Do you know how your children are doing in school?
Many parents don't.
But educational experts warn that a child feeling little or no support at home in his school work usually adopts a lackadaisical attitude toward learning in general.
That's why specialists at two leading research and development organizations -- the National Institute of Education (NIE) and the National Education Association (NEA) -- have helped to develop a simple test to help you find out how your child is faring in the 3 R's.
"This test can give parents some indication of how their child is achieving in the basic minimal skills appropriate for his grade level," says Dr. Ramsay Selden, director of NIE's Literacy Team.
"But its real value is that parents can conduct the test in the home. For many, it can be an easy first step in getting more involved and more concerned about the child's progress at school."
"There are things only parents -- not teachers, not principals, or anyone -- can do," says Dr. Robert McClure, project manager in NEA's Instruction and Professional Development Division. "Things that let a youngster know you value his work in school help a child value it too.
"Parents often overlook what meaning a few minutes spent on their children's education can have for the kids."
Here is the test. (Each group of questions tests the minimal skills appropriate through the final year of the category.) Grades 1 and 2
1. Ask your child to print the letters of the alphabet and circle those used in the spelling of his name.
2. Ask your child to write these sequences on paper as you read them, and then name the missing number in each: 8, 9, 10, 12, 13; 30, 32, 33, 34, 35.
3. Have him circle in this list the words that rhyme with "see": car, me, tea, stop, key, tree, shoe.
4. Select two simple comic strips in your daily newspaper, such as "Peanuts," "Dennis the Menace," or "Nancy," and have your child read them aloud and tell you what it's about. Grades 3 and 4
1. Ask your child to read the back of his favorite breakfast cereal box to himself and then, in writing, explain what it says (using longhand, not printing).
2. Print the following words on paper and ask your child to sound them out: intersections, geometry, frivolous, repugnance.
3. Ask your child to: look at a clock and tell you what time it is, what time it will be in 25 minutes, what time it was 10 minutes ago; write down the following numbers as you read them, then add them all together: 1,600; 791; 11,032; 43; complete the following mathematical problems on paper: 9 times 12; 34 divided by 2; 21 times 31; 109 minus 18; 17 plus 252.
4. Have your child look up his three favorite evening television programs in this week's TV guide, and write down the day, time and channel when they'll come on. Grades 5 and 6
1. Ask your child to tell you the meaning of the following words by looking them up in a dictionary: lethargy, expedient, frugal, predicate.
2. Have your child answer these questions: If you had two quarters, one dime, three nickels, and four pennies, how much money would you have? How many feet are there in 60 inches? What is the distance all the way around a rectangle if one side is three meters long and another side is five meters long? How much is 4/5 minus 1/5? Divide 3,066 by 42. What is 2/3 of 9?
3. Have him select his choice of a short story, or magazine article (from Reader's Digest or National Geographic, for example), read it to himself, and then write a paragraph in his own words telling the main idea.
4. Give your child your telephone book and ask him to find answers to these questions: What number would you call for long-distance information in the closet neighboring state? For the police? To report a fire? Grades 7 and 8
1. Have him determine the proper pronunciation of these words by looking them up in a dictionary: insatiable, amino, benign, leviathan.
2. Ask him to solve the following problems: If one cat eats two pounds of food each week, and there are 52 weeks in a year, how much food will five cats eat in one week.
A car traveled 8 miles in five minutes. At this speed, how many miles could it travel in one hour?
3. Ask your child to choose any one of the articles on the front page of your newspaper, read the first five paragraphs, and then, putting the paper aside, write brief sentences answering the following questions: Who is the story about? What has happened? When? Where? How did it happen?
"If your child does well on this test, it means he has achieved the basic standards appropriate for his level," says Dr. Virginia Koehler, assistant director of NIE's Teaching and Instruction Division.
"But that doesn't means he's going to get an 'A' in reading, for instance, on his next report card. And it doesn't mean you can let up in showing your interest at home.
"On the other hand, if there appears to be a problem, if the child doesn't do very well, don't panic. Teaching methods and curriculum do vary from location to location, and children develop educationally at different rates.
"If a problem is indicated, you should consult with the child's teacher as soon as possible to find out if the school has detected a problem -- and if so, what they're doing about it.
"That's a good start in finding out what you can do at home to help."