Rethinking the parent-teacher conference: Meeting more often, working as a team

The conferences most parents had with their children’s teachers this school year probably went something like this: They occurred twice, in the fall and spring. Many parents failed to show up. Those who did asked whether their children were behaving and passing. After 15 minutes, the meeting was over.

But there’s a growing movement in the nation’s schools to overhaul parent-teacher conferences.

In hundreds of schools in the District and elsewhere, these conferences look drastically different as educators seek to build stronger relationships with parents and equip families with tools to reinforce classroom concepts at home. Teachers and parents meet in a large group setting at least three times a year, sometimes with students present. They discuss how students are performing on key measures such as reading comprehension and mastery of math concepts. Parents leave the meetings with games and other activities they can use at home to reinforce classroom learning.

“The traditional parent-teacher conference is isolationist,” said Maria Paredes, a former teacher who created a model in 2012 known as Academic Parent-Teacher Teams, or APTT. “It is me and the teacher, maybe my child, and I don’t hear about anyone else in the class.”

Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Northwest Washington uses APTT for all ­classes. Parents and teachers met in October, February and June as a group for an hour. Those conferences have replaced the traditional one-on-one meetings familiar to the vast majority of families elsewhere.

Paredes, who works for the WestEd nonprofit education group, estimates that 600 schools, like Tubman, have adopted this model in 22 states, including Georgia, Arizona and Texas….

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