For parents of middle-schoolers, midway through the academic year is a good time to set up your organization system for school records.
All of my new client meetings begin with a review of school records, like their transcripts, teacher comments and achievement tests. I realize that it’s no small task to keep track of numerous odd-sized bits of paper, sometimes carbon-copied with faded dates and scores. And what do you do with those colorful guides with rows of achievement scores and percentile rankings?
As a mom of 3, I understand how overwhelming it can be to keep track of all the information that comes home from school. When you combine the physical documents with email notifications, it gets even messier . . .
1. Set up filing system first
Using the term “filing system” may sound a bit intimidating. However, once you set it up, it will be easy to maintain. You can begin your child’s academic file with a manila folder labeled with their name.
What to Keep in Manila Folder
Your child’s academic folder at home should hold:
- all classroom-based assessment reports for each testing year
- standardized test reports, such as EXPLORE, PSAT, SAT
- letters on district scoring
- copies of individual education plans (IEPs)
- records on gifted and talent qualifications
- copy of most recent forms submitted at the beginning of the school year
- grade reports with teacher comments
- any other email communications related to assessments
- profiles/inventories conducted at school
In short this folder should, at a minimum, include a copy of any records/reports that your school has on file about your child. Keeping track of these documents will facilitate parent-teacher conferences and help you with understanding how you can best support their academic success.
2. Organize personal projects in a Binder
Separately, you can prepare a thick, 3-ring binder labeled with their name, school year, and grade level.
This binder can be used to hold assignments and writings that your child produced during the school year. I’m not suggesting that you have to keep every scrap of paper that they colored. I do recommend that you keep any journal entries and assignments that demonstrate their creative thinking/problem solving skills development.
These are helpful for reviewing your child’s progress over the academic year and again being able to support them in areas where they may need more assistance. Likewise, these organized assignments can be used to encourage and congratulate your child on all their efforts during that grade year. You will also be surprised how much children enjoy looking through these past assignments and marveling at their development.
Your child may accumulate a lot of paper during the year. I collect their assignments regularly in a hanging file folder then put in the binder as I make time. (There’s no such thing as “having” time for this, so you’ll have to “make” the time.) Be careful not to wait too long before placing in the binder, because otherwise it will seem too overwhelming to even bother.
Why these steps will pay off in high school
I strongly encourage middle school parents to get these school records in order because in the high school years you should transfer these files to your teen!
Yes . . . I said it . . . Your teen owns their high school experience.
Throughout high school, the key attribute that your teen should develop is self-advocacy. If the parent holds all of their documents, then whenever a teen needs to answer for him/herself or request help, it will be filtered through their parents. Likewise, if your teen is college-bound, they own the college admissions process. Do you really want your teen to ask you for their PSAT score?
If you relocate, keeping these school records organized will save you a lot of time and stress with transitioning to a new school. When you’re considering any enrichment opportunities for your child, having these records on hand can save you time in knowing whether your child qualifies for consideration. The same is true for college planning, which always comes sooner than you think. In each of these cases, you will be asked to show academic records and it’s too easy to miss deadlines if you have to gather too much background information.
How are you organizing your child’s school records? Do you have an attic full of loose papers or a file cabinet of labeled folders and binders for each child? Please share any tips you have for staying organized with academic records.
Author: Pamela E
Dr. Pamela has helped thousands of teens attend the college of their choice. She brings her 25 years experience in education to assist families, schools, and employers with college selection, admissions, financial aid, and more. Dr. Pamela holds a PhD from Stanford School of Education, and an MBA from Dartmouth.