April 11, 2017
Analyst: Derek Kulnis
New York City is taking a new approach to parent-teacher conferences. Some of the changes include having longer conferences, and including students as participants, so that they could accurately communicate both their strengths and weaknesses to parents and teachers in the same forum.
Jessica Glazer in Chalkbeat New York explains that “longer conferences would be made possible by the new contract, which says 40 minutes of teachers’ time after school on Tuesdays should be set aside for parent engagement activities likein-person meetings, phone calls or emails home, or parent newsletters.The contract also requires 80 minutes on Mondays to be spent onin-school teacher training.”
New York is also opening up conferences to be more diverse in the ways in which information is communicated to parents. Alex Zimmerman describes how a number of schools are switching from a model where parents have a quick meet-and-greet with their teachers towards one in which teachers model for parents how they teach their children so that parents can help support their instruction at home.
Zimmerman explains that the program is known as Academic Parent Teacher Teams, and that it is “an idea developed by a company called WestEd, the approach focuses on teaching groups of parents to engage their children academically, and encourages them to talk about how their students are performing as a group — not just individually.”
He also states that “roughly 500 schools in 22 states have used a version of the model, according to WestEd. Eighteen New York City schools are currently piloting it.”
At West Prep Academy Middle School, this translates into “three separate 75-minute sessions evenly spaced throughout the school year, typically ledby one or more of their student’s teachers. They are given a chance to get to know each other, learn specific methods for talking with their children about schoolwork, and review their children’s progress on math and reading tests together.”
Zimmerman notes that these forums do not replace traditional one-to-one meetings between parents and teachers, and that at West Prep analysis of student work “parents do get a chance to review their own child’s progress, only it’s in the company of a dozen or so peers.”
The program can be difficult to manage well for teachers, who must decide what information to share with parents. They must also attempt to distill their teaching into fifteen minute power-point presentations, and structure the time so that parents have time to socialize with each other and brainstorm strategies for helping their children.
The city anticipates that six more schools will begin using the APTT strategy in the fall, according to Daniel Wolf, a former teacher who works under the city’s Middle School Quality Initiative, which has helped implement APTT.
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