When your child works hard on a project or studies hard for a test and receives a grade you feel is unjust, what do you do? Assure him he'll do better next time? Talk to the teacher and ask for an explanation? Or roar into a meeting demanding a change? The appropriate response will depend largely on the importance of the grade and the degree to which your child's rights are being violated. Here are some steps to take if you want to lodge a protest.
Time Required: As much as it takes to get satisfaction
- Go through your child's school papers. See what sort of notes the teacher has been giving. Review all the work your child has done and the grades those papers have earned. Have a good grasp of what's been going on in the classroom before you proceed.
- Get your child's side of it. Talk with your child about the grade and ask: Did she feel she understood the material? Was there anything she was confused about? Did other children seem confused? Did other children do poorly? Is there anything your child would like the teacher to do differently? Don't be judgmental; let your child share. You don't have to buy everything she's saying as the absolute truth, but your child is in the classrom and you are not. Her perspective is important.
- Arrange a meeting with the teacher. In many schools, this is done through the guidance counselor. In others, you can just send a note to the teacher requesting a meeting. Explain that you have concerns over a grade, and want to discuss ways to help your child improve.
- Get the teacher's side of it. Do the same thing in the discussion with the teacher as you did in the discussion with your child: Be nonjudgmental and listen to his or her perspective. The teacher is in the classroom and you are not. Try to understand how the teacher sees your child, and why. Ask the teacher what your child should be doing differently and how you can help.
- Listen for IEP violations. If your child has an IEP, and provisions in it for helping your student learn are not being followed, that may give you a platform from which to request a grade change and a better learning environment for your child. Does the teacher have the materials and support required? Does the teacher understand how to implement the provisions, and is she willing to do so? Does the teacher even have a copy of your child's IEP? Listen, and take notes.
- Make your case. If you feel the grade is unjust, calmly give your reasons for that. Try not to be defensive or abusive. If there are IEP violations that you feel have directly impacted on the grade, mention those. If your child has brought up any specific problems or misunderstandings, mention those. If appropriate, request that your child have an opportunity to retake tests with necessary supports, or have a chance to revise a paper to the teacher's specifications.
- If the teacher resists or gets defensive, let it go. Conclude the meeting, and go home to consider. Then, if you feel strongly that there is a legitimate issue, take your complaint the next rung up the ladder. If your child has an IEP that is not being followed, contact the Child Study Team. Otherwise, go to a guidance counselor, vice principal or principal.
- Keep some perspective. There are very few bad grades that doom a child for life. Even if you feel a bad grade is worth appealing, do it in a calm and reasonable way, with the stated aim of making sure your child's class is appropriate and one in which he can succeed. Although attacks, demands and aggression may work in the short run, they give your child a very mixed message and make it more difficult to work with school administrators in the future.
- Choose your battles with care. Not every injustice has to be fought. It's not a bad lesson to teach your child that not everything is fair in life, but we go on and try our best anyway.
- Think of how you would feel if someone came to your workplace and challenged your decisions. How would you want that person to proceed? If you were wrong, how would you want it to be exposed and dealt with? School is a place where our children learn and grow, but it's also a workplace, with its own difficulties and dynamics. Try to be respectful of teachers as workers in a challenging environment.
- Follow our rules for How to Have a Productive Teacher Conference.
What You Need
- Any school papers that shed light on the problem or show a discrepancy
- A full measure of diplomacy