“The most accurate predictors of student achievement in school are not family income or social status, but the extent to which the family creates a home environment that encourages learning, communicates high yet reasonable expectations for the child’s achievement, and becomes involved in the child’s education at school.”
National PTA, 2000
Parent-teacher conferences can make parents and kids (and teachers!) feel anxious, but it helps when we feel prepared. Like all good conversations, parent-teacher conferences are best when both people talk and listen. This meeting is the time for you to find out about your child's progress in school and ask their teacher to show you information about your child's attendance, grades and test results. And to find out if your child is meeting school expectations and academic standards. This is also time for the teacher to find out how your child is at home. When you tell the teacher about your child's abilities, interests, needs, and dreams, the teacher can help your child more.
Here are some ideas to help you prepare for your next parent-teacher conference.
Main points for a successful meeting
- Keep the emphasis on learning.
- Review samples of your child’s work.
- Listen carefully and take notes.
- Ask questions.
- Respect the conversation, stay calm.
- Follow up if an action was decided upon.
Remember, your child absolutely deserves to receive the attention, commitment and support they need to be successful in school. And the parent-teacher conference is one valuable way you can ensure this is happening.
Before the meeting
- If you cannot attend the meeting on the day and time that it's scheduled, inform the teacher and request to reschedule.
- Talk to your child about how they feel at school and how they think school is going.
- Ask your child to share with you what they want to accomplish this school year.
- If possible, set some learning goals together that you can share with their teacher.
- Review homework, tests and grades (if you have them).
- You will likely receive both positive feedback on your child's progress and feedback on areas that need improvement. Be prepared to ask questions about ways you and the teacher can help your child with some of their challenges.
- If needed, request an interpreter beforehand; your child should not act as interpreter during the meeting.
- Make a list of questions based on how your child is doing at school (see below for some sample questions).
- If possible, send a note to the teacher with your questions ahead of time so they can prepare as well.
During the meeting
- Thank the teacher for meeting with you.
- Ask about your child’s academic development.
- Ask for evaluations and samples of your child’s work.
- Ask for ideas on how to help your child at home.
- Ask for explanations of anything you do not understand.
- Ask the teacher how they will contribute to your child’s success.
- Respectfully discuss differences of opinion.
- Pay attention to the teacher’s comments and take notes on what is said and planned.
- In many cases we do not have the precise words to respond to the teacher’s comments in the moment. It is fine to "sleep on it" or get a second opinion before making decisions/agreements.
- Focus your comments on academics. If your child engages in behaviors that are affecting their learning or achievement, ask the teacher for a different meeting to discuss.
- Ask that the school notify you as soon as possible about any inappropriate behaviors. It is important to your child’s future that you take action immediately.
- Likewise, ask the teacher not to wait until the parent-teacher conference to tell you about your child's performance.
After the meeting
- Reflect on what topics were reviewed and what topics need a follow-up.
- Make a plan to follow up on what you and the teacher agreed upon to help your child be successful in class.
- Set a date to meet with the teacher again and keep in touch with the teacher.
- Talk with your child.
- Start working on an action plan or family agreement.
- Learn more about the education system, the school curriculum, and the tests your child must take (the library can help!).
Possible questions for parent-teacher conferences
1. How is my child doing in your class? What are their grades?
2. Is my child attending a special class, program or group? Why? What is the purpose of having my student there?
3. Is my child on grade level for reading? What about math, science and writing? Do you have any recommendations for my student to improve their learning? (Note: If tutoring is mentioned, please check out our post on free tutoring resources.)
4. What do you suggest we do if we are at home and my student gets “stuck” on homework?
5. What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?
6. How do you measure academic progress?
7. Has my child failed to return any homework or project?
8. Does my child participate and express their opinions in class?
9. Overall, do you have any concerns about my child’s academic progress?
10. What are the best school or district resources that we should consider using as a family to support our child in the classroom?
11. What can I do to help you and my child?
12. What is the best way for me to reach you?