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Hudson Valley School Experts Advise Parents to Catch Strugglers Early

Hudson Valley kids  have been hard at their school work for a few months now, and some may be falling behind. When does a parent intervene? At the first sign of difficulty, or wait; do they contact the teacher, or sit down with their child?

Richard Carroll, principal at Arlington Middle School in Poughkeepsie says that having insight into your child’s academic expectations may help. “The Commissioner of Education and State Education Department recently created a new website called Engage New York,” says Carroll, which has a section for parents on good ideas and ways parents can be connected to the learning that goes on for their kids in school. This is a good starting place for parents to begin understanding the core learning standards that may challenge some kids.

Keep divorce from impacting your child's grades.

Don’t wait to speak up
If you have any concerns, address them. “Speak up so we can get help and find out what supports there are,” said Melinda Lamarche, principal at Gams Tech Magnet School in Newburgh. Unless your child is ill, simply showing up can be beneficial.  “Good attendance, good study skills and getting a good night’s rest go a long way,” said Veronica Sikora, curriculum coordinator at the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Poughkeepsie. Your child may benefit from a tutor. “Get a tutor before a child needs it and know that tutoring has changed; there is still one-to-one tutoring but kids can use the technology that corporate America is using to tutor,” said Valerie Carelli, owner and vice president of Learner First in Kingston. This can help boost the child’s self-esteem as well.

Recognize the wonderful supports in the school. “[In our school] there is a pastoral staff that help to create a positive spiritual atmosphere and a classroom teaching staff who ensure that students receive a strong academic education,” said Jeanne Dolamore, principal at St. Joseph School in Kingston. She adds, “We have a school nurse who provides healing support physically and emotionally and helps to promote good attendance and healthy living habits.

Typically there will be interdisciplinary teams of teachers that are willing to sit down with parents and talk about how a child is progressing. “It can be intimidating to sit down with four to five teachers talking about their child but our point of view is that the parent is an integral member of the team and studies show that a parent who gets involved in their child’s learning helps him be more successful in school,” said Carroll.  Together, you can address strategies for the impediments to achievement.

Other reasons children may struggle 
It is natural to wonder why your child sometimes fails. “He might not have a routine or quiet place to work on homework; sometimes kids are overscheduled; but more often than not it is just the student adjusting to the rigors and discipline of regular homework and studying,” said Carroll. Open house night is a good chance to hear about the teachers expectations, initiate a relationship and  share about anything personal that may be affecting your child. “Sometimes there are things going on in his life; sometimes we find he needs to learn in a different way; sometimes we find he has a learning disability,” said Lamarche.

College bound?

Providing enrichment at home can help. “Read aloud everyday so your child hears language because language development, building vocabulary and giving kids experiences is important,” said Lamarche.  Help your child take ownership of his learning and be independent.

“Even a young child can have little jobs like helping to set the table which is learning math because he knows each person needs one plate and one fork,” said Lamarche. Know that if your child is older, he may not always say something about struggling in school so you may need to be more investigative.  “Sometimes kids are afraid of telling their parents because they do not want to get in trouble or are afraid of disappointing,” said Lamarche.

Don’t wait to meet with the teacher

If you wish to schedule a conference, don’t wait. In doing so, let your child know it’s a positive step. “Kids should know the conference is not about punishing but about putting heads together as teachers and parents to make his experience the most successful,” said Carroll.

At the conference, expect to see samples of the child’s work, learn about expectations for the grade level at that point in development and come up with a plan of ways to support whatever struggles the child is having, and schedule a followup date.

Be enthusiastic about school

Some simple tricks can make a difference in terms of performance.  “Common sense things like good, healthy food and eating habits, plenty of rest and discussions at home about what students are learning can help,” said Carroll.  Make sure your child feels good about school. “Let him see that what he did at school was important by putting a picture he made up on the refrigerator or sharing a story he wrote with someone else because it gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment and those things foster success,” said Lamarche.

The special needs child

If your child has a special need, make sure the disability is documented and accommodated through a 504 plan. “That is when a parent meets with the principal, school psychologist and teachers to present a documented impairment and the team comes up with accommodations to level the playing field,” said Carroll.
Parents can write a letter to the school district’s committee on special education to review whether the child requires special education services which usually start at the elementary level. Be involved as a parent. “The more active you are in your child's education, the absolute better for him....so join the PTA, see what other kids are going through, share experiences with other parents and know that there is a lot of help out there for your child,” said Kingston’s Victoria Carelli.

Jamie Lober writes frequently on pediatric and women’s health issues for HV Parent.