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The Payoff for Parent-Teacher Conferences

| Bob Lenz

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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Comments (32)

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Amy Tapp (not verified)

I also teach first grade. I

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I also teach first grade. I am very interested in trying student-led conferences. I liked the way you got your students prepared to lead. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them. Our school use to ask parents to keep their students at home during conferences. They now attend but do not interact much. I am excited to try this.

Lindsay (not verified)

Parents Role in Child's Education

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Currently I am enrolled at Walden University, and am checking out Educationally-based blogs. As of this day, I do not have my own classroom, but have an idea of how important parent-teacher conferences really are. Students should be involved in their own educational plans, thus be present at parent-teacher conferences. Though this is a great idea, at some times, this would not be appropriate. There are appropriate times for the student to be present.

Though student participation in parent-teacher conferences are limited at times, that does not mean the student can not have any input toward their educational goals.

Lindsay

Eileen (not verified)

Conferences

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I teach at the middle school level and find the idea of student led conferences very intriguing. During my student teaching I was able to participate in student led conferences and found it very beneficial. It seemed that the student took more ownership of their work. Currently, I do not have student led conferences. However, if the student attends the conference I guide them in explaining how they have been doing or what issues they may be having. I feel this gives them a chance to take responsibility and voice their opinion of their education. It also opens up the lines of communication between student, parent, and teacher.

Brenda M (not verified)

Hello Karen, I have used

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Hello Karen,
I have used student led conferences for the three years that I have taught at my current school. I was a little unsure at first about this kind of conference for two reasons. One I had never seen them done before and two I was teaching first grade at the time and could not imagine how my students would be able to lead the conference. We gathered the information that would go into the portfolios together and made sure there was both good and not so good information. The students then wrote why something was good, what went well or why something did not go so well. I also had stations set up so the students played a math game, explained about magnets since that is what we were studying in science, read a book to their parent and went over the portfolio. It was kept very friendly and concentrated on the positives. It has been a very successful process here.

MJ BUTLER (not verified)

Student Led Conferences

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What a great idea to use the three parts to their presentaion, what they have learned, what they need to learn, and how they wil learn it. This seems much more effective than just showing a folder of completed work. I was considering using this format with my 3rd grade students. Has this format been used in the lower grades at your school?

K.Stockhausen (not verified)

Conferences are so critical

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Conferences are so critical for student improvement. I often feel rejuvenated after conferences because I feel that a lot is covered and everyone is working on the same goal/s for that child. I never thought about having student led confernces in 2nd grade. I'm going to share this with my team.
We start off the school year with home visits. I do feel these home visits have opened the door to more parental participation. Since doing home visits, our school has seen parental involvement increase. It is a nice way to show the family you care and it gives the teacher valuable information about the child.

Karen Wynn-Bell (not verified)

I have been teaching for

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I have been teaching for seven years, and this coming March will be my first experience with student led conferences. I was hesitant about this idea at first. We have been instructed that students will be showing parents a portfolio of work we have been collecting. The focus will not be on their grades as refelcted on the report cards. In my opinion, why have a conference. We send home a Monday folder with all of their work in it from the previous week. The only difference between a conference and a folder is the work is shown at school not at home. Granted with a conference at school, parents are forced to look at their child's work; but if they truly cared about their child's successes, wouldn't they be doing this at home anyway?

I am open to new ideas and will wait to form my final opinion after experiencing student led conferences.

Lindsay (not verified)

The school I went to growing

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The school I went to growing up was a K-12 school. Every September/October we would have an open house. At open house there would be a book fair set up and there would be times set aside for parents to meet with their children's teachers. If they needed to meet for longer than the 5-10 minute meetings that were available on this night they would schedule another meeting. What I always loved about bringing my parents to open house was that I got to show them what I did all day: where I went to PE, music, etc, and where I eat lunch. A day or so before open house our teachers would tell us to pick out pieces of work to show to our parents. We would also decorate the room. I love this idea because it really gets the students involved and it is harder for parents to turn down a meeting like this when their children are so excited. For some students parent/teacher meetings are not exciting, the students are scared that they will talk about everything they do wrong. I just had parent/teacher conferences at the end of last week and a couple of the parents brought their children. We let the children sit in on the meetings and it helped with some students because they could see that "mommy" and their teacher do talk about the good things and some of the bad things. If students are more involved and they realize that what goes on in school could effect what goes on at home they start to change their attitudes and actions.

Stephanie (not verified)

Conferences

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I feel that the parents play just an important role in their child's education and that having both the parent and student at parent/teacher conferences is a great idea.
Having the students help make a road map for their educational success and goals gives them a sense of ownership and they know what they are working towards. I feel it also makes the student take responsibility for his or her own learning.

Stephanie (not verified)

Conferences

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I love this idea of the parent/teacher conferences being led by the students. But I know at our school sometimes it is hard to get the parents there let alone both the parent and the child. This idea is great for the student and parent to be present during the conferences it allows the student to take charge of their education with their parent along by their side. I feel that this would give the students more sense of ownership and they would feel more of a responsibility when they are in the classroom. If the student, parent, and teacher are all aware of the goals set then there would be no miscommunication. Has anyone tried this and if so how did it go?

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Bob Lenz Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

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