A guide about the most important items to focus on during parent-teacher conferences
Parent-teacher conferences are an important part of education. In most school districts, the first parent-teacher conferences begin sometime in October. Conferences allow teachers and parents to discuss a student’s educational strengths and needs.
Most teachers prepare for this meeting by collecting student schoolwork samples and assessment results to share with parents. A conference provides parents an overview of how their child is doing in class, academic expectations, and long-term goals.
In Class Progress
A discussion during a conference begins with in-class progress. Teachers share what a student’s school experience is like during class and how students do on a regular basis. This may include behavior information and peer relations.
In-class work also discusses student work samples. At this point, parents may get a glimpse of the school work their child completes in class. This is a great time to see what your child’s school day is like. In most cases, teachers will use concrete examples at this time.
This conversation will focus on academic progress. For instance, a teacher might then share your child’s grade-level expectations in English language arts, math, science, and social studies. Academic expectations may also include some reference to your child’s strengths or weakest subjects. This is often what’s shown on a student report card.
Once a teacher discusses academic expectations he/she may proceed to talk about long-term goals for your child. Some teachers may share a student’s long-term goal to get their parent’s input and support to reach such a goal. A goal may relate to the areas discussed during in-class progress or academic expectations. Some examples may include improving social relationships with classmates or improving in a specific subject area such as math or science.
As a parent, this is the perfect time to share and address any special needs or concerns that may impact your child’s academic environment. Including specific accommodations that may be necessary. If your child has learning difficulties that require documented accommodations make sure to bring a list with you.
Some students may have an individual education plan that provides specific accommodations in the learning environment. This may include reading aloud or extended testing time. Mention any accommodations you are aware of to ensure these are implemented in the classroom.
Some information to discuss in parent-teacher conferences may include your child’s medical needs. For example, this is a great time to share that your child wears eyeglasses during reading time. Additionally, weather seating up front is necessary to avoid distractions. This may also include behavior concerns that have happened in the past that may deem necessary to share or discuss.
Consider mentioning any disorder such as Attention deficit disorders or hyperactivity. It is also important to discuss any medical advice from your family doctor that may affect your child’s performance in school. Medication may be a topic to discuss with the school nurse, but it is also important to make a teacher aware of medication needs.
Before parent conferences, enough testing and classwork are available for teachers to have an idea of where your child stands. Student assessment sometimes begins in the first week of school. To determine student academic abilities students are assessed in different areas. Some assessments determine growth targets that are assigned based on the student’s assessment results. Ask how your child scored in those assessments and what their growth target may be.
Depending on the conference time you might be able to get information about different types of assessments. Benchmark tests are student assessments done throughout the school year while standardized testing is state-level tests usually administered at the end of the school year. Ask about any testing results that may be available.
Part of the teacher and parent discussion should focus on your child’s strengths. Strength is an important area to discuss because we can use strength to address areas of need. Inquire about your child’s reading, writing, and mathematical strengths to compare what you see are his/her academic strengths at home. Other non-academic strengths may include a student’s ability to stay on task, positiveness, persistence, and favorite activities.
Discuss Areas of Needs
Once you’ve discussed areas of strengths you’ll most likely move on to areas of needs. Academic needs can range from a wide variety of necessary skills to successfully complete school tasks. Take notes about the academic needs your child may have and ask how you can support from home to help address an area of need.
Parents can support most academic needs from home. Ask the teacher what exactly you can do from home to help your child in the areas of need. If your child is struggling in adding or subtracting, ask the teacher how you can practice at home to help him/her improve their math.
Once needs are discussed you’ll want to hear about what the school is doing to support areas of needs. Response to Intervention (RtI) is one-way schools are attempting to address student’s academic needs. In a RtI system, students are grouped by areas of need to receive small group instruction on a regular basis. For instance, if your child struggles with letter identification, he/she receives small group instruction in letter identification.
Request information that tells you how your child is receiving additional support. Parent-teacher conferences should allow for you to inquire about these educational needs. This information will also give you an idea of what to focus on at home.
Help from Home
The saying that states that parents are the first teachers at home are not just a saying it is a fact. Inquire about how you can help from home and how to best monitor what’s happening in school. Some schools offer online account access to educational resources that students can use from home. These may be applications or websites that help in reading, writing, or math. Obtain your child’s access and login information during the conference.
Inquire about homework policy and testing policy. For upper-grade level, ask if grades are posted online for you to monitor progress in class. Obtain account access to Schoology or a home access account if necessary. Some teachers post grades more often when they know parents are checking and interested in their child’s progress. Make frequent checks of grading part of your action plan.
Parent-teacher conferences allow teachers and parents to connect and work together to support a child’s education. Encourage your child to do their best and keep communications open with the classroom teachers to intervene as necessary. Inquire about the next conference schedule as a next step when necessary.