As the grades arrive

Report cards just arrived in the mail. You:

A. Ground your child, unplug the phone, and ban all music composed after 1850.

B. Invest in that high-tech startup and hope it will fund a now-inevitable Ivy League career.

C. Get Junior a job shoveling coal to "incentivize" better academic performance.

It can be a dicey time, this point in the year when small missives bearing such weighty messages glide into the mailbox. Teachers brace for parents' calls: Will they get reasonable inquiries or angry accusations that that B is misguided - computerized documentation notwithstanding?

As a parent, you may wonder why you got no heads-up from the teacher that your child was slipping. How did that history grade, say, drop a full point without even a mention? Even if you're looking at a little army of pointy-headed A's - were they hard-earned? Is a tougher challenge in order?

Grades don't make the child (consider the records of some of the men pictured to the right). But they can be a guidepost to a conversation. Students need to take the lead in doing good work, but do they get guidance on better work habits or seeking extra help? Is a top student getting tips on finding extra material?

Comments can be a good place to start. Three-word summaries don't count. Extended comments, even if they're time-consuming to produce, can give parents a lot of insights. Five of them can give you a startlingly unified portrait of your kid's performance. Parents can ask for updates, too - without overdoing it. Grease the wheels of such back and forth, and grades should hold few surprises.

E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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