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Parent-Teacher Conferences


What

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ďThe evidence is consistent, positive, and convincing: families have a major influence on their childrenís achievement in school and throughout life. When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, students tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.Ē A New Wave of Evidence, Henderson and Mapp, p. 7.

The
Iowa Teaching Standards and Criteria†identify the expectation that teachers communicate regularly with parents and families about their studentsí learning:
  • Standard 1a: The teacher provides evidence of student learning to students, families, and staff.

  • Standard 1g: The teacher communicates with students, families, colleagues, and communities effectively and accurately.

  • Standard 5b: The teacher communicates assessment criteria and standards to all students and parents.

  • Standard 5e: The teacher provides substantive, timely, and constructive feedback to students and parents.

  • Standard 8e: The teacher collaborates with students, families, colleagues, and communities to enhance student learning.

A partnership between the home and school is critical for encouraging students to achieve at their maximum level. Processes for building this partnership are multi-faceted. One time-tested, well-established strategy which provides a foundation for building partnerships between parents and teachers is the parent-teacher conference. Conferences encourage home-school linkages and help support childrenís learning when:

  • Parents and teachers engage in dialogue about the studentís learning and development on a regular basis.

  • Parents and teachers are willing to listen and learn from each other.

  • Parents and teachers come to the conference table prepared to ask questions and share information that will benefit the student.

So What


As parents, teachers, and principals, we must plan for regularly communicating with the teachers of our students. As we prepare for the conferences, following are some questions we might want to consider:

Information for...Parents/Families should ask their school...

  • Parents and teachers engage in dialogue about the studentís learning and development on a regular basis.
    • How might I effectively communicate with the teacher about my child, sharing what I would like to know and share about my child?

  • Parents and teachers are willing to listen and learn from each other.
    • What information about my child Ė his/her interests, skills, talents, personality Ė do I need to share with my childís teacher?
  • Parents and teachers come to the conference table prepared to ask questions and share information that will benefit the student.
    • Have I prepared adequately for the conference? What information would I really like to learn about my child and his/her learning?
    • What questions would I like answered about my studentís learning and behavior at school?

Information for...Teachers/Caregivers and Administrators should ask...

  • Parents and teachers engage in dialogue about the studentís learning and development on a regular basis.
    • How might I promote open communication among the families, the teachers, and me about the students?

  • Parents and teachers are willing to listen and learn from each other.
    • How do I ďinviteĒ parents and teachers to on-going conversations about their children? What kind of an environment do we provide that says we welcome all parents to the conversation?
    • How knowledgeable am I about the parents and families? Do I understand and honor the culture, beliefs, and values of each?

  • Parents and teachers come to the conference table prepared to ask questions and share information that will benefit the student.
    • Teacher/Caregiver: Have I prepared adequately for the conference? Do I have a body of evidence that will enable the parents/family to know about the studentís progress? Do I have suggestions for ways that we can increase the studentís success?
    • Principal: How do I help our teachers, especially our new teachers, prepare for their parent-teacher conferences?

Now What

Information for... Parents/Families should...


Following are some considerations you as a parent may want to make as your prepare for your childís parent-teacher conference:

  • Parents and teachers engage in dialogue about the studentís learning and development on a regular basis.
    • You know your child better than anyone. Share information about your child Ė personality, friends, hobbies, talents Ė those things that will help your childís teacher know the ďwhole child.Ē
    • Stay involved! Try to visit frequently. Call when you have concerns or suggestions. Take part in school activities especially for parents and families (e.g., Back-to-School Night, book fairs, Learning for Fun Night).
    • Ask the teacher to share some home activities/discussion ideas that you can do with your student. Provide feedback to the teacher about those activities or discussions.
  • Parents and teachers are willing to listen and learn from each other.
    • Donít miss the conference. If the meeting time for the parent-teacher conference does not work with your schedule, ask for another time. The conference is important! The time can be adjusted to meet your schedule. Just ask!
    • Stay focused on your child. Donít let your own school experiences negatively impact the conference. Talk and learn about your child.
    • Assume the teacher wants to do his/her best for your child. Seek to solve any problems keeping your student from success.
    • Be open and honest. Share your frustrations and successes about your studentís learning Ė both at school and at home. Be open to suggestions. Use the conference to learn more about your child and help the teacher understand your child as well.
    • Keep an open mind and ask questions when you donít understand or you need more information.
    • Learn what your student does well. Ask specifically, ďWhat does my student do well?Ē
    • Thank the teacher for his/her efforts.

  • Parents and teachers come to the conference table prepared to ask questions and share information that will benefit the student.
    • Review your childís schoolwork often. What do you see as the major strengths and challenges with that work? Is she/he completing the work on time? With quality? This will help as you prepare for the conference.
    • Write down a couple of questions ahead of time for which you would like information about your child. Some questions you might want to consider:
      • What are my childís strengths and challenges in... (e.g., math, reading, science)?
      • Are my childís homework assignments being completed accurately? On time?
      • Is he/she meeting the schoolís expectations for learning and behavior?
      • Is my student working up to his/her ability?
      • What kinds of tests are used to determine his/her success with the learning? What do those tests tell about his/her abilities?
      • Does he/she participate in class discussions and activities?
      • How does he/she compare to others in the learning/behavior expectations?
      • Are there any special learning needs for which I need to be aware? What has been tried to improve his/her performance? Are there other special programs/assistance available to meet those needs?
      • Will you share with me specific examples of my studentís work Ė that show his/her abilities? His/her growth? His/her needs?
      • How well does my child get along with his/her peers?
      • Have you noticed any sudden changes in the way he/she acts? Any squinting? Tiredness? Moodiness?
      • What can we do at home to support what my student is learning in school?
      • What is the best way I can get in touch with you?

