I have spoken to a few parents in the past few weeks who have children that are struggling academically. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what to do or where to go. I want to start out by saying that you are NOT ALONE! School is harder than it was when we were young. Due to changing (and sometimes age inappropriate) standards that the public-school teachers are expected to teach, the expectations of the children in each year equate to what was expected of us the next grade up. For example, now that we have Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten in Florida, much of what children are expected to know BEFORE they enter Kindergarten is what we learned while we were IN Kindergarten. I am by no means an expert on elementary education (my expertise falls with the younger crowd) but as the parent of a 5th grader who has struggled academically since 1st grade, I would like to offer some things that I have learned throughout the years.
If your child is trying their best and struggling in school, you should schedule a conference with your child’s teacher. Please don’t think that you are bothering them, they are there to help your child succeed as much as you are. Teachers appreciate parents who are actively involved and trying their best to help their child. Discuss your concerns with their teacher and if you think your child may need extra accommodations to help them succeed, ask that they be assessed. There are specialists in the school system that are there to do this, at no cost to you. If they determine that your child has any type of disability, they can qualify for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). This allows the teachers to give your child accommodations such as extra time on tests or to be taken out of class once a week to receive specialized help. Here is a website that offers further information on IEPs in Florida: http://www.floridahealth.gov/provider-and-partner-resources/fccdhh/education/parents.html
Another option that can help your child is to have your them attend tutoring. There are some schools in the area that offer before or after school tutoring for students who are struggling academically. If your child’s school does not offer this, there are other options. Students in grades 3 through 5 who are enrolled in a public school and score below a level 3 on their English FSA are eligible for a $500 scholarship to be used towards extra help such as tutoring, summer education programs, or after school programs that are designed to improve reading skills. Here is a website that offers further information on Reading Scholarships in Florida: http://www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/k-12-scholarship-programs/reading/
The third and final suggestion that may help your child who is struggling is to look into private school. Through no fault of the teachers, public schools have limited time and money to give extra help to the struggling students. Now I know the first thing that you will think is, “who can afford that?” It’s an important question. However, going back to my information about the IEP, your child will qualify for a scholarship to help pay for private school if they have an IEP. This is called the McKay scholarship. The amount of the scholarship varies based on the extent of your child’s special needs, but there are other outside scholarships that you could research. Here is more information about Florida’s school choice scholarships: http://www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/k-12-scholarship-programs/
The most important thing to remember when your child is struggling is that their grades are not a reflection of your parenting. Many children struggle and often it is because they learn a different way than the way other students typically learn. So take a deep breath, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Written by: Christine Clark, Assistant Director of Youth Village