Parent-Teacher Conferences — Tips for Communicating Student Progress

By Michelle Sullenberger on October 13, 2011
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

We may only be several weeks into the school year, but it is time to think about the most important tool for conveying student progress to parents, the parent-teacher conference.  Parent-teacher conferences provide a current assessment of the student’s progress. Planning the before, during, and after components of the conference will ensure that everyone with a vested interest in the student’s progress has ample discussion opportunities. Here’s a list of tips to maximize your upcoming conferences.



Before the Parent-Teacher Conference


  • Regular communication with parents prior to the conference date is critical for a successful conference. Examples of regular communication include monthly newsletters highlighting learning objectives, corrected student work folders, take-home reading assignments, math assignments, and writing samples. The parent-teacher conference is a time for both teacher and parent to discuss the issues that are most important to the student’s progress. 
  • Allow adequate time to foster conversations and to eliminate the feeling of being rushed. Insert a break after every third or fourth conference to provide a buffer for any conferences that run over the time limit. Have a warm and inviting waiting area for the parents. Parents love to look through student-made books, writing projects, or photos. Two weeks prior to the conference dates, I send out conference reminders.
  • Compile samples of students' work to illustrate the academic growth of each child. Visual representations are the easiest way to show parents their child’s progress. I include the student’s writing journal, word study journal, most recent guided reading book, and my folder with assessment information. I organize this material ahead of time on the student’s desk or in a basket to be ready for those back-to-back conferences. I keep the work samples for future reference to illustrate cumulative growth.
  • Plan observations and comments in advance. Prepare a one-page parent-teacher conference summary form for each student that highlights key discussion points for the conference and allows you to summarize the conference; record parent comments, questions, or concerns; and document any necessary follow-up items.


During the Parent-Teacher Conference


  • Welcome the parents to the conference.
  • Present positive observations and student strengths at the beginning of the conference. Present the student work samples showing academic growth and progress to support your comments. To encourage a dialogue between you and the parents, ask them to share what academic growth they have noticed in their child.
  • State goals and instructional plans. Illustrate your observations with well-chosen work samples from the student’s portfolio. I find it helpful to have reading materials and writing anchor papers from a variety of levels available to illustrate goals and benchmarks. Do not feel the need to comment on every objective. While reviewing the student’s work samples, choose one or two areas for attainable growth. 
  • Communicate improvement areas in a positive mannerusing phrases such as “If there could be one area of improvement, we should focus on . . . ” or “I believe he/she has the potential to do even better in reading, and here are ideas we could use to help him/her find success.”

  • If necessary, develop plans of action that incorporate the parents’ input and address their concerns.
  • Allow enough time throughout the conference for the parents to communicate any questions, concerns, or comments they may have. At the end of the conference, thank them for discussing their child’s progress with you.


After the Conference


  • Review your summary forms to ensure that any comments, plans, and parent concerns have been recorded.
  • Follow through with any action plans and maintain appropriate follow-up communication with the parents.
  • Share learning activities that parents can utilize at home with their children.


Be sure to check out these Scholastic Resources to assist you in organizing and preparing for your parent-teacher conferences.




Do you have any successful parent-teacher conference techniques or tips? Feel free to share them.



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