Conferences: Not Just for Parents Anymore

By Liana Loewus — December 30, 2008 1 min read
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Elementary and middle schools nationwide are putting a new spin on parent-teacher conferences by asking students to lead them, according to the New York Times.

In many schools, this non-traditional model has proved beneficial. At Tefft Middle School in Streamwood, Ill., only 75 parents attended conferences five years ago, compared with 525 parents attending the student-led conferences this year. Mark Heller, principal at Plano Middle School in Plano, Ill., garnered an 82 percent attendance rate by using the new model and providing parents with flexible meeting times.

For parents who recently immigrated to the U.S., having students attend conferences can make the process more comfortable. Some schools have also opened conferences to grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and even family friends.

Overall, parents, teachers, and students have shown support for the change. John Osgood, principal at C. L. Jones Middle School in Minden, Neb., recalls attending the old-style conferences for his own children. “We’d get back home, and try to talk to our kids about something we heard, and it would end up with me getting angry and yelling, and the kids telling me what I heard wasn’t true. It always turned into, ‘Who’s the liar here?’ ”

One parent at Tefft was pleased that the conference gave her 7th grader a heightened sense of accountability. “My daughter is learning that the teacher is not responsible for her learning. [She] knows that she is responsible for her own success.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.