Communicating student progress to parents more effectively

Report cards and parent teacher conference:

We all know the point of report cards is to communicate to parents the amount and quality of progress their students have made throughout a set time period. But do they do that effectively? Do students and/or parents understand the difference in progress between a B and a C letter grade? Did the student forget to carry numbers on a few problems on a test and get a low score on that test or is it because the student still doesn’t understand how to carry numbers? Parents often report that they have a much better understanding of how their students are performing after parent teacher conferences because teachers are able to convey to parents actual information that students are working on, understanding, or not understanding. We all know students are generally not able to give parents a good understanding of the concepts that are being covered in class but parents get this information when they attend these conferences.

We all know that parents are more likely to attend parent teacher conferences of students in the primary grades and attendance diminishes as students enter into higher levels of secondary schooling. Because of this it is vital that we seize the opportunity to give parents more information about their student’s progress during this time. If we combine this with the fact that students who are successful at the primary grades are more likely to be successful in secondary grades it becomes even more important that we give parents as much information as possible, and simple letter grades on report cards don’t seem to be sufficient.

My question is: Should we increase the number of parent teacher conferences during the school year from two to at least four, at least in grades k-8 where parent attendance tends to be much higher? Typically we have one first semester and one second semester but we have report cards sent out every nine weeks. There also seems to be a trend of schools scrapping these conferences during the second semester. If parents are truly going to understand their students progress shouldn’t we as an institution of learning give parents the opportunity to get more frequent updates on their students progress? I will even go as far as saying that there should be a conference at the end of the year to give parents an update of potential problem areas for their students as they enter into the next school year. These would be more important as students move from elementary to intermediate/middle school and from middle school to high school.

 While this idea will certainly be met with some criticism; what about those parents who rarely, if ever, attend their students conferences, or the added time this would eat up for already over worked teachers, etc. My response to this would be that in the long run we should be working to give our students and their parents the greatest access to high quality information about student progress. By doing this more parents will better understand their students actual progress in school and this will lead to better parent support at home which will help schools in the long run.

I welcome any feedback that can be provided.


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