    • Other questions you might want to consider if your child is in middle or high school:
      • What are some ways I might help my student make the best use of his/her time?
      • What are ways that I might help my student prepare for high school? Or middle school?
      • What other courses should my student take to satisfy graduation requirements?
      • What courses would help my student prepare for post-secondary opportunities (e.g., military, college, work)?
      • As my student prepares for college/work/military, how will the school help with the application process?
      • As my student prepares for college, how can the school help me find out about financial aid?
    • Talk with your student often and especially before the conference. Discuss what he/she has learned? Find out about class activities that have helped his/her learning.
    • Arrive on time. Teachers often have tight schedules for the conferences. If you would like more time or a different time, request it in advance
    • Come prepared to discuss your child Ė and any concerns, suggestions, or ideas to benefit your studentís progress. Be sure to share the good news your student has shared about his/her learning and school.
    • After the conference, think about the outcome. Did you get the information you needed or wanted? If not, call the teacher to get the needed information.

Information for... Teachers/Caregivers should...

Consider the following suggestions as you plan for the parent/teacher conference:

  • Parents and teachers engage in dialogue about the studentís learning and development on a regular basis.
    • Donít wait for the parent-teacher conference to share important information. Phone calls, notes, and meetings outside the regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference can often benefit the studentís success at school and strengthen the parent-teacher relationship.
    • Share specific information about the studentís learning, and when possible involve the student in sharing that information.
    • Be sure to allow enough time to meet the objectives of the meeting. This may mean doubling the scheduled time.
    • Avoid the jargon of our profession; use language that everyone can understand, giving specific examples to help understanding.

  • Parents and teachers are willing to listen and learn from each other.
    • Be flexible in meeting with the parents; if they are not available for the regularly scheduled meeting time, adjust the time and even location if necessary.
    • Provide an environment that is welcoming. If possible, sit next to the parent instead of across from him/her. Use adult-size chairs. Use the parentís name. (Double check to be sure you have it correct! If you donít know how to pronounce it correctly, ask for the correct pronunciation.) Watch your body language Ė make eye contact, smile, lean toward the parent to show your interest.
    • Demonstrate respect for each parentís values, expectations, and culture. Use the conference to learn more about the studentís family Ė their culture, their beliefs, their hopes and dreams for their children.
    • Ask the parents for their ideas. Itís important to share but also to listen in order to learn about the child.

  • Parents and teachers come to the conference table prepared to ask questions and share information that will benefit the student.
    • Start with the positives! Share a story, a picture of the student working in your class, or a work sample.
    • Stay focused on the student and his/her accomplishments and needs to continue to grow in knowledge and skills.
    • Share specific items from each childís portfolio/body of evidence of learning. Focus on the studentís strengths but also identify areas of growth. Donít overwhelm the family. Provide a body of evidence that shows the studentís abilities and progress with the intended learning.
    • Encourage parents to share information.
    • Provide at-home activities when appropriate. Provide clear directions and examples to assure that the parent and student can be successful with the activity.
    • End with a positive as well! Thank the parent for his/her time and extend an invitation for on-going communication on a regular basis.
    • Take time to reflect on the conference. Did your preparation pay off? Did you use the time well? Did you stay focused on the student and his/her learning? Was the relationship with the parent strengthened? What did you learn that will help you work more effectively with the student? With the parents/family? How will you communicate with the parent/family in the near future?

Information for... Administrators should...

Consider the following suggestions as you plan for the parent/teacher conferences in your building:

    • Parents and teachers engage in dialogue about the studentís learning and development on a regular basis.
      • Encourage and expect on-going conversations among your teachers and parents/families. Phone calls, notes, and meetings outside the regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference can often benefit the studentís success at school and strengthen the parent-teacher relationship.
      • Explore the impact of student-led parent-teacher conferences.
      • Be sure to allow enough time for meaningful conferences. And schedule them at times convenient to parents and families.

    • Parents and teachers are willing to listen and learn from each other.
      • Provide an environment that is welcoming.
      • Demonstrate respect for each parentís values, expectations, and culture. Use the conferences to learn more about the studentsí families Ė their culture, their beliefs, their hopes and dreams for their children.

    • Parents and teachers come to the conference table prepared to ask questions and share information that will benefit the student.
      • Prepare the teachers for parent-teacher conferences. Encourage the mentors of new teachers to model conferencing preparation and actual conferences.
      • Provide parents information about their role in parent-teacher conferences. Encourage them to share information.
      • Take time to reflect on the conferences. Did your preparation pay off? Did your teachers use the time well? Was the focus on the students and their learning? Were the relationships with the parents and school strengthened? What did you learn that will help you and your staff work more effectively with the students? With the parents/families? How will you communicate with the parent/family in the near future?
What
So What
Now What

Essential Learnings

  1. Programs and Interventions that engage families in supporting their childrenís learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.
  2. The continuity of family involvement at home appears to have a protective effect on children as they progress through our complex education system
  3. Families of all cultural backgrounds, education, and income levels encourage their children, talk with them about school...
  4. Parent and community involvement that is linked to student learning has a great effect on achievement than more general forms of involvement...
  5. Programs that successfully connect with families and community invite involvement, are welcoming, and address specific needs of parents and community.
  6. Parent involvement programs that are effective in engaging diverse families recognize, respect, and address cultural and class differences.

Grades

unchecked checkbox Birth to 5
checked checkbox Elementary
checked checkbox Middle School
checked checkbox High School


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