SEDL Helps Parents Prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences

October 1, 2003
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

The first six weeks of school have ended. As a parent, you anxiously await the arrival of your child's report card, and instead, you get a notice requesting that you attend a parent-teacher conference.

As part of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory's (SEDL's) ongoing effort to help parents become meaningfully engaged in their children's learning, SEDL offers tips for parents on how to prepare for and participate in a parent-teacher conference.

Parent-teacher conferences often create concern for parents, especially when the conference ends up being a session where parents spend most of the time listening to reports about their child's conduct and class work.

"Although it is a perfect opportunity to have a two-way dialogue between the parent and teacher, quite often a conference becomes a one-way discussion, and a tense one at that," says Fred Estrello, Parent Involvement Programs Specialist for the Austin Independent School District's Family Resource Center.

Parents, as well as teachers, can benefit from preparing for the meeting. Parents can write questions about their child's learning experiences such as:

  • What skills and knowledge will my child be expected to master this year, especially in key subjects such as reading, mathematics, science, history and English?
  • How will my child be evaluated? What kind of information do you use to evaluate students and how are grades determined in your classroom?
  • What can I do at home to complement what is happening in the classroom? How can I support teachers' efforts in implementing higher academic standards?
  • How do you accommodate differences in learning? What if my child is a slow learner and falls behind, or is a fast learner and is bored?

Many times, however, parents will be asked to attend a conference because there are issues about their child's performance that must be addressed. Parents can then work with teachers to resolve these issues. Specifically, as a parent you can:

Identify what will help. Ask the teacher what strategies have been used to address the issue. Together, the parent and teacher can devise an effective solution to the learning problem.

Make a plan. Ask the teacher what you can specifically do to help the child at home. With the teacher, list three or four concrete actions you and your child can do every day.

Schedule a follow-up conference. It is always a good idea to plan a follow-up meeting and check on how the plan and targeted strategies are working. Generally, three or four weeks is enough time between meetings to allow for progress. Waiting until the next reporting period may be counterproductive.

Other things to keep in mind include being on time for your meeting and not going over the amount of time that has been set aside, usually about 40 minutes. Try to select a meeting time that is good for you and the teacher, especially if you are a working parent and cannot meet during regular hours. And if your spouse can't attend the conference with you, ask for his or her concerns and questions. Finally, ask your child's school for support, or consult a parent liaison or specialist for special accommodations such as interpreter services.

SEDL is a nonprofit education research and development organization that you can turn to as a source of information about research and practice in family involvement; school improvement; improving teaching in reading, language, mathematics, and science; integrating technology into teaching and learning; and connecting disability research with practice. SEDL also operates The National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, which is online at

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About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit