Sharing Expectations at Parent-Teacher Conferences

by Tricia Ebner

Parent-teacher conferences are going to begin within the next few weeks. These are an excellent opportunity to talk with parents about student progress, and it’s important to move that conversation beyond letter grades and report cards. A conference is a great time to talk with parents about how students are progressing on the standards.

One of the challenges teachers face in the classroom is how best to discuss student progress on the standards for the grade level and content area. Many of our students’ parents grew up in an era where the education standards were not the same as they are today, so it is not unusual for parents to have questions and concerns about the standards. Math teachers tend to hear these kinds of concerns frequently, but they are also expressed in other content areas.

Spending a bit of time preparing for the kinds of questions or concerns parents might express about student progress on grade-level expectations can be very helpful. There are some great resources available like these offered by Ohio Department of Education and PTA to help parents better understand what the standards are and how parents can support their children’s learning.

It also helps parents to have examples of student work as a reference point. For example, if a child’s writing performance is below expectations for a grade level, having an example of what on-level writing looks like can help a parent better understand the concerns. It’s not enough to show the comparison, though. As educators, we need to share what we’re doing in the classroom to address our concerns. We also need to invite parents to support their children’s learning by sharing strategies and resources they can use at home. Some of my son’s teachers have had a page of suggested resources, with their recommendations for my son’s particular learning needs highlighted, ready at our conferences. As a parent, I’ve appreciated receiving a page of great resource ideas, and it’s really helpful to know which ones they recommend for my son and his specific strengths and needs.

Today’s expectations are different from what our students’ parents remember from their own school years. By taking time to prepare resources and help parents better understand what the standards look like in student work, we can foster a clearer view of our standards and how they benefit our students. Using clear, effective examples and communication with parents is reassuring, encouraging, and helps build the teamwork we need to help our students grow and succeed. 

If you’re looking for a good source of sample student writing to share with parents, try the Achieve the Core site, which highlights a project called “In Common” and provides samples of student writing. You might also want to look at the Spring 2016 released scoring guides for Ohio’s assessments, which feature some released test items.