10 Steps for Academic Success

For parents and caregivers, preparing middle school students for educational success can often be an overwhelming process. So how can they help their children do well in school?  WTTW has 10 steps that should be considered:
1. Make Attendance a Priority

If your child is going to succeed, they have to show up for school – especially during their freshman year.

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According to a report published in July 2007 titled What Matters For Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools,nearly 90 percent of freshmen who miss less than a week of school per semester graduate, regardless of their 8th grade test scores.” In fact, the report points out that course passing rates are mainly determined by attendance.

“For many students, freshman year is like a bottleneck—their performance is so poor that they are unable to recover,” states the report. “These negative experiences in freshman year put students at high risk of not graduating, which later prevents them from participating in the mainstream economy and larger society.”

Of course, attending school regularly is important at every grade level, and graduating “requires students to accumulate sufficient credits over at least four years.”

2. Help Your Child Get Organized and Develop Time Management Skills

Make sure your child is completing assignments, and encourage them to use their after school time wisely. Middle school is a time when you can help your child establish good study habits. A report titled Surviving Middle School: Tips For Parents From a Middle School Counselor points out that “disciplining a middle school child can be especially challenging for parents. Children at this age are caught between childhood and adulthood. They are expected to act more maturely, but they still sometimes like to be treated as a child.”

3. Celebrate Your Child’s Effort

Root for your child. A report published in June 2012 titled Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners says that “without adult guidance and support, students have few strategies to draw upon. When students exhibit poor behaviors (skipping class, not completing homework, missing deadlines), the consequences for these behaviors come swiftly in the form of low or failing grades.”

Kids who do well feel good too. The report also says that, “ the grades students receive have a marked effect on their attitudes about school and about their own academic identities in ways that strongly influence their subsequent behavior and future school performance.”

4. Stay in Contact With Teachers and Guidance Counselors

Parents should know what’s going on at school.  An article published in 1999 by Joyce Epstein for Phi Delta Kappan highlights this, stating, “When parents, teachers, students, and others view one another as partners in education, a caring community forms around students and begins its work.” The article points out that families need to establish home environments to support children as students, and that an effective form of school-to-home and home-to school communication about school programs and childrens’ progress is key.

5. Know Your Child’s Friends

In addition to helping your child select their courses and staying in contact with their teachers, parents and guardians should know who their child is hanging out with. Since peers play a large role in students' lives, The Ohio Department of Education & Families recommends talking to your children about the types of friends you want them to have. It states, “No matter what he or she says, your child still needs your guidance and wants you to be involved in his or her life. Children feel much more secure and are more motivated to learn when their parents are involved in their education.”

6. Know What Resources Exist in Your Community

Whether it’s sports, the band, or the school newspaper, it’s important for students to be involved in extracurricular activities. A National Education Longitudinal Study from 1992 found that 50.4 percent of students who participated in extracurricular activities during the first semester of senior year had no unexcused absences, 50.7 percent never skipped classes, and 30.6 percent had a GPA of 3.0 or above. In addition to this, A 2011 study by Erin Massoni for the College of DuPage states that “Participation in extracurricular activities provides students an opportunity to create a positive and voluntary connection to their school.” So check out extracurricular activities offered by your child’s school, or outside resources like your local Boys & Girls Club.

7. Show That You Value Education
Set a good example. In an article for The Child Study Center by Anita Gurian titled Involved Parents: The Hidden Resource in their Children’s Education, Gurian states,“children learn from their parents’ own learning styles and activities, such as discussions, newspapers and their reading materials, television habits and quests for information and knowledge.” According to research studies, the children of involved parents are absent less frequently, they behave better, do better academically from pre-school through high school, go farther in school, and go to better schools.

8. Let Them Know There Are Opportunities For Them If They Want

It’s never too early to encourage your student to think about the future. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, intervention in the earlier years of high school can put students on a successful path to college attainment and graduation. The NACAC encourages parents to help their children assess their career interests and aspirations, and begin researching colleges to pursue those goals. It is important to “instill the belief that college is accessible for everyone.”

9. Be a Good Role Model

Your support matters. An article for The Child Study Center by Anita Gurian titled Involved Parents: The Hidden Resource in their Children’s Education states that “by actively participating in their child's education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they're demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is important.”

10. Know They Still Need You

An article titled Surviving Middle School: Tips For Parents From a Middle School Counselor points out that students need a support system at home, even if they claim that they don’t want help. The article states, “They are likely to get into trouble as they seek greater independence, and it is up to the parent to decide what rules are in the child’s best interest.”

A student’s success is a team effort between the child, the school, and the parent or guardian. Consider these steps when determining how you can help your child succeed.

Carmen Schmidt and Angela Antkowiak contributed to this report.

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