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Ask the Experts

My Son's Grades Fell in Middle School

By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator

Question:

My son received good grades all through elementary school. When he went into seventh grade, the first year of middle school for him, there was a huge downward shift. I spoke with the principal, teachers and counselor. They said that they have seen a lot of seventh-graders slip at this age. Why should seventh grade make such a difference?

Answer:

Seventh grade does makes a difference because adolescents are growing in so many ways—intellectually, physically and emotionally. Their brains are still developing while their bodies continue to grow and change. They tend to be emotional instead of rational as they navigate through a world that seems uncomfortable. Now throw a new school and its many challenges into the mix.

For instance, consider locker assignments, which carry a host of anxiety-provoking questions: Will my locker be near someone I know? Do I have time to go to my locker during passing period, or will I suffer humiliation if I'm late for class? Will I be able to use the combination? If I can't, who do I ask?

And then there are the other issues that arise around going to a new school. Who do I sit with at lunch? Will I know anyone in my classes? Are the teachers nice? Will I be able to finish my homework for each class? Will I be able to get good grades? Do I have to change into sweats during PE in front of others? What if I can't find the way to all of my classes? Are the new kids going to like me? Are the older kids at this school mean? These lurking questions constantly plague a young person's mind and compete with his focusing on academics. There is much to worry about that leaves adolescents fraught with self-doubt.

So what can you do to alleviate this anxiety? Here are some suggestions:

Request a Parent Meeting.

If your son has different teachers for each of his subjects, ask to meet with all or most of them. Ask how your son is performing and behaving in each class so together you can come to some conclusions and decisions about how to proceed. It could be that he is performing well in one class and connects with that teacher, but in other classes he is slipping and shows disinterest. Middle-schoolers long for connections with teachers, so capitalize on any positive relationship he might have with one particular teacher. It is this personal bond that could lift his spirits and set him on the right track.

Hire a tutor.

A tutor can potentially support your son both academically and emotionally. Academically, he can boost skills and confidence, which can give your son the necessary tools for academic success. Your son might also forge a valuable connection with a tutor who could then serve as a mentor. To find a tutor, ask a school counselor or teacher for a recommendation of an older student at the school or someone outside campus. If there is a local college nearby, post a request on a job board. Also, check your local newspaper which might list tutoring opportunities.

Encourage participation in an extra-curricular activity.

If there is a sport or after-school club of interest, encourage him to get involved. By participating, your son can meet new friends, bond with those with similar interests, and develop skills which can elevate his self-esteem.

You can support your child by understanding what he is going through at this important and change-filled time of his life, by being an advocate for him, guiding him and making opportunities available that will help him feel successful.


Kathy Glass, a former middle school teacher, is an educational consultant and author focusing on curriculum and instruction. She wrote Curriculum Design for Writing Instruction: Creating Standards-Based Lesson Plans and Rubrics (© 2005, Corwin Press) and Curriculum Mapping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Curriculum Year Overviews. Currently she is writing a book with Carol Tomlinson and other authors of the Parallel Curriculum Model. She can be contacted through her Web site.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

