November is the month when parents generally receive the first feedback from teachers about their child’s progress in school. Understanding the progress report and being prepared for the parent teacher interviews can go a long way in helping your child be successful at school.
Understanding a Progress Report
While the specifics of the progress reports can vary depending on the school board, generally, these documents can be divided into two parts.
The first part, labeled Learning Skills and/or Work Habits, gives parents information on how their child is functioning at and adapting to school life. These skills are usually divided into 6 categories: taking responsibility for self and work, organization of materials, ability to complete work independently, ability to collaborate with peers, taking initiative and regulating one’s emotions and behaviours. Research shows that these skills are key factors in predicting a child’s success at school. Children can struggle in these skills for a number of reasons including a mental health diagnosis (e.g., ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, anxiety), learning difficulties, challenges in social skills, environmental stress, or a deficit in actual skills. Knowing the why could provide guidance on how to intervene.
The second part of the progress report refers to how well the child is progressing in the academic areas such as languages, mathematics, social studies, science and gym. Typically, they are rated as “progressing very well”, “progressing well” or “progressing with difficulty”. Students rated as the first two categories are deemed to be meeting or exceeding expectations in that specific area. Children who are rated as “progressing with difficulty” are struggling to meet curriculum expectations in that subject and often would benefit from additional support and/or interventions.
Tips for Preparing for Parent-Teacher Interviews
Be prepared for the interviews by looking through your child’s progress report, school work and any emails sent home. Write down all the questions you have so that no topic gets overlooked in the moment. Take notes during the interviews as well so that you can remember any suggestions from the teacher.
Speak up if you notice that your child is struggling in some area at school. This can include academics, organization, socially, or with mental health concerns. Working together with your child’s teacher, you can come up with strategies or accommodations that may help resolve the difficulty.
Discuss any concerns with your child’s teacher regarding possible learning differences or challenges. Early intervention in the form of extra help is always more effective. If an assessment is recommended, be sure to ask for clarification around what questions the school has so that the assessment can be focused on those.
For those areas of concern, focus on setting concrete goals that everyone can work towards. The goals could focus on academics, behaviours, executive functioning (e.g., planning, organizing) or activities of daily living. Ensure that the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound (SMART goals).
Remember that everyone is on the same team! Treat your relationship with the school staff as a partnership where everyone is working together to help your child be successful academically, socially and emotionally. Encourage open and respectful communication between yourself and your child’s teacher.
Don’t forget that both parents and teachers have the common goal of supporting your child’s growth and development. Approaching the meeting with a collaborative and supportive mindset will lead to more productive and beneficial conversations.