In the News: Rethinking the Parent-Teacher Conference
“There’s a growing movement in the nation’s schools to overhaul parent-teacher conferences,” writes Alejandra Matos in the Washington Post.
In hundreds of schools in the District and elsewhere, these conferences look drastically different as educators seek to build stronger relationships with parents and equip families with tools to reinforce classroom concepts at home. Teachers and parents meet in a large group setting at least three times a year, sometimes with students present. They discuss how students are performing on key measures such as reading comprehension and mastery of math concepts. Parents leave the meetings with games and other activities they can use at home to reinforce classroom learning.
About 600 schools in 22 states are trying this new model. At some schools, the new model of parent-teacher engagement starts with a visit by the teacher to the student’s home.
Last summer, June Kronholz wrote about “Teacher Home Visits” for Education Next.
Volumes of research suggest that one key to a child’s academic success is having “engaged” parents. But parents know that, to teachers, engagement means a fairly circumscribed round of activities—back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, potlucks, interactive homework. “I had expectations of what the parents were supposed to do,” says Melissa Bryant, a math teacher and dean of students at D.C. Scholars Stanton Elementary, a novel partnership between the Washington, D.C., public schools and Scholar Academies, a charter operator. “I never heard what they wanted me to do.”
“No one ever asked me my goals,” adds Katrina Branch, who is raising six children in D.C., including the four children of her murdered sister. I met Branch at D.C.’s family-funded Flamboyan Foundation, which trains—and pays—teachers to visit their students’ homes as part of a strategy to use better relations between schools and families as a means to improving academic achievement.
“Teachers are the experts in pedagogy, but families are one hundred percent the experts in their children,” says Kristin Ehrgood, a Teach for America veteran who launched Flamboyan with her husband in 2008 to focus on family engagement, a slice of the education-reform pie she decided wasn’t drawing enough attention. “We need one another.”
— Education Next