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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

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.

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Jodi Thompson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that parents need to be there for their child well beyond elementary school. I am an elementary school teacher and I'm disappointed in my student's parents for already "dropping the ball" by 3rd and 4th grade. Its great to come to the K and 1st grade conference, but we see all too often that the child still has that spark, just as their parent, at that age. Its when the child becomes older that they begin to struggle and parents need to work with the teacher to improve skills and set goals for their child.

Dominic Manola's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Bob,

I wanted to take a moment and respond to your blog and say that I totally agree with you. I teach at the high school level and last spring, during Parent Teacher Conferences, I saw a total of 10 parents out of my 150 plus students. I was discouraged to say the least. After this happened, I began asking my co-workers why this seems to be, and one comment was made that has stuck.

As students get older, especially as they become high schoolers, they yearn for that sense of independence and maturity, and in the struggle, I find that there has become a disconnect between some of my students and their parents in regard to the school performance. In addition, with the modern technology including online gradebooks, I believe that more and more parents are keeping up with their children's performance via the net. However, the personal touch of conferences that you mentioned is completely lost.

At school, we have implemented an email system in which grades, updates, reminders and such are sent home via email-a way to keep in touch in the ever growing technological world. We have had some strong results from this, but in no way does it replace conferences.

Just some thoughts. We have conferences coming up in two weeks and I am nervous-hoping to have a showing! Take care-

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