This October, #PTchat discussed parent teacher conferences with special guest Dr. Heidi Rosenberg from Harvard Family Research Project (@HFRP). HFRP has developed a set of tip sheets for parent teacher conferences and are currently working on updating the tip sheets to work with after school programs. You can access them here.
The key takeaways from the chat were related to communication and relationships (of course!). The perfect parent teacher conference consists of two-way conversations where parents feel valued as equal partners in supporting student learning. The conference also ends with clear action steps for the parent and teacher to take that build on the student’s strengths, while addressing any challenges. Parents can prepare for the conference by reviewing their children’s homework, tests, and projects and then create a list of questions to ask the teacher about their child’s progress. Teachers should be prepared to tell parents what they can do at home to support what their children are learning at school! Teachers should create a picture of the whole child, which conveys to parents that they don’t see their child as a set or numbers or grades. Teachers can also help parents understand the role of out-of-school time learning in supporting student development.
Administrators can help facilitate effective parent teacher conferences by ensuring that teachers have access to high-quality professional development on family engagement and communication. They can also provide families with ongoing access to student data through parent portals. Administrators should also check-in with families after the conferences–through surveys, focus groups or 1-on-1 interactions–to see what went well and what could be improved.
After the conference, follow-up is critical! Teachers should send home thank you notes that reinforce the follow-up plan and any action steps that were agreed upon. Parents should do the same!
If you want more information on improving parent teacher conferences, here is a podcast on why parent teacher conferences fail and how to make them better. The archive for the #PTchat can be read here.
ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.