Five Reasons Smart Kids Get Bad Grades

Posted by Carrie Doom on Mar 6, 2019

Dr. Carrie Doom

Learn about LETRS

Parents, teachers, and students can be baffled when students earn poor grades. The remedy isn’t as simple as considering a student’s effort. There are a variety of reasons why students struggle to display, communicate, and assimilate knowledge.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Ineffective Study Habits

    Students often lack study habits necessary to master content they are consuming. Simply reading the chapter and answering questions in an assignment may not allow for the repetition and depth of knowledge they need to take the information from working memory to long-term memory. Consider using repetition for students during instruction and thoughtfully plan for a review of the content (retelling to a partner) during chapter reading, reading new CVC (consonant vowel consonant words) chorally, reading with a partner, reading in chunks, and reading aloud in a whisper voice. In addition, actively reading content requires that we take information off the page and use it so it remains in memory. This can be as simple as drawing a picture, writing a phrase beside each paragraph, or reviewing content with a partner.

  2. Lack of Organization

    Students need direct instruction in executive functioning skills. These skills include how to organize work by putting it in a folder, how to manage time, remembering to complete an assignment, and how to ask for help among other things. Students need practice to ensure this life skill—organization—is developed early on. Poor organization displays itself in lacking a pen or pencil for class, not planning enough time to complete assignments, forgetting when work is due. Helping students work through those needs is critical to short- and long-term success. 

  3. Lack of Confidence

    Students who have failed in the past often lack confidence. This manifests in many ways and can lead to work avoidance, lack of perseverance, and self-sacrificing behaviors. Always consider root causes behind student behaviors to help them develop skill sets they may be lacking and look for areas of need and gaps in learning. Alternatively, students who display perfectionist tendencies may have trouble making mistakes no matter how small. This often inhibits learning since the need for help may not be as obvious. Modeling the expected learning process and behaviors in an “I do, We do, You do” format can assist students in the learning process. 

  4. Test Anxiety

    Testing may cause an overwhelming amount of stress in some students. No matter how solid the knowledge, the stress students feel may inhibit them from communicating information in a way the assessment requires. Consider testing alternatives and using scaffolding to help students ease into the process without the stress response.

  5. Learning Difficulties

    Reading and writing are not natural processes. Developing pathways in the brain to support reading and writing is essential to creating productive students. This deep science is critical knowledge for teachers at all grade levels. Struggling readers are at risk for lower salaries, health problems, and a myriad of challenges. The good news is well-informed teachers can help mediate reading and writing struggles with solid instruction steeped in research-based practices. 

Teachers, parents, and students must work together to find a pathway to success for students that looks past a simple grade and gets to the heart of students’ needs.

Today, teachers leave college with little preparation for how to effectively teach reading and literacy development. Yet, research shows that approximately one third of students nationally cannot read at even basic levels. LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) literacy professional development can be the solution. LETRS is comprehensive and successful in addressing the five essential components of effective reading instruction, plus writing, with a focus on translating research to classroom application.

Dr. Carrie Doom has a passion for education that began when she was a young girl growing up in Nebraska. That passion continued through college and after through her work with Clark County School District in Nevada as a special education teacher and special education liaison.

Dr. Doom currently serves as vice president of the western United States for Voyager Sopris Learning®. She also served as a national product consultant and a director of implementation services at Voyager Sopris Learning, where she participated in strategic planning for districts and planning for processes and procedures and was an instrumental part of district success in the western states for more than 13 years.
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