05/15/2012:
"Hi there, I think this a great and well written article, yet their is something I wouldn't necessarily agree with. Unless your child is socially having a hard time at school, then it's possible your son may just be a little too caught up with friends instead of focusing on his school work. This happened to my daughter in 7th grade, as well. ( She is now 16 ) What I did with my daughter was each day ( she gets out of school at 3:30 ) at 4:00 she would start her homework. When she was done, she would show me the assignment and the finished assignment. I also had each of her teachers contact me and inform me once a week how she was doing. It was hard at first, but in time her grades went from Fs to As. She has never been happier since then. "
05/14/2012:
"i am in 8 grade and the reason why this happened is because when your son entered 7 grade he wasn't as used to having to get all his work done so fast and also because there is too much work being handed out in all his subjects! thats 7 or 8 subjects with about 6-7 worksheets a week! and i usually don't finish it. "
09/29/2011:
" How do I get a suspenion lifted. "
05/17/2010:
"This is the first time my son got in trouble for using washable marker and started to draw in the school bath room what should I do? I do not want him to go to the alternate school. it is not a peramant marker is a washable and they put it in his record as a criminal in school and I think is not right because he have adhd problem and I think they should at least punish him by doing community service in school so he can learn that is not right . he is now in suspense for two day. The school know he have ADHD and he make good grade. Help, j.reyna"
04/15/2010:
"How can i make my 15year old do better in high school with grades???"
11/18/2009:
"Hi, My son was scoring very well and was infact topping his class until last year. He is now into 3rd Grade and has not even scored a 100% (Most of his tests in Grade 2 scored a 100% ). He is getting his 'A' grade so far but he has lost his A+. Should I do something about it? Please advise. "
11/2/2009:
"Hi, He is in 8th grade My son ever made any friends in the shcool and i ask get some friends for B day they he just choose the family friends that are met by family only. And he got take eye glasses and now he is thinking people will make more fun of him. Than i ask him why they make fun. He said half the kids when they see him itself they hate him.. I feel so sad for this and he is doing A and B with. I dont' know how to help he is in this school lost two years this year is his thired year... lost two years he use to go to school with next door kid this year he not showing intrest to go with him. When i asked him he said that guy go to gym and wait to got class and all his friends make fun of him then he also join. But they paly togher at out side in the evenings. Could you help with suggetions Thanks, MM "
09/11/2009:
"I think the teacher has a lot to do with the way a child adapts to her/his class. It's not just forcing a child to learn a subject, but making it a little fun too. Yelling or screaming makes a middle school student very uncomfortable and afraid to ask the simplist of questions. After all, their teachers not prison guards."
08/19/2009:
"no help at all and a waste of time"
05/22/2009:
"Dearest Kathy, My son is in the 6th grade his 1st year of middle school. He is in middle school a year before he should be. He was an excellent straight A student from K-5th grade skipping 3rd all together. He did great for the first two grading periods but the 3rd and now the last have been horrible, he has been getting D's and F's in a few classes. I was told by his teachers he is not goofing off he just is not giving his best effort and he is doing sloppy work. What can I do as a parent to help my son? I have talked with him, he doesn't seem to know why he is acting like this. PLEASE HELP! What can I do? SAD & WANTING TO HELP MY SON!"
05/15/2009:
"my name is jasmin im 14 and i have low grades i want to get in to a school called chad bu t my math is bad and im not sure about my other classes but im really good at art and i love to read but the grade seem so wrong i mean whats going on help me please!"
05/1/2009:
"Please tell me more about that school, I want to join in this jear, tell me about the tuition and Admission process"
04/20/2009:
"Hello, great article. I been looking through the web, I have a 14 year old son. He is in middle school,and next year would be high school. He is a great son. Stays out of trouble in boyscouts working to eagle, But his grades are terrible. He is in the last making period, And we do not know if he going to pass. I feel lost in what to do! I was a single mom with him for nine of his years. My father his 'pap' was a role modle. In 2004' I sold my home to move with father to help. He could not do it any longer,Illness,ect. In 2006. I ment my husband. 2007,my father was in hospital fighting to come home for six mounths. My son was always a only child. My dad passed away,I was six mounths preagent at time. My son took on to my husband. But lost his PAP. And became a big brother, all in one year! We were allways close, He does not get in trouble or 'hang out'. But his grades he will not get up. I see he can do it. and allways had great report cards. Up to this year. I just do not k! now were to turn! Only two more mounths of school. And I tried talking,writing to teachers. Councler. Got know were! If anyone has any suggestions on were I can look for advice, or have advice please let me know. I know this says feedback. But maybe this help me, help my son. I do not know if my son is depressed, or just going through life as a teenager''. He does play alot of video games, And I allways watched what he played. He is into war games. I was one not to let him play with toy guns even.When he was younger. I did take away his enteriment away. I do not know what I am doing and saying is helping him or not. I allways give him support tell him we are proud of him ect. Again the school will send me a letter saying they are concerned with grades but, They do nothing when I contact them! If anyone can give me advice or were to go I would greatly be appractied! Thank you, Lost and confussed."
04/20/2009:
"Hello, great article. I been looking through the web, I have a 14 year old son. He is in middle school,and next year would be high school. He is a great son. Stays out of trouble in boyscouts working to eagle, But his grades are terrible. He is in the last making period, And we do not know if he going to pass. I feel lost in what to do! I was a single mom with him for nine of his years. My father his 'pap' was a role modle. In 2004' I sold my home to move with father to help. He could not do it any longer,Illness,ect. In 2006. I ment my husband. 2007,my father was in hospital fighting to come home for six mounths. My son was always a only child. My dad passed away,I was six mounths preagent at time. My son took on to my husband. But lost his PAP. And became a big brother, all in one year! We were allways close, He does not get in trouble or 'hang out'. But his grades he will not get up. I see he can do it. and allways had great report cards. Up to this year. I just do not k! now were to turn! Only two more mounths of school. And I tried talking,writing to teachers. Councler. Got know were! If anyone has any suggestions on were I can look for advice, or have advice please let me know. I know this says feedback. But maybe this help me, help my son. I do not know if my son is depressed, or just going through life as a teenager''. He does play alot of video games, And I allways watched what he played. He is into war games. I was one not to let him play with toy guns even.When he was younger. I did take away his enteriment away. I do not know what I am doing and saying is helping him or not. I allways give him support tell him we are proud of him ect. Again the school will send me a letter saying they are concerned with grades but, They do nothing when I contact them! If anyone can give me advice or were to go I would greatly be appractied! Thank you, Lost and confussed."
04/7/2009:
"Hi Kathy! Thank you for your excellent advises. Next school year, my 11th year old daugther (only child) will be going to Middle School and I don't want to leave her after school staying by herself at home. So I'm looking for any after school program but all that I'd seen they are for youngest kids or way to expensive for only one daily hour. Please do you have any advise about it? We live in Carrollton, Texas. I wish Middle Schools create after school programs for oldest kids because at this age They really needed. I still don't undestand why they are not concerned about this issue. I wish I could be part of this prgrams in my area."
02/18/2009:
"I have a son that has struggle from the start of school. He is now in the seventh grade, and is felling in his subjects. We have never gotten him tested. He is great in sports, teachers like him, he has never had any behavior problems in school. However, he does have a bully, but will not tell me or his counsel the student name. How can I help him overcome his struggles and the bully."
12/17/2008:
"My son doesn't have any medical or emotional condition. He has a tutor. He has a lot of friend for every where. He don't have any concern of bed behavior. We meet the his teachers, consuler,and doctors. He still felling his test, and I don't know what to do.Please help me Thank you Miss Right "
12/15/2008:
"Parents, for the love of all that is pure and holy, have your child evaluated for psychiatric and/or learning issues! In 7th grade, I went from A's to F's in one fell swoop. Emotionally, I had been numb all of 6th grade, but by 7th grade I developed a severe case of depression. It wasn't until I attempted suicide twice at the age of 12 that my mother let me get professional help. This was right before it became common practice to hand your kid a pill in lieu of traditional talk therapy, so I've never tried anti-depressants. Also, I'm pretty sure I have ADD but because I'm female my symptoms have manifested differently from males. No one cares about girls with ADD because they usually aren't disruptive in class like boys are."
12/5/2008:
"My daughter is in 7th grade and up until this year, she has always made mostly A's. She is making D's and A's and a possible F in math this year. I have had 2 conferences with her teachers and nothing is helping. She is not real bothered by it and I dont know what to do. I know that she is capable of good work, but her enthusism toward most of her teachers is just not there. She thinks that her Social Studies assignments are pointless and all but her Science and Art classes are very boring to her. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.I don't want this to affect her'gifted'classes and maybe affect her future in college."
12/3/2008:
"Hi Kathy- I am interested in having a professional come to our middle school and provide a seminar for kids to cover how to take notes, how to study and how to prepare for exams. It could be a fun presentation that adds comedy and hands-on involvement, but I believe the kids have never had any formal training in either of these important disciplines--essential for survival at school. Are you interested or do you know of a professional who is? We are located in Rockville, MD (outside of Washington DC.) Thanks you--Gail Oring"
11/19/2008:
"I am in 8th grade and I was the same way last year. all of us were. i feel that this happened because we were all at that age where we were trying to figure out who we were."
11/18/2008:
"Hello, this was a very good article but, the school that my son attends has a whole new staff and is under a diffrent company.At the start of the school year he told me that it was new teachers and he did not like it there. I explained to him to give it a chance which we did and he is having problems. Two D's and an F which he never recieved ever in school. The teachers never called me to inform me that my son had missing work they jus to did not care when we met at the teachers conference. So what should i do?"
11/5/2008:
"To: 10/14/2008 posting I have had similar concerns brought to my attention about my 6th grade son. Yet the (male) principals say that going into middle school is a really hard transition for kids. The advise I would give is ask your son how does he think he can be organized. My son has developed something that is helping him because as I state below it's been 3 weeks and he has not been tardy, turned in a late assignment, etc. But I also ordered the visual spatial learners handbook for him. We have been reading it together. My son said it's nice to have someone on his side after this teacher has been so questionable. I posted this earlier on another website and it may be some help to you. I just had a meeting with my son's math teacher on October 17, 2008. He is 12 years old and started middle school 6th grade this year (an adjustment for any boy I'm told by the male principals at the school). My son has been in the gifted class once a week since 3rd grade and has an IQ of 130+. His math teacher this year is really pushing me to have my child tested for a learning disorder. What's extremely aggravating to my husband and I is that the characteristics he exhibits are those of high IQ children as well as visual-spatial learning. The teacher said that Alex is disorganized, not focused when he should be and tardy to class. After speaking with my son and giving him some ideas of how to fix these situations he has corrected them. I received an e-mail last week from his teacher saying that he has not been tardy, he has handed in all of his assignments on time and he is doing good in class. Then just last Thursday at parent teacher she asked me if we have made an appo! intment for our son or has he seen a doctor yet????? I tell ya I think she needs to see a doctor. Any teacher worth their weight in salt will adjust the education to meet the need of the child and not expect the child to meet the curriculum. The principal even asked the counselor in our meeting on October 17, don't you see some ADD/ADHD tendencies??? First of all, I understand that they are not supposed to ask you these things. Second don't we all exhibit ADD/ADHD qualities sometimes. Doesn't mean we need medication. Two of our main concerns is that this is the first teacher in 12 years to have such issues other than the gifted and visual spatial learning issues that we already deal with. Secondly, she has only spent 25 hours out of 12 years with my son. Please read this information: www.gifteddevelopment.com (click on visual-spatial learners on the left hand side) then scroll down and click on 'For more articles on the visual-spatial learner, please click here! Also, on this website under the articles is a great article called 'Are you a creator?' which is written to VSL learner. www.visualspatial.org The reason I'm suggesting that you look here is because the bad handwriting, 'show your work' difficulties, and the reading but not writing to match are characteristics of the visual spatial learner. Schools teach primarily sequentially which does not work for visual spatial learners. It is not difficult at all for teachers to use different teaching styles for children. There are teachers that would like all children to learn the same way (It makes their job easier if everyone is a cookie cutter child). But most common sense people know that this is a unrealistic expectation. These people should not be teachers. My son is bright, funny, loves joking, loves reading, loves the outdoors, is a good skateboarder, can pick a four leaf clover out of the yard with little effort (see it likes its orange; it's that noticable to him), can appear to be daydreaming and pick up right where another student left off while reading aloud, could do the Tupperware ball of shapes at 11 months without hesitation, etc. He also tests terribly sometimes. He also tests in the 99 percentile every year on the Terra Nova testing the schools complete. Everyone has talents. And it's up to us as parents to know our children, help our children, teach our children and love our children. "
10/14/2008:
"Middle school for our district is 6-8 and this has been the worst school experience so far. The teachers do not care despite my repeated efforts to communicate with them and the counselor about my son. The school sends home all this stuff about parent communication and being involved in your childs education and I do that and I get nothing in return. My son is in 8th grade this year and up until now he was doing the work by not staying organized enough to get it turned back in. This year he hasn't missed but a few assignments here and there but is failing the tests and quizes so his grads are all Fs. I feel I am at a loss and I'm not sure what to do. Any suggestions???????"
