My Child is Failing High School, What Should I do? (Chicago)

Courtney Gousman and Student Baron Bass


Courtney Gousman and Student Baron Bass

WGN’s Courtney Gousman asked Baron Bass how he came to be a student during Ombudsman’s celebratory breakfast

Tips from a Chicago Parent: The first semester is complete for most high school students across the country. Now that the school year has hit the halfway mark and report cards have been sent out, more than a few parents might find themselves coming to the realization that their child is failing high school. Parents, please know that you are not alone. At 72 years-old, I have raised my own children, helped to raise my grandchildren and am currently raising two adopted teens. As someone who has been parenting for more than five decades, I’ve truly seen it all. I have witnessed the evolution of our educational system, been through academic ups-and-downs with my kids and learned some valuable lessons along the way. For parents who are having a hard time, I hope the following advice is useful.

Understand How Your Child Learns: Like most parents, I think my children are exceptional. My youngest, Diamond, came into my life as a foster child when she was just three days old. It was love at first sight; and by the time Diamond turned 18 months old, the adoption process was complete. From an early age, Diamond has had a difficult time paying attention and staying focused in school. In the third grade she was held back a year, and because of when her birthday falls, she is much older than the other kids in her grade. This year when it came time for her to begin her freshman year of high school at age 16, we decided that it was time to look more closely at her learning needs and determine what type of an environment will help her to be successful.

Ask for Help and Weigh All of the Options: If your child is struggling in school, don’t wait to get help. Call the school and talk to the teachers. Ask to speak with the counselor or school psychologist. The goal is to create the best plan to help your child’s learning progress and reduce frustrations so they feel successful. When Diamond’s school counselor recommended an alternative high school program, we had a lot of questions. We talked about different options, and decided that Ombudsman Chicago sounded like the best fit. At Ombudsman, Diamond has been able to get the personalized learning attention she needs to stay focused. The classrooms are small and the schedule is flexible, but the school maintains a highly structured environment with high academic expectations. Parents, don’t give up. There is a program out there that will meet your child’s needs too.

Avoid the Blame Game: It is important to understand the circumstances that led to your child getting off-track in school. Take this into account when looking to a solution, but try to separate emotion from the facts. We know that a parent’s involvement is critical to a child’s academic success and I have seen parents who are quick to blame themselves. Others are quick to blame the schools and some put blame on the student. Please keep in mind that there are many contributing factors to a student’s success in school. Pointing fingers and placing blame will only take time and energy away from the main goal – getting your child back on-track!

Focus on the Positive Change: Applaud the effort your child puts in, regardless of the grade or the outcome. With praise and encouragement, a child will begin to develop their own sense motivation. Over time, it will become evident that hard work and persistence pays off. Look toward the future and celebrate small victories.

Ombudsman Chicago offers teens a second chance at achieving academic success and building a bright future as they work toward earning a CPS diploma. Ombudsman offers open enrollment throughout the school year and is currently accepting applications at all three of its Chicago Options Schools. To enroll, visit

Special Correspondent: Maggie Strickland

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