Improving student performance

It’s great that you value education. Lots of students need extra help with academics—and parents and teachers are often unable to give it. It’s important to remember, however, that these academic activities should not come at the expense your relationship.

What to do

Reinforce the importance of education for both career success and lifelong learning. Use specifics (not generalizations) when talking about how to succeed in school. Examples:
  • go to school every day
  •  participate in class
  • hand in assignments on time
  • ask for help when needed
Provide actionable study techniques. Like:
  • study at the same time/place dailyset short-term goals for finishing tasks
  • set short-term goals for finishing tasks
  • use a timer to stay focused
  • get plenty of rest and exercise
Show interest in assignments. Here's how:
  • read and discuss books they're reading
  • talk about their artwork or music
  • go over writing assignments together
  • brainstorm a science project
Encourage them to keep trying, even when frustrated. Be a “guide,” not a “doer”

Things to consider

Try to involve the family Become part of a team consisting of you, the family, and teachers Maintain healthy expectations Encourage academic success through small, achievable steps rather than large, longer-term goals. Young people can usually visualize long term goals, but have a much harder time figuring out the immediate steps to getting there. Role-play asking for help Getting one-on-one help from teachers can be game-changing for academic success. But too often, kids are too intimidated to ask for it. Get them comfortable with the idea by role playing teacher/student scenarios. Once kids learn how to ask, they will!

Where to get help

Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Helping Your Child series, the Khan Academy and other tools available through your school or organization.

The Bigger Picture

Sometimes a students academic ambitions are thwarted by low-quality schooling. The past 20 years have brought increasing attention to the quality of U.S. schools, along with a series of new approaches to assessing school performance. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, for example, mandates that the U.S. Department of Education determine annually how every public school and school district is performing. Another tactic is to identify which schools produce a disproportionate number of dropouts. Schools in which 60 percent or less of the students graduate are known as “dropout factories.” In 2009, 1,634 U.S. schools were identified as dropout factories, while the number of students who had the misfortune of attending these schools numbered 2.1 million. To find out whether a school has a low performance ranking, visit

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