As parents and educators, we often find ourselves wondering, “Why do kids struggle in school?” This question has been a topic of concern and discussion for generations. Every child is unique, and their struggles in the academic environment can stem from various factors. But a factor that has affected most kids today is the untimely pandemic that kept them out of school.
According to the recent release of the Nation’s Report Card the average score of 13-year-olds in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), declined 4 points in reading and 9 points in math comparing 2020 to 2022. When compared to a decade ago, scores slid even further, which was a 7-point decline in reading and 14 points in math. With students struggling with the pandemic interruption of their education, educators, parents, families, and policymakers have got to work together to urgently and decisively address this generation’s learning needs. Let’s look at some other reasons besides the pandemic that are causing our decline:
- Learning Disabilities: An Obstacle to Academic Success
Many children face the hurdle of learning disabilities, which can significantly impact their educational journey. Conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), and autism spectrum disorders can affect a child’s ability to process and retain information in traditional learning environments. These disabilities require specialized teaching methods and support to ensure that children can thrive academically.
Currently, there are 667,914 special ed teachers in the USA according to Zippia. The average age of a special ed teacher is 42 years old. They are 11% more likely to leave the classroom than regular teachers. We are short 37,600 of these much-needed teachers.
- Lack of Individualized Instruction
In a traditional classroom setting, teachers often face the challenge of catering to the diverse needs of their students. With large class sizes and limited resources, it can be difficult to provide individualized attention and instruction to every child. As a result, some students may struggle to grasp certain concepts or fall behind their peers. Implementing strategies such as differentiated instruction, small group activities, or tutoring programs can help address this issue and ensure that each student’s unique needs are met.
- Home Environment and Socioeconomic Factors
A child’s home environment plays a vital role in their academic success. Factors such as parental involvement, access to educational resources, and socioeconomic status can significantly impact a child’s performance in school. Financial instability and lack of access to educational resources create barriers to learning. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds may face additional obstacles, such as limited access to educational support or no WIFI at home to do follow up homework. It is important for society to address these disparities by advocating for equal opportunities, providing support systems for disadvantaged students, and implementing policies that bridge the socioeconomic gap in education.
- Emotional and Behavioral Challenges
Emotional and behavioral challenges can greatly affect a child’s ability to focus, concentrate, and engage in the learning process. Issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, or disruptive behaviors can impede a child’s educational journey. Addressing these challenges and providing appropriate support is essential for helping children overcome their struggles and thrive in the academic setting.
- Bullying and Peer Pressure
Bullying and peer pressure can have a detrimental impact on a child’s academic performance and overall well-being. Kids who experience bullying may develop feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, and a reluctance to attend school. It is crucial for schools and parents to create safe and inclusive environments where children can feel supported and empowered.
- Lack of Interest and Motivation
One significant factor contributing to children’s struggles in school is a lack of interest and motivation. When students don’t find the subject matter engaging or relevant, they may lose focus and struggle to perform well. It is essential for educators to create a stimulating learning environment that captures students’ attention and fosters a love for learning.
- Ineffective Teaching Methods
Teachers play a critical role in shaping a child’s educational experience. Ineffective teaching methods can make it challenging for students to grasp concepts and retain information. It is critical for educators to utilize diverse teaching strategies that cater to different learning styles, ensuring that every student has an opportunity to thrive.
- Distractions & Technology Overload
In today’s digital age, children are constantly surrounded by distractions and technology overload. Excessive screen time, social media, and online gaming can divert their attention from studying and hinder their academic progress. It is fundamental for parents and educators to establish healthy screen time limits and provide guidance on responsible technology use.
- Lack of Parental Involvement
Parental involvement plays a crucial role in a child’s education. When parents are not actively engaged in their child’s academic journey, it can contribute to their struggles in school. Lack of communication with teachers, minimal support with homework, and limited interest in their child’s progress can hinder a student’s motivation and overall performance. It is important for parents to establish open lines of communication with teachers, participate in school activities, and show genuine interest in their child’s education.
- Language Barriers
For students who are non-native English speakers or come from diverse cultural backgrounds, language barriers can pose significant challenges in school. Difficulty understanding and expressing themselves in the language of instruction can hinder their academic progress and make it harder to fully engage with the curriculum. Schools need to provide appropriate language support and resources to ensure these students have equal opportunities to succeed.
- Poor Study Skills & Time Management
Effective study skills and time management are essential for academic success. Students who lack these skills may struggle to organize their workload, prioritize tasks, and manage their time efficiently. Schools should incorporate study skills training and time management techniques into the curriculum to equip students with the necessary tools to succeed academically.
- School Environment & Resources
The overall school environment and available resources can significantly impact a child’s learning experience. Inadequate facilities, limited access to technology, outdated textbooks, or a lack of extracurricular activities can hinder students’ engagement and hinder their academic progress. It is vital for educational institutions to provide a supportive and well-equipped learning environment that fosters curiosity, creativity, and exploration.
Strategies to Support Academic Success
Now that we have explored the reasons why kids may struggle in school, let’s delve into some effective strategies to help them overcome these challenges:
- Early Intervention and Assessment
Early identification and intervention are vital in addressing learning disabilities and other challenges that children may face. Regular assessments can help identify areas of improvement and tailor educational strategies to meet each child’s unique needs. Collaborating with professionals, such as special education teachers or psychologists, can provide valuable insights and support for children requiring additional assistance.
- Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are designed to support students with learning disabilities or special needs. These plans outline specific accommodations, modifications, and goals tailored to each child’s requirements. Collaborating with teachers, parents, and specialists can ensure that children receive the necessary support and resources to succeed academically.
- Differentiated Instruction
Implementing differentiated instruction strategies allows teachers to adapt their teaching methods and materials to meet the diverse needs of their students. By providing varied approaches to learning, such as visual aids, hands-on activities, and auditory cues, educators can engage students with different learning styles and abilities.
- Enhancing Parental Involvement
Parents play a crucial role in their child’s academic journey. Increased parental involvement has been linked to improved educational outcomes. By actively engaging with their child’s education, parents can foster a supportive learning environment at home, assist with homework, communicate with teachers, and advocate for their child’s needs.
- Building a Supportive School Environment
Creating a supportive and inclusive school environment is essential for children to thrive academically. Schools should promote positive behavior, foster healthy relationships, and implement anti-bullying programs. By nurturing a sense of belonging and emotional well-being, schools can create an environment where children feel safe to express themselves and focus on their studies.
- Access to Additional Resources and Support
Providing access to supplementary resources and support services can greatly benefit struggling students. This may include tutoring programs, after-school activities, counseling services, or mentorship programs. Collaborating with community organizations and utilizing external resources can offer additional avenues for academic support.
Children may face various challenges that lead to struggles in school. Understanding the reasons behind these difficulties is the first step towards providing the necessary support and interventions. By addressing factors such as lack of interest, learning disabilities, ineffective teaching methods, bullying, mental health issues, distractions, parental involvement, academic pressure, language barriers, individualized attention, study skills, school environment, and socioeconomic factors, we can create an inclusive and supportive educational system that enables all children to thrive.
Whereas we obviously rely heavily on our schools and teachers to take an interest in each student individually, it all begins with the parents in supporting their child’s academic success. Parents can pave the way for success by creating a structured routine, setting realistic goals, providing a quiet study environment, monitoring the use of technology in the home, and actively communicating with teachers. Additionally, encouraging a love for learning and books, and then celebrating their child’s achievements will boost motivation to keep learning.