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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Payoff for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

My children are in the fifth and seventh grades. At least twice a year, my wife and I meet with their teachers to set goals, to review their progress towards these goals, and to agree about how we can all best support our children's learning at home and at school. Why is it that after elementary school, this important practice often comes to an end?

At Envision Schools, advisers schedule a conference two or three times a year for each student. (See my previous blog post to learn more about the Envision Schools advisory program.) These meetings, which students lead, also include parents and significant mentors. More than 90 percent of our parents take advantage of this opportunity, so we know parents generally want to stay engaged when their kids are in high school.

At these conferences, students reflect on what they've learned, what they consider to be areas for growth (for example, grades or skills they can improve) and long-term goals (such as what college they plan to attend). In addition, advisers will review student transcripts and highlight any concerns about progress toward graduation. At this time, advisers will also review key benchmark assessments in language arts and math and will plan any interventions that may be necessary to address learning gaps or credit deficiencies. (Download a PDF of the form they complete as a record of the meeting.)

Finally, parents will review current benchmarks or graduation-portfolio work so they can see progress firsthand and become a part of this very important process side-by-side with their children.

These family conferences are a great tool for our teachers to get to know their students and their families better. The connections teachers, students, and parents make at these meetings lead to better communication and, most important, a partnership that spans a student's four years at an Envision School.

We use these conferences to get both the student and the parents invested in the hard work it will take to get the student to graduation prepared for college success. Are there other ways schools and teachers are engaging parents in supporting their students' learning? If so, please share them.

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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