Sunday, October 23, 2005

When parents don't show up

Examining attendance at parent-teacher conferences

In most districts, parent participation in conferences drops off significantly in middle school and high school. Educators in some districts report that about 85 percent of kindergarten parents signed up for the spring conferences, but only a handful of 12th-grade parents attended --mostly to discuss their kids’ college plans.

Susan Black, an education consultant, says that even when parents show up, they're not necessarily satisfied. In a study by Boston’s family literacy project, several parents said schools should make meetings longer, ensure privacy, provide options for attending during the day or in the evening, and hold conferences more than twice a year. Why do some parents, particularly those with children in the upper grades, avoid parent-teacher conferences? Rethink parent engagement at the middle school level, suggests researcher Shelly Billig.

Economic and social realities also prevent some parents from attending school conferences, according to Paul Camic of Columbia College, Chicago, and Lynda Cafasso of Concordia University in Illinois. Families affected by divorce, those headed by single parents, and two-parent families where both parents work long hours are less likely to attend conferences no matter what grade their child is in, these researchers found.

Read Black's full report in October's American School Board Journal.

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