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Is Someone Missing from Parent-Teacher Conferences?

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Parent-teacher conference season is upon us, which means teachers are meeting with parents about students. After attending more than two dozen such sessions myself since my two sons went through public schools, I now realize there was a slight oversight: While my husband and I would be there, not once was one of our sons in attendance.

Today, I learned from Sam Macer, president of the Maryland Foster Parent Association, that my sons should have been in the room when we were talking about them.

What a concept!

Macer, a White House Champion of Change for Education, wrote a blog for CNN in which he talks about the importance of parent engagement. The section on "parent-teacher conferences" captured my full attention.

"From kindergarten to the 12th grade, include the student in the conference. Parent-teacher conferences are an excellent opportunity to build and maintain the home-school connection and to introduce a young student to the idea that the teacher will be working closely with the family," Macer stated.

This practical piece of advice made me wonder why I had never thought of that idea, nor was it ever recommended by the teachers with whom we met. Instead, I eagerly absorbed information about my sons' performance and behavior in the classroom, then filtered how I reported that to my sons at home—delivering the update in a way I thought they would be most receptive to. While what I learned informed my approach to monitoring their work and offering support or help, it did nothing to show them unequivocally that "your teacher is teaming up with your parents to help and guide you." They also knew that parent-teacher conferences happen once a year. What conclusions they drew from that, I do not know.

However, Macer has a suggestion for that last point: "Request a parent-teacher conference each quarter." Continuity! Another great concept.

I appreciate all of Macer's parent-teacher meeting advice for parents. Here are more excerpts from his CNN blog:


  • Make certain to engage the student in the conference dialogue.

  • To be better prepared, create a list of pre-conference questions and submit them to the teacher three to four days prior to the meeting.

  • Identify areas in need of improvement.

  • Create a short-term improvement plan before the conference is over; set goals and determine follow-up efforts.

Thank you, Mr. Macer, for sharing such practical advice. Now, Education Week readers, what do you think about this? Is it practical to include students in these conferences? Is it advisable?

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