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School Progress Reports – Time for a Different Kind of Evaluation


Student progress reports and report cards are coming out this month, and that means some parents will face difficult decisions or conversations with teachers and with their teen regarding failing academic performance. If parents are seeing a significant drop in their teen’s performance at school, something is happening in their child’s life and it is important that they investigate.

There are different factors that can cause a change in academic performance, among them, a change in schools, enrollment in more difficult classes, a temporary loss of motivation on the part of the student, a change in peer group, mood changes, etc. Some of these problems are easily defined and solved, others are more complicated.

A significant change in grades indicates a problem

Ironwood School and Residential Treatment Center (RTC) can be a useful ‘case study’ for parents who are looking carefully at poor academic performance on the part of their teen. One of the factors that almost all teens who come to Ironwood School and RTC have in common is a significant decrease in academic performance prior to being referred to Ironwood. Parents report that they noticed a drop in grades during a school year, maybe eighth or ninth grade. Typically, they talk to their teenager about it and perhaps the grades improve for a while. Then, next semester or next year, the improvement goes away and maybe the grades go down even more. Before you know it, an A and B student is bringing home D’s and F’s. Parents know that their teen is capable of doing better but parents cannot do the work for them, and it is becoming impossible to motivate them. The drop in academic performance may be a symptom of something else that is causing the problem.

Gather information, evaluate the situation

It is time to research the situation. First, parents should talk to their teen and ask what is going on. Look at the pattern of grades, has there been a slow and steady decline over a year or is this a sudden change? Parents should listen to what their teen says about the decline in performance and ask what he or she is planning to do about it. Parents know their teen and should know if the plan is reasonable and if they are likely to follow through. Second, talk to the teachers and possibly other school staff. Parents should listen to what they say, they see their child on a regular basis at school and have a good idea what is going on. Parents should know what their son or daughter is doing after school and on the weekends. Are they shifting friendships to a peer group that does not encourage good grades? Are they not doing homework because they are going out and having fun with peers? A sudden change may indicate a change in their life, as in a new peer group, a new boyfriend or girlfriend, using drugs, or some other major distraction that has recently entered their life. A gradual change may indicate the same things but it may be that he or she was able to maintain the grades initially while changing activities, friends, etc, but gradually they are drifting away from being able to keep up the focus on schoolwork and maintaining good grades.

Solving the problem may require a different approach

Once parents have defined the problem as best they can, the next step is to decide what to do about it. The solution could be to help their teen create a schedule and stick to it, basic time management assistance; or the solution could be to take away some privileges and letting the teen earn the privileges back by following house rules and doing schoolwork. However, if the problem is extremely serious and their teen is making poor choices in selecting friends and activities, or if their teen is cutting school and has lost interest in the achievements that used to be important to him or her, it is time for them to take action.

The action depends on the severity of the problem and what has already been tried. If parents are at the point where they are not able to get through to their teen, and no change seems to happen no matter what they try, more serious action might be a change in school or actually taking your teen out of the environment. A school like Ironwood is also licensed as a residential treatment center, and has experienced staff and clinicians who work specifically with underachieving teens. Situated near 500 acres of woodlands, Ironwood’s therapeutic programs offer a quiet, calming, distraction-free environment for the teen to become introspective, reconnect with nature and get back to basics.

Therapists note that the longer a parent waits to take action, the more difficult it will be to help the teen get back on track. Graduates of Ironwood therapeutic boarding school, who at one time struggled with failing classes and declining progress reports recall:

• “Ironwood has changed my life in every way possible and I am so grateful that my parents brought me here"

• “I’m happy now. I was not when I was at home. It’s (Ironwood) preparing me for life, and I’m close with my family again.”

• “It helped me realize that I needed to change and being here has probably saved my life.”

School progress reports can be an indicator of how a child is doing in other ways beyond academics. While a drop in grades is not necessarily a reason to take extreme measures, it is important to evaluate what is causing the change. A common denominator among teens who arrive at Ironwood therapeutic boarding school is a significant decrease in academic performance that has occurred because of other events going on in the teen’s life. While at Ironwood, the teen re-engages in academics and becomes motivated to improve grades, while working on behavioral and emotional changes. The parent must gather information, evaluate the problem, and make a decision on what to do to ensure the teen does not get too far off the track.

If parents are concerned about their teen and would like to learn more about Ironwood School and RTC, please call 1-800-476-0708, or email us at, or click

About Ironwood Therapeutic Boarding School and Residential Treatment Center - Ironwood is a one-of-a-kind combination of a traditional boarding school and therapeutic treatment program that specializes in working with teens who are struggling, underachieving, and whose behavior is often out of control. A state-approved school, Ironwood has designed the academic experience and curriculum in such a way as to foster and build upon academic success through one-on-one teacher-to-student relationship and skill building. On average, the Ironwood graduating student has earned nearly six high school credits, and has advanced one full grade level. Through an extensive and customized therapeutic program and academic curriculum, we help teens find greater success than they have ever experienced. Our mission is to give hope to parents who are concerned about their children by helping their teen become healthy, happy and responsible.


 Troubled Teens

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