By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

Either way, it's important to look beyond the grade to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses that are impacting your child's achievement - and find the right treatment for addressing them long before the next big test comes around. Here are some additional tips for ensuring your child is prepared for the challenges ahead:

Take a second look at statewide exams.

In the fall and spring of each school year, schools across your state are required to give students tests to measure proficiency in meeting standards for what every child should know and learn in core academic subjects. If your child performed well on the test in the fall, you can be reasonably assured that he or she has the academic grounding to handle grade-level work throughout the rest of the year. If not, you need to closely review the test and identify and address the problem areas immediately.

Maintain contact with teachers.

Once you become aware of the trouble spots, set up a meeting with your child's teacher to discuss how to bring skills up to speed. Teachers can likewise offer suggestions on how to nurture and hone special aptitudes that may qualify your child for accelerated learning opportunities that can enhance preparation for higher education.

Look at academic performance school-wide.

In addition to being useful barometers of individual student success, tests given in the fall and spring also impact the annual U.S. Department of Education "report cards" that signify every school's success in maintaining and raising achievement among students overall. As a parent, you should be interested in this information, but you should also be aware that lower rankings for a school as a whole may not mean failure on behalf of all students. Many schools are improving significantly, and many are also going to great lengths to provide additional help for students with special learning needs. What's most important is knowing that the school and teachers are committed to seeing your child succeed.

Keep a constant vigil

Pay close attention to mood swings and take special note of the evenings when your child seems too tired or disinterested to complete homework satisfactorily. It may just be because he or she is having a tough day, or it may be because of mounting academic difficulties or even too much time spent in extracurricular activities. Too many evenings like this could call for a heart-to-heart talk, which is always a good opportunity to show your child that you truly care.