Kids and teens do better in school when parents are involved in their academic lives. Attending parent-teacher conferences is a way to be involved and help your child succeed.
A parent-teacher conference is a great opportunity to:
start or continue ongoing conversations with your child's teacher
learn how to help your kids do their best in school
let your child know that what goes on in school will be shared at home
Parent-teacher conferences usually happen once or twice a year at progress reporting periods. They are brief meetings, only lasting about 10-30 minutes. Conferences are typically scheduled 1 to 2 months in advance. Most schools set aside specific dates and times for conferences, but if they conflict with your schedule, try to find a mutually convenient time. Otherwise, ask your child's teacher if you can schedule a phone conference instead. If necessary, divorced parents can ask a teacher to schedule separate conferences.
Other school staff who support your child's learning may attend the conference, too. An administrator might attend at the request of the parent or teacher if a problem or special need cannot be resolved by the teacher. In some cases, the student will also be asked to attend, but parents can ask for private time with the teacher as well.
Conferences focus on learning, although your child's behavioral and social development also might be discussed. You will probably hear feedback about your child's progress and areas of need. Other topics of discussion might include standardized test results, individualized education plans (IEP), and 504 education plans.
Some parents may have been tracking their child's schoolwork and progress all along, and already know what issues are most important to discuss with the teacher. Some may have been talking with teachers at IEP or 504 plan meetings. For those parents, the conference is an opportunity to update each other on how the student is progressing. Other parents may be talking with the teacher for the first time.
Whether it's your first conversation with the teacher or one of many, it can help if you go to the parent-teacher conference with a sense of how your child is doing and what you want to discuss. Even if you know all is well, attending parent-teacher conferences shows your kids that you want to stay involved in their academic life, which can even help boost progress at school.
These tips will help you make the most of those important minutes at parent-teacher conferences:
In the weeks ahead of a conference, check in with your child about how he or she is doing on homework and in each subject. Review any recent projects, tests, quizzes, report cards, or progress reports.
Ask if there are questions or issues your child wants you to discuss with the teacher.
Plan to bring something to take notes with (paper and pen or a laptop or other device).
Write down a few things to share with the teacher — your child's interests, aspirations, favorite subjects — to help the teacher know your child better.
Write down questions or topics you'd like the conference to cover. Depending on your situation, you may want to ask about:
whether your child is meeting grade-level academic expectations (not how he or she compares with peers)
if your child is not meeting expectations or is consistently exceeding them (you can request additional testing to diagnose any special needs)
what the teacher sees as your child's strengths and challenges and how these are being addressed
services to help your child grow as a learner
making a plan in which the teacher checks in with you regularly if there is a behavior problem
your child's work habits, independently and in large- and small-group instruction
how your child gets along with other students in class and during lunch, recess, phys-ed, and other classes
If any school-related problems arise with your child, contact the teacher or other school staff via phone or email. Don't wait for the conference to address any serious issues.