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 gives 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 a student’s school experience during class and how they do it regularly. 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 schoolwork their child completes in class. Again, 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 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, they may talk about long-term goals for their child. For example, some teachers may share a student’s long-term plan 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 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 requiring documented accommodations, bring a list.
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. Could you mention any accommodations you are aware of to make sure 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. Also, weather seating up front is necessary to avoid any 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 disorder or hyperactivity. It is also essential 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 essential to make a teacher aware of medication needs.
To determine student academic abilities, students are regularly assessed in different areas. Assessments determine a student’s math, reading, writing, science, and social studies abilities. Most schools administer benchmark assessments three times yearly to measure reading and mathematics progress.
The assessment results are used to inform each student’s strengths and areas of need. Teachers use the results of the assessments to inform and plan their instruction in the classroom. Goals are also set using the results of the first assessment administered at the beginning of the school year.
Student assessments are an area you should discuss during the parent-teacher conference. Teachers should be able to discuss information about different types of assessments. For instance, 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.
Ask about your child’s most recent assessment results. Consider asking specific questions:
- How did your child score in each area?
- What are some needs for your child, as noted by the assessment?
- What will the teacher do to support your child’s areas of need?
- dthey score in each area
As noted above, part of the teacher and parent discussion should focus on your child’s strengths. Strength is important to discuss because teachers may use a student’s strength to address areas of need. Ask about your child’s reading, writing, and mathematical strengths and compare what you see are their academic strengths at home.
Other non-academic strengths may include a student’s ability to stay on task, positiveness, persistence, and favorite activities. Share some areas of strengths you may be aware of about your child.
Discuss Areas of Needs
Once you’ve discussed areas of strength, you’ll most likely move on to areas of need. Academic needs can range from various necessary skills to successfully completing school tasks. Take notes about your child’s academic needs and ask how you can support them from home to help address an area of need.
Parents can support most academic needs from home. Ask the teacher what you can do from home to help your child in the areas of need. For example, if your child struggles with adding or subtracting, ask the teacher how you can practice at home to help them improve their math.
Once needs are discussed, you’ll want to hear about what the school is doing to support areas of need. Response to Intervention (RtI) is one-way schools attempt to address students’ academic needs. In a RtI system, students are grouped by areas of need to receive small group instruction regularly. For instance, if your child struggles with letter identification, they receive small group instruction.
Request information that tells you how your child is receiving additional support. Parent-teacher conferences should allow 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 parents are the first teachers at home is not just a saying. It is a fact. Inquire about how you can help from home and how to monitor best what’s happening in school. Some schools offer online account access to educational resources students can use from home. These may be applications or websites that help with reading, writing, or math. Obtain your child’s access and login information during the conference.
Inquire about homework policy and testing policy. For the 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 collaborate 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 following conference schedule as a next step when required.