04/28/2008:
"My son is finishing middle school and I am so glad. I can actually write a book on his experiences. That was the worst experience we have had with school. Sixth grade teachers showed they were concerned during conference time, but that was it, 7th grade teachers e-mailed positive comments or their concerns, and 8th grade I had to make first attempt to have a dialogue. He no longer converse much in class. He complained about homework which he had not really done before, and his grades have gone down. I'm concerned because it seems as if school doesn't matter any more. I hope high school will be better. He still has an interest in reading for pleasure. Thank goodness! "
07/13/2007:
"Hi, This is good information. My son did so poorly in 7th grade that they are going to retain him. I am concerned for him because his sister is going from 6th grade to 7th. I don't want him to be embarrassed or humiliated. I am wondering if it would be a good idea to change schools or would this give him more stress?"
11/27/2006:
"I am having the same problems but my son is in 5th grade in middle school he is talking and making faces during class and his grades have fallen what do i do?"
10/27/2006:
"this article help me a little. my daughter is in the 7th grade. we just moved from south florida to central florida, which is a big change for us. she made an f on her report card today, which is unusual for her because she is in all advanced classes, i was really upset because i couldnt see why this happened. this article has clarified some of my dumbfounded thoughts. thank you"
10/16/2006:
"i think you are right, especially about teacher and student connection. my child started middle school to this year 6th grade. he hates schhol now. that is all i hear. i have cried my heart out. he had a serious football accident the day before school started which put him out 3 days. i assume that it all started then with him not turning in any work. 1 week till end of nine weeks i call a meeting to find out about his IEP testing, to find he' turned in no h.w. I am shocked. then i find out he got talked during silent lunch, the teacher made him take his tray, face the wall and eat in front of everyone in the lunchroom. he is made fun now. i am devastated. so, angry. he has not been a problem child at all. elem. can vouch for that. i am lost to what is going on. he has been jerked up by a boy. the teachers all but 1 says he talks back,does not focus.... i mean i never heard any of this last year at elem. at all.i am so worried now. he hates school now. he is so short , litt! le, and a good boy, but he can have issues with anger,and emotions. he gets upset easy. now he's had it with the teachers and this school. i do not know what to do. start over and request all new classes or wait and see what happens next. i think the teachers will not be to supportive and friendly now. we have had it out. any suggestions? "
09/29/2006:
"Interesting article since we tend to take the move from elementary to middle school for granted. After all, they are the same kids that they were one year ago (5th grade)!! In fact, they are not, since the change to a completely new enviroment with new rules and expectation is almost as much a 'culture shock' as a going to a new country. After all, they have known their elementary school environment since they were four and five years old. However, I strongly believe that too much pampering at this age, will result in a less resilient young adult! Let us leave them alone to find their niche and comfort zone...not our's. Our role as parents/guardians ought to be one of supporter and facilitator. We need to monitor their development in this environment in a way that does not appear intrusive to them. It will build confidence, self reliance, and preparedness for what the world has to offer, including challenges such as figuring out locker combinations, etc."
09/27/2006:
"My 6th grade daughter is in peterson middle school and getting GREAT grades. My 7th grade son is doing so-so in school. He doesn't want to talk much but now I know why he is so happy to get out of school. I am happy that i found this article to help my daughter and son!"
09/27/2006:
"I am having this problem with my son or a somewhat similar situation. He is performing with some teachers and not at all well with some. He used to be an excellent student but I see his interest in school waning and it worries me a bit because I know his capabilities. I am not sure how supportive some of his teachers are. Just today I was telling his teacher that in the past he did not want to leave the house unless all homework was done, now, he don't seem to care much. I know he is growing and developing but I am not sure what is happening to him to change his work habits that much. I try to be as supportive to him as much as possible until he grows out of this phase."
09/27/2006:
"My son is a senior now but went through this in seventh grade. He's never made it back to the honor roll on a consistent basis since, but he does get very close. My daughter is a 6th grader now and like her older brother, has been getting great grades. I'm glad I found this article to help so I can be more prepared to help her through 7th grade successfully."
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