Does My Child Need to be Tested?

Dear Dr. Linda,

I was working with my son Colin on his homework. I became upset when I realized he had no idea what had been going on in class. I don’t know if it’s because he’s not listening or because the teacher is not explaining things well. Colin, a 7th grader had to fill in a worksheet on the branches of science. When I asked him about the worksheet, he said he thought they were learning about trees but he wasn’t sure.

I asked to see the homework sheet, knowing he couldn’t do an assignment about the branches of science if he didn’t know that’s what the worksheet was about. He had skipped most of the questions and told me the ones he’d filled in were what the teacher did with the class. I drew a tree for him and filled in biology, zoology, botany, chemistry, physics, etc. “Oh, that’s it!” he said to me. He’s not doing well in school, and I’m realizing he simply doesn’t know what’s going on. Now what do I do?


Dear Leslie,

I don’t blame you for getting upset. It’s amazing how many children go to school but aren’t learning because they don’t know what’s going on. Unless teachers continually assess to see if students understand, they never know when students aren’t understanding.

For example, I met with Landon, an 8th grader, who didn’t know what he was studying in social studies. He was flunking. He explained that he never knew what tests were about so he just slept through them.

I started at the beginning. “Landon, what’s the name of your social studies class.

 “I don’t know. It’s social studies.”

“Are you learning about American history or world history?”

“I don’t know. Mr. Green never told us.”

“Are you learning about the American Revolution, Civil War, immigration? Or about China, Japan, Egypt, France?”

“I think we’re learning about a war.”

Obviously, Landon had no clue what had been going on all year.

Before you go through a year like this, contact Colin’s teacher. His teacher may tell you that Colin spends most of his time in class staring into space and is never on task. If this is something you’ve heard before, it could be that Colin has an attentional issue, an auditory processing issue, or even a hearing problem. Ask the school to have him tested or find a professional outside the school to do the testing.

If Colin is usually on top of things, ask how lessons are taught. Colin may have a different learning style than the way the teacher is presenting the material. Or Colin may simply have connected the word branch with trees and couldn’t understand what was happening from then on. For most of us, not just kids, if we don’t get it at the beginning, what follows doesn’t make sense.

By talking to the teacher, you’ll have a better understanding of why Colin missed what was being taught. Ask the teacher to email you the topics and class outline ahead of time. Now you can help Colin become familiar with the terms and concepts before the teacher presents them in class. And you’ll get a better idea of how he learns best. Is it reading? Is it through a conversation? Is it listening to an explanation. Is it making a diagram or drawing a picture?

If you can, go on day trips to museums, observatories, and historic sites. Or take vacations where Colin can see and experience things he’ll be learning about in school. For example, the child who has visited Washington, D.C. will learn more when the teacher talks about the Capital than the child who just reads about it in a book. Because the student who visited the Capital now has a life experience about the material, this student will be more engaged in school.

Keep lines of communication open for a happy and successful school year,

Dr. Linda

Dr. Linda, along with her husband, Dr. Al, own Strong Learning Tutoring and Test Prep serving Westchester and Putnam Counties for over 40 years.  Strong Learning tutors students K-12 in any subject, in person or remotely. Drs Linda and Al are also the authors of Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids available on Amazon and at  

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