Involving Students in Parent-Teacher Conferences
A third-grade teacher explains how she keeps the focus on student learning rather than scores, scores, and scores.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
During fall conferences, parents are eager to hear how their child is performing. This is when I discuss with them the results of the California state test, which their child took at the end of the previous year. We also review the collection of their current district MAP scores (Measurement of Academic Progress), strategies for areas of weaknesses, and strengths. I feel that the discussion of such significant information should involve the person most directly impacted by the data: the student.
Students Take the Lead
I require each student to participate in a half-hour student-led conference. One week prior to his or her conference, I meet individually with the student to discuss the MAP and California state test scores. During our discussion, a student chooses an area of focus within reading, language arts, and math. Then he or she reflects on the scores, and together we identify areas of improvement and possible strategies that will help the student reach those goals. These are documented on the student goal organizer (PDF).
On the day of the conference, I open the discussion by having students inform their parents of their scores (10 min). The majority of the conference (20 min) is then used to share areas of strength, areas of improvement, and the strategies we discussed to lead them toward a successful year.
Parents as Partners
The conference is also a time for me to emphasize the parents' role in their child's education. I discuss strategies that can be implemented immediately at home to help students be successful. What I call "No Excuses Student and Parent Goals" are recorded on the conference worksheet (PDF) and given to parents to refer to all year. Some possible goals are:
- Ensure child is reading at least half an hour each night.
- Ask daily questions about what the child is reading.
- Provide a variety of reading material: books, comics, kids' magazines, newspaper, the Internet.
- Provide computer games geared to improve reading comprehension.
- Encourage child to read signs, menus, advertisements when in public
- Write letters to family members.
- Use email to communicate with friends, family, and teacher.
- Keep a journal of what is happening in school.
- Write postcards to friends and family when on vacation.
- Create a dialogue book where parents and children communicate through journaling.
- Write a monthly family newsletter.
- Write a review on a movie.
- When traveling in the car, play a CD of songs reinforcing math facts.
- Carry flash cards to practice during down time between sports practice or after-school activities.
- Whenever possible have students give cashier money and receive change.
- Have the child wear a watch (not digital) and reinforce time identification, a.m. versus p.m., or elapsed time.
- Use a calculator to help estimate the amount of groceries being purchased.
- Create weekly graphs of temperature, sunset, sunrise; record averages.
At the end of a conference, I provide information for parents to carry home with them:
- Our district's guide to interpreting MAP scores
- A sheet of resources that includes a list of Web links for all subjects
- No Excuses Student/Parent Goals sheet
- A "receipt" of their commitment as a volunteer for field trips they sign up for
How you present your information can vary according to your resources and style. Rather than handing out loose papers, for example, you might create a parent-friendly brochure that has all the information. I've experimented with several approaches. However I present the information, though, I try to be patient and understanding. It is a true partnership between home and school that ensures a child's academic success.
Examples of Student Goal Planning With Test Data
Math (Grades 2–3) (PDF)
Math (Grades 4–5) (PDF)
Reading (Grades 2–3) (PDF)
Reading (Grades 4–5) (PDF)