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Chicago: Giving $25 Card to Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences

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How much is it worth to get parents to attend the parent-teacher conferences where they pick up their child's report cards?

At 70 Chicago public schools with low parent-involvement scores, it's now worth a $25 "Balance Rewards" card at Walgreen's.

On Oct. 30, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Walgreen Co. CEO Greg Wasson announced a new public-private partnership that "creates a pilot incentive program aimed at encouraging parents to become more involved in their schools and part of new efforts CPS is undertaking to better engage parents across the district," the city's release stated.

Emanuel explained that this idea came to him during a workout, the Sun-Times reported.

It remains to be seen whether $25 at Walgreen's is sufficient incentive to get parents to attend these conferences. But it's not the first time incentives have been used to increase participation. Sometimes, schools enlist children to give their parents a push by promising the kids a reward.

At the Brenda Scott Academy, a Detroit public school, staff came up with a creative way to entice parents to attend. They set up a "Trick or Trunk" party for the 4 p.m. conferences in October, and students could get a ticket to gather treats from the faculty's decorated car trunks only after parents attended a conference, according to a blog post by Jennifer Mrozowski, executive director of communications, the Detroit Public Schools. The result? A turnout of nearly 75 percent—some 635 parents.

Another approach to increasing parent-teacher conference compliance comes from the National Education Association (NEA), where a high school teacher reported great success with her practice of giving her students' a "free pass" on an assignment if their parents attend the conference. She said kids begged their parents to go, and the many assignments in the class meant missing one would not materially affect a student's grade.

What do you think of giving parents incentives to attend parent-teacher conferences? Can you share any approach that works in your area?

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