How School Interims Can Help Parents

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If you have a child in middle school or high school, you've probably encountered interims, or progress reports, as they are sometimes called. Interims help parents stay on top of their child's progress in a given subject, and because they're usually issued halfway through a grading period, they also give families a chance to correct any academic problems that exist.

While progress reports or interims aren't issued by every school or school district, they are very popular in the public school setting, as well as many private schools. Below you'll find information on what you need to know about interims, along with advice on how to handle specific situations or academic issues and achieve classroom success.

What to Know About Interims

Interim reports are much like report cards, except the grades they include are not final grades. They simply provide parents and students with an idea of how the student is progressing in a particular class. Here's what else you need to know about interims.

Information Found on an Interim

In addition to an interim grade for each subject, interim reports typically include your child's class schedule and teachers' names. Specific information from your child's teachers also may be included.

For example, a teacher might indicate that your student is having trouble paying attention in class, or that your child is courteous, responsible, and helpful to others. Sometimes interim reports also request a parent/teacher conference, especially if there are academic or social problems involving the student.

Pay close attention to the teacher's comments if they are included in the report. This information provides key insights into what your child needs to change or improve on as well as what they are doing well.

This information is often more important that the grades that are listed, because it gives you some insight in how to proceed.

Also, keep in mind that teachers occasionally get behind on grading. So the interim report may be missing some grades that have not been entered yet for completed assignments.

Although this is unfortunate because you are unable to get a clear picture of your student's progress, try not to worry too much. You can always ask the teacher for more detailed information or schedule a conference to get a clearer picture of your child's progress.

When Interims Are Issued

Interims are usually issued halfway through a grading period. So, if your child's school has an eight-week grading period, interims will go out at about week four. For a six-week grading periods, interims will be sent home in week three.

By issuing interims halfway through the grading session, families have time to deal with academic issues, if there are any.

Additionally, many middle school policies require that you return a signed copy so that it's clear that you received the interim and know about your child's school progress. High schools may not require interims to be returned, depending on the teacher or the school policy.

How to Use an Interim Report

When you first get your child's interim report, it's important to focus on the positive things in the report. For example, if the teacher made positive comments, talk about those with your student. Or, if there are some high marks, be sure to comment on the work your student is putting in.

Focusing on the positives first keeps the discussion regarding the interim report from being as stressful as it could be. If the grades are not what you expect, it's important not to overreact.

Interims give you and your student a chance to set goals and bring the grades up before report cards are issued.

However, you cannot ignore the report either. If your child's interim report is not what you hoped, sit down and calmly ask your student what they think the issues might be.

Are they having trouble with the homework? Does the teacher move through the material quickly in class? Is the material too challenging? Are they having trouble with their eyesight or hearing? Are fellow students distracting them during class?

Let your child talk about what they feel are the issues in their classes. Try not to interrupt, critique, or criticize what they have to say. Instead, listen and validate their feelings. Find out what they think the problem might be or if there are other issues at play while your child is at school, such as bullying or other social problems.

Allowing your child the opportunity to open up will provide you with valuable insight into their experiences and struggles.

Of course, if your child's interim is positive, be sure to congratulate them. A little positive feedback from you should help keep your student motivated and on-track for the rest of the grading period. You also can ask what they think led to their success.

If they spent time studying each night to prepare for tests or worked ahead on assignments, encourage them to continue what is working for them. Additionally, asking your student what they think led to their success causes them to think critically and evaluate what works and what doesn't and helps them build on their success.

How to Correct Issues

Once you've heard your child's concerns, help them come up with a plan for improvement. Ask what your child thinks they should do to bring up their grades. Then, help them set realistic and attainable goals. You also should talk about how those goals can be met in practical ways.

After you have an official plan, type it up and put it in a prominent location in the house. You could even forward a copy to the teacher if you have a working relationship with them. Involving your child in creating a plan helps them take ownership over their grades and the improvement plan.

Track Progress

Be sure that you also track your child's progress in sticking to the plan. If you don't notice any improvement on the next few assignments, it could be that your child needs to tweak their improvement plan so that they get the results they want.

It also might be necessary to request a parent/teacher conference in order to obtain additional information. You also can ask the teacher if after-school tutoring is available. The key is that you remain aware of your child's progress and get them additional support if needed.

If you think your child's problems aren't being addressed by the teacher, or if you're not sure how to proceed, consider whether or not a meeting with the guidance counselor might help as well.

A Word From Verywell

As a parent, you naturally want the best for your child, but try not to measure their success in the number of As and Bs they bring home. Emphasize hard work over high marks when evaluating your child's interim reports. If your child is not applying themselves, then by all means address that.

But, if they are working hard and doing the best they can, praise their work ethic while trying to find solutions to help them improve their grades. This might mean hiring a tutor or helping with homework and time management.

Just make sure you are setting attainable goals and that you're measuring your child's progress realistically. Don't demand they get As if that is not realistic for your child. Review the interim report and develop a plan for success that is tailored specifically to your child's needs and abilities, and you will be much more likely to see results.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.