Add Students to Parent-Teacher Conferences

USA TODAY, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Add Students to Parent-Teacher Conferences


Students should take an active part in parent-teacher conferences, says Marilyn Haring, dean of the School of Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. "Although these meetings frequently are called `parent-teacher' conferences, the student should be involved in part or all of the event--not just present, but as a participant. By the time a child reaches the third or fourth grade, she's going to be able not only to contribute, but also to benefit from an open discussion of her academic progress."

Haring goes a step further to assert that, by the time students reach middle school, they should not just attend the parent-teacher conference--they should direct it. "It's very paternalistic to assume that teachers and parents are all-knowing when it comes to a specific student's abilities and expectations. Including students in the process gives them a voice and encourages them to accept more personal responsibility for their academic performance.

"The research indicates that everyone wins. The dialogue between parents and teachers tends to improve, as does the level of communication between parents and their child. Plus, the student gains self-confidence and personal satisfaction by being directly involved in the process."

Nevertheless, many schools have not embraced the practice, resulting in wide variation from state to state, district to district, and even from school to school within the same district. Why have most American schools been so slow to adopt the student-led model? "Change is always hard, even when it's for the best," Haring explains. "The largest obstacle for many schools is scheduling, because this type of conference doesn't fit very well into the 15-minute block that's usually reserved for parent-teacher conferences. …

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