your child’s academic improvement plan, providing him or her with more specific and effective strategies that will lead to a better grade.

Get help

Once you’ve identified which problem areas to target, get your child the academic support he or she needs. That might range from one or two good resources to a team of individuals who help him get back on track. Teachers and school service personnel, such as counselors and social workers, are knowledgeable about the academic support services within the school and community. Have them point you to the resources available. Some academic resources include in-school tutoring, essay-writing support, free online academic tools, and community agencies that provide academic assistance and mentoring. To identify what’s available, make a phone call, email, or visit your child’s teacher(s) and/or school counselor for information.

Set attainable goals

Improving your child’s academic success starts with improving your child’s self-efficacy, or the belief in his or her ability to do well academically. Increase your child’s self-efficacy by helping him or her set small, attainable goals around their “problem area,” and then help your child achieve those goals. For example, if your teen consistently fails English exams, having him attain at least a 70% score could be the first achievable goal set. Once your child reaches that goal, increase the score to 80%. Continually increase the goal until it is at the level most desired. Such a process gives your child the ability to have success, which motivates effort and, in turn, improves your child’s academic progress.

Hold your child accountable

Finally, be consistent with the standards set for your child to improve his or her grade. For example, if your daughter is supposed to go to after-school tutoring every Wednesday, see to it that she does. If you tell your son that he must commit to two hours of studying per night, have him log his hours to make sure it is getting done. 

Holding your child accountable for the academic strategies needed to improve will take great determination in the beginning, but you will see the efforts pay off once your child’s grades change, for the better.