A Few Questions to Consider
If Your Child is Having Trouble in Honors Science
At what point should I become concerned about my child's grade?
The best advice I can give you, if your child has performed below expectations, is: don't panic. If your child usually does well on tests, he/she is likely to improve as the year progresses. If your son/daughter has been working hard and still not done as well as he/she would expected to, try your best to be supportive. I have had students who have started off the year poorly, but eventually have gotten straight "A's" on their tests as the year progressed. Remind your son or daughter that it is not where you start the race that matters, it is where you finish.
The tests are modeled after the SAT in style, but not in difficulty. The SAT format has been selected,in cooperation with the Mission High School Science Department. Honors Biology students will complete their first SAT II in Biology at the end of their Freshman year. Since we implemented the multiple choice format at the 8th and 9th grade level, scores on the SAT II in Biology have risen by 45%. Hopefully the background in taking tests with a similar format contributed to some of that increase.
In some cases, students can acheive success by developing a better testing strategy. Students need to select the problems which they can most readilly solve so they receive the most points on their tests. Problems which they consider more difficult should be left to last. Students also need to be careful not to make "careless" mistakes. Students frequently report that they would have received between one and two grades higher on their tests, if they had just eliminated the "careless" mistakes.
However, if your child has received a F or a D on BOTH of the science tests, you should be concerned. If your child did poorly on one, but passed the other he/she is likely to work the problem out over time. Many students may have some difficulty when they are asked to APPLY the concepts they have learned. More often than not students have only been expected to memorize concepts. Although each test does include a fair number of items where memorization of a basic concept will provide the answer, there are also a few "word problems" which ask students to apply what they have learned. These "application" or "critical thinking" problems do become easier over time. Students can readily earn a "B" if they have mastered the basic concepts, but will need to succeed with at least some of the application questions if they expect to receive an "A".
How do I know whether the material is just too difficult for my child at this time?
You probably remember the first time you took physics and chemistry that it seemed pretty tough. Well, your child is no different. Many of the concepts are fairly abstract in nature, which makes it much different than other classes he/she has taken before. Most honors students will succeed with the material, if they are given enough time and support. However, there may be a few bumps along the way. Over the last five years I have only had 1 student fail Honors Science 8 and five others received "D" grades.
What are the warning signs that my child's placement in Honors Science is not appropriate? If you answer "yes" to more than two of the following questions, we may need to discuss whether placement in honors science is best for your son or daughter.
a. In many classes, my child often does more poorly on tests that he/she takes than he/she does on the homework assignments. This is often an indication that reading or reading speed may not be consistent with the honors level. In other cases, it may have to do with test anxiety or test strategy.
b. My child scores on the SAT-9 in reading and math have NOT been in the 9th stanine for the past couple of years. Students who have scores in the 7th or 8th stanine in reading and/or math often begin having trouble competing with the many students that have scores in the 9th stanine. Performance on SAT-9 in reading is more often an indicator of problems than math scores.
c. My child has trouble solving word problems in math. Students who have difficulty with math word problems often have difficulty conceptualizing ideas in science.
d. My child has difficulty with critical thinking problems. Some students can memorize details very well, but have difficulty putting the "big picture together." These students often cannot easily solve critical thinking problems.
e. My child has difficulty answering the openers in class. Students who consistently have difficulty with the openers, often are not getting the "big picture." Once again, they may be reading for details without understanding the major concepts.
f. My child has always had more difficulty with abstract or conceptual thinking. If you have noticed that when your child is presented with abstract questions he/she either shuts down or "doesn't get it." He/she is likely to have difficulty with the more abstract concepts presented in physical science.
g. My child does not seem to read many books anymore or the books he/she is reading seem below her grade level. Over the years, I have found a very HIGH correlation between students who are doing little or no outside reading and poor test performance in science. Students who do a lot of reading often read and comprehend tests better and they have better vocabulary.
h. My child spends many hours studying for his/her science test, but still does poorly. Year after year, I have found that students who do best on their tests have usually spent between 1-3 hours in total preparation. Students who must spend 6 or more hours to prepare AND still do poorly, often did not understand the material the first time and therefore try to compensate by spending many hours before the tests studying.
If you none of the scenarios described in question three fits your child, you might consider the following:
a. Does my child READ his assignment BEFORE he completes the answers to his/her homework?
b. Does my child take notes on discussions, videos, and other classroom activities? Were these notes reviewed before the test?
c. Does my child "break up" his/her test preparation over several days?
d. Does my child always ask questions about concepts he/she does not understand?
e. Does my child always write notes on the major concepts he/she has studied in the chapter? Were these notes reviewed prior to the test?
f. Does my child review EVERY item on previous tests to determine WHY he/she may have answered the question incorrectly?
g. Does my child make every effort to understand each concept presented during the lab activities?
h. Does my child EVER copy the answers from other members of his/her lab group, without working out the answer independently?
i. Does my child write notes about concepts presented in the textbook that he/she does not understand? Does he/she ask questions in class about these concepts?
j. Does my child make an effort to CONCEPTUALLY CONNECT the concepts presented in different parts of the textbook?
If my child has difficulty with Physical Science now, can I always expect he/she will have trouble?
No. Many students will develop the skills to think more conceptually and will have less difficulty with Physical Science as they mature.
Can my child drop Honors Science 8 and enroll in Honors Biology in ninth grade in High School?
No. Students may only enter Honors Biology after completing either Honors Science 8 OR ninth grade Physical Science. Students will need to receive a B- or better grade to be recommended for Honors Biology in high school. During that the last five years 85% or better of students completing Honors Science 8 have received a recommendation for Honors Biology.