Tag Archives: featured

Brenda & Her Mom Don’t See Eye-to-Eye on Her School Work

Brenda & Her MomMeet Brenda & her mom.

They both know that parenting a teen through middle and high school isn’t always easy. And being a teen isn’t always easy, either.

At the A+ Club, we provide academic coaching, mentoring & tutoring in order to help parents of middle & high school and college students track their work, get tutoring and homework help when needed, and engage in the positive processes of goal setting, problem solving, and academic self-advocacy.

We can help!

Please meet Brenda and her Mom. They’re really nice people, and they love each other very much. But sometimes mother and high-school age daughter don’t see eye-to-eye over homework, grades, and school. We can help them both!

Click on the images to see Brenda’s & Her Mom’s worries about school, and how we the A+ Club helps both students and parents:

Learn more about the A+ Club here or take the Academic Needs Survey to identify your student’s challenges and find the right solutions for them!

– Michael

Beating back procrastination part 1: start now and finish later

time_watch_msclipartFight the need to finish now!

Getting started on studying, homework and large assignments means just that: start a little now — and don’t worry about finishing until later.

Cramming is a difficult habit to break. The best technique for breaking the cramming cycle is to “smooth out your workflow” by just “getting started,” whether or not you’ll finish it now.

Yet getting started on homework, studying and tests can be so hard, especially when we pressure ourselves to get it done all at once.

Students who have trouble starting an assignment or project often put it aside for later because they feel they need to finish it once they start. Knowing they can’t possibly finish, they don’t bother to start. Here’s the logic: Continue reading

What do grades measure, anyway? How to make sense of grades and student learning

Student-Performance_Process-flow-chart_noheaderParents! If schools were meant for learning, why do we have grades?

In other words, if learning were the goal, wouldn’t every student have to get an A+ before moving on to the next level?

If, when a student gets a D, and it indicates the student met 64% of expectations, is there learning going on at that school? Wouldn’t a 100% grade represent true learning?

As long as there are grades less than an A, the point of schools, then, is not learning.

Worse, not all grades are equal. Does an A in PE represent learning as much as an A in math? They both count the same towards your GPA and both are required. Clearly, learning is not the only thing being measured here.

Grades as thresholds of… of something

So, the student got a B- or a C+, or an F. What does that mean, anyway? The F might be a zero –no work was done at all, or maybe it was 59% and just shy of a D. That’s quite a leap, but that F is still an F.

Or, maybe that C+ was because, even though the student aced the tests, he didn’t do any homework and got nailed for it on the overall grade.

Ask my son, as that was his strategy for high school. He learned everything asked of him, but he only showed it on tests. He learned, but that’s not what school is about.

Well… It worked for him, as he’s a successful musician who dedicates himself to perfecting his craft and learning everything he possibly can about it.

What’s going on here is that grades measure lots of things, just not always – or even mostly – learning.

School is about process

A student like my son learned everything required of the test but skipped on the rest of the process required by the teachers.

Here are some of the things students get measured on that have nothing to do with the generic “Learning”  but everything to do with “grades” and doing what’s asked of them. Some of the things by which students are measured include:

  • showing up
  • writing name on papers
  • sitting down for long periods of time.
  • lifting one’s arm in the air before speaking
  • remembering locker combinations

Okay, so sometimes students are measured on figuring out math formulas or reading literature. But it seems to me that a student could get a much higher grade in high school doing all the other things than strict “learning” that my son did, by actually learning, and never proving it on tests.

School is about figuring out what’s expected and then getting it done, learning or not. My advice to parents, however, is not to get to worked up over a student’s ability to follow process. It doesn’t measure worth, it measures… process.

Of course we want our kids to get good grades, the best grades, and the best way to get there is to follow teacher and school processes. So let’s understand “studying” as not just learning but also following all the little steps that students are being graded upon in addition to “learning.”

See what inspires your child, encourage it, and then encourage her to engage in grade-accumulation as well as learning.

The Secret Life of a teacher gradebook

At the A+ Club, we often hear from parents and students that the student got a B-, or whatever, and can’t say why. The teacher didn’t explain it, the student doesn’t understand it, and the parent is helpless to figure out why.

I just had a conversation with a very bright student who was disappointed in a B+, as her goal was an A. She says that her grade dropped because of a single quiz — which is possible. I suspect, though, that there was something else that knocked her off, and it was very likely manipulated by the teacher. I’m guessing that as a brilliant thinker, quick learner, and full of impatience with process, that quiz grade was the excuse the teacher needed to reflect an overall B+ — smart, got it down but didn’t do everything I asked.

That’s a guess, but I know it happens all the time, especially as an excuse to lift grades — “Oh, well, he did all his homework, so I’ll just pass him even though he failed all his quizzes.”

I’m hearing disgust from all the high-minded teachers out there who believe that standards are standards and the grade book speaks for itself. I’m sorry, but that’s impossible. You will always, necessarily, judge kids holistically, no matter how hard you try to be objective.

Let’s say a student has an A in homework, which is 25% of the grade, an F on tests, which is another 20% of the grade and a D in quizzes (with corrections)  and an A+ in classwork, each 20% of the grade. That adds up to a 77%, or a C+. (Try it here: Mercer Univ Weighted Average Grade Calculator).

Now, the teacher also has a 15% “participation” grade, and whatever the teacher assigns here will decide that overall, final grade:

  • a C in participation will yield 76%, or a C
  • a B in participation will yield  78%, or a C+
  • an A+ in participation will yield an 80% or a B

Assuming there’s no real metric for “participation,” the teacher is justified in assigning this grade based upon pure observation, which will then impact the overall outcome of a C, C+ or a B.

Teachers can do the same by tweaking different grades, such as dropping the lowest grade in each category, or whatever.

From the grades profile we have created, this student is following teacher process, such as in doing homework, but is not learning what is required of the test. Many teachers would be sympathetic to the process and reward a high participation grade simply because the student ostensibly did what was asked, whether or not any learning was involved.

I’m not judging this process. I just want parents and students to be aware of it.

So what do your child’s grades actually measure?

Tests necessarily contain some learning measurement, whether or not it was taught or if it was an explicit part of the content (multiple choice measures reading and logic as much or more than content knowledge). So test scores are usually a primary indicator of your child’s learning. (It is not an indicator of a presence or absence of effective teaching!)

Other assessments such as research projects and essays yield measurable learning, although, like homework and participation grades, these are process-heavy assessments and do not necessarily reflect learning achievement (“mastery” the educators like to call it).

Look over the grade book, speak to the teacher, and discover what, really, is being measured. An A in homework does not mean learning is happening, especially in classes in which the teacher grades for compliance and not accuracy (check it off for having something written on the page — yes, this goes on every day).

Hopefully the various categories of student measurement align, such as B in Homework, B on classwork, and B on tests. I have to say that a part from A- students, that kind of overall consistency in grade results are rare.

Above all, insist upon strong feedback from your child’s teachers. Only the teacher can say what the teacher is measuring, and a good teacher will align grades with thoughtful feedback on actual student production.

Grades measure a lot of things. Make sure you and your child understand what, exactly, is going on with your child’s grades.

– Michael

Are you an overly-focused person? how to get more than one thing done at a time

Are you in the “zone”?

Do you thrive when you’re hyper-focused, all else be damned?

Ever gotten so deep into something you missed everything else?

For better or worse, I, too, am an all-in, overly-focused personality. Continue reading

How do I get better grades? Five easy steps to improve your grades

Lots of advice out there, most of it good but not very practical.

Try these steps for simplifying and acting on your goals one bite at a time:

1.  Lower your expectations

Read more

2. Focus on little steps, not big gains

Read more

3. Be aware of why you procrastinate

Read more

4. You don’t have to do it all at once: just get started!

Read more

5.  Ask your teacher a question

Read more

 

Notice how each of these five steps are about the same thing: focusing on the little parts of your bigger picture and just getting started on it.

It will all fall into place once you get going.

Good luck, and please let us know if we can help out.

– Michael

Should v. Could: setting parent expectations without judgement

Woulda, coulda, shoulda…

“Could you have done your homework” is a vastly different question than “Should you have done your homework?”

Anger is love?

Parents get angry with children because they are scared. Children get angry with parents because they don’t want to disappoint.

The cause of both is love.

When enforcing parent expectations, we need to remind ourselves of that, for we easily get lost in the emotions of the moment and forget that it’s our love that drives our emotions and not the events that are upsetting us. Continue reading

Feeling like it: how to get your homework done even when you don’t feel like it

late-and-overwhelmed__msclipartSo if you don’t feel like it now, when will you?

Here’s the problem: your mood won’t match your work, and the less work you do, the less your mood will guide you towards doing your work. The only way you’ll get to it now is through Procrastinator’s Panic, which isn’t the best thing.

Research proves that last minute work is less effective, less thorough, and more stressful than work completed on time and with consistent effort. It comes down to control: if you rely on the “cram” or the last-minute surge, you’re letting the work control you, not the other way around. Continue reading

How to stop procrastination: Ten (10) tips for getting your work done

How to avoid procrastination: building self-awareness & specific steps to avoid procrastination.

You really can do something about procrastination.

If you think you “work best under pressure,” or if you think that “getting it done in the last minute” are good strategies, we beg you to think again.  By definition, procrastination is any delay that causes harm. Last-minute work almost always could have been better with planning and earlier start.

These strategies will help: Continue reading

How to avoid procrastination: getting the urge (and not relying on it)

urgent_msclipart_C900434758[1]Is it urgent enough yet?

A student of ours mentioned that he couldn’t bring himself to getting some work done over the break, but the night before classes start again, he finally “got the urge” to finish it.

This got me thinking about that word, “urgent.” I never before associated it with an “urge,” which we normally think of as being a kind of desire, as opposed to something of necessity, or of immediate concern, you know, an “urgency.” Continue reading

Arguing over grades?

aaaaahYou know the routine:

“Do you have any homework?” : “No.”

“Really? Nothing?” : “Already did it.”

“But you have a math test tomorrow?” : “Oh, yeah. The other kids weren’t ready, so the teacher put it off for next week.”

When the discussions over homework and grades become two-way traffic on a one-way street, the one complaining and badgering, the other deferring and dodging, it’s no longer a functional, working relationship. And all we’ve got left is anger. Continue reading