POOR ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
IN SCHOOL

Guidelines for Parents and Teachers

The initial step in intervention for children not doing well in school is to determine the cause.

The school psychologist may be the best source of information, and the either the school or the parents can request an evaluation to determine the causes of a child’s learning problems.

The  following general causes and suggested interventions are based on the gross distinctions suggested by Rabinovitch:  1. deficits in specific capabilities, 2. lack of developmental readiness, 3. lack of emotional freedom to learn, and  4. lack of motivation.  

  1. Deficits in specific capabilities. Children who have specific learning disabilities, attention deficits or cognitive deficits often present a confusing mixture of abilities and disabilities. Frequently, these pupils are found to have the most severely deviant childhood behavioral adjustments of all diagnostic groups. Hewett, et al. In dealing with such difficult children, present a program based on the following general principals:  

    1. Present the child with small increments of learning that gradually increase in difficulty based on principles of  programmed instruction.
    2. Immediately reward each correct response the child makes; use social praise and extrinsic motivators (money, candy, etc.);  and withhold the reward for incorrect responses.
    3. Use systematic word review, discrimination exercises, and comprehension questions to consolidate learning.
    4. Provide the child with an actual reading (learning) experience in a real book in addition to programmed learning of words on a  teaching machine.
    5. Freely adapt the steps, structure, and type of reward used in the program to ensure continued success.
    6. Maintain detailed records of each of the child's responses to follow his or her progress, determine his or her need for program modification, and provide teacher feedback.

For the child with specific cerebral impairments, it must be realized (1) no single or rigid approach can be expected to produce a universal treatment;(2) the family must be an integral part of any treatment program (3) each child must be evaluated and taught in terms of his or her unique needs; (4) the child may need help from many sources over a long period of time.

  1. Lack of developmental readiness. Many young children starting school are not ready for formal instruction in basic school subjects. Studies have indicated that end-of-the year kindergarten children who were judged not ready to go on t o first grade show the following characteristics:
     
    1. Poor concentration  
    2. Poor memory
    3. Poor ability to follow through on projects  
    4. Poor coordination

Children with these characteristics should be retained in kindergarten for one more year. They are not ready for a formal academic program.

  1. Lack of emotional freedom to learn. It is hypothesized that children whose anxiety level is too high are unable to attend to the learning process. Boigon cites a number of case studies where emotional attitudes blocked the entire learning process. Three attitudes found common among poor achievers were:  

    1. That other individuals have more innate ability to learn.
    2. That they should not be required to struggle for knowledge and  that they are not responsible for the inability to learn.
    3. That it is belittling for them to demonstrate ignorance. When an otherwise able child shows poor achievement patterns, the teacher may well be advised to see if the student holds one or more of these attitudes. Countermeasures include:

      1. Showing the child (by means of test results, if necessary) that he or she is intelligent.
      2. Demonstrating to the pupil that increased knowledge does have its rewards.
      3. Telling the child everyone has weakness, as well as strengths, and that it is not degrading to admit ignorance about any subject.


  2. Lack of Motivation. Research has indicated the validity of the following principles:

    1. A combination of verbal rewards and punishments is more effective for reinforcement of learning.
    2. among children, pushing them to participate in learning (especially among highly independent  children).
    3. Silence, on the part of the teacher, takes on approval when paired with verbal criticism.
    4. Silence, on the part of the teacher, takes on disapproval when paired with praise.
    5. For young children, extrinsic, concrete rewards (gold stars, candy, etc.) are most effective. For older children social  rewards are more attractive.
    6. Children identify with and emulate figures in their environment who have the power to reward.  Warm and rewarding  models are imitated more. Research with young children revealed children receiving high reading readiness scores had more verbal and affectionately demonstrative maternal models that children showing low reading readiness scores.
    7. For girls, achievement in school is strongly related to need for love and affection. For boys, it is not.
    8. Parents who set high standards for their children (within reason) tend to motivate their children to do well in school.
    9. For white, middle class children, a good self-concept is most highly correlated with achievement. For minority group children, adequate control over their failures or successes is most highly correlated with accomplishment.
    10. For learning to take place, children must internalize a wish  to accomplish.
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