Three Tough Types of Student Conferences

October 2013, Volume 37, Issue 2

Part of an educator’s job is to help families and students through challenges, which can often involve tough conversations. When dealing with these three types of conferences—attendance conferences, college- and career-readiness conferences, and retention conferences—keep these strategies in mind.

Attendance Conferences

Goal: To devise an attendance action plan.

When a student is missing an excessive number of school days, Tracey Severns, principal of Mount Olive Middle School in Budd Lake, New Jersey, calls an attendance conference. This is a meeting between the student, parents, and the principal.

“For very reluctant learners, the student, parents, guidance counselor, and principal meet to develop an individualized contract for success, designed to help the student succeed by articulating explicit responsibilities for teachers, the parent, and the student,” writes Severns in “Eliminating the D” (Principal, March/April 2012). “[W]e shortened the timelines that result in administrative action, require parents and students to participate in attendance conferences that culminate in an attendance action plan, and use a system of incentives and consequences to encourage students to report to school daily and on time.”

Read more about her approach here.

College- and Career-Readiness Conferences

Goal: To help parents understand data and readiness indicators.

In fall 2010, the Howard County, Maryland, public school system developed college- and career-readiness indicators starting in pre-K and extending through high school. To build awareness of these new indicators, the school system developed print materials and schools planned parent meetings that focused on rigor, relationships, and relevance.

“To help parents understand the relevance, information was personalized for each student so that a parent could see where his or her own child was in relation to the established indicators,” write a team of three Maryland principals in, “Partnering Early for Future Success” (Principal, Sept./Oct. 2011). “The format of the parent meetings was structured, yet warm, and conducive to engagement. The evening began by eliciting parents’ hopes and dreams for their children’s future. Teachers also shared academic expectations of grade-level performance and specific information on the transition from primary to intermediate grades.”

Read more about college- and career-readiness conferences here.

Retention Conferences

Goal: To make sure retaining a student is the best plan.

Teachers should have face-to-face conversations with parents of students who they are considering for retention, says Brett Range, a former principal and assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

“The point of these conferences is threefold. First, keep parents informed. Second, explain to parents exactly what skills and concepts the child is struggling to grasp. Moreover, ensure that teachers also provide parents with positive information. Retention conferences should not be used by teachers to berate parents with an endless list of student weaknesses, writes Range in “Retention Has No Place in America’s Schools” (Principal, Sept./Oct. 2011). “Finally, brainstorm with parents the possible interventions. Whether it is summer school or additional one-on-one tutoring, schools need to show that they are taking responsibility for the child’s learning. Among other things, professional learning communities have taught practitioners to ask themselves: What do I expect students to know and what am I prepared to do about it if they don’t learn?”

Read more about retention conferences and strategies here.

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