An increasing number of schools are transforming parent-teacher conferences and other family events into learning-centered team meetings — an approach which also builds community among families and school staff.
Wisconsin is one of several states to implement academic parent-teacher teams (APTT). And, this year 10 elementary and middle Title I Focus schools are serving as APTT statewide demonstration schools in a Department of Public Instruction pilot program.
These schools, in addition to holding one 30-minute, individual parent-teacher conference in the fall, hold three 75-minute classroom parent meetings throughout the year. Other family events not connected to learning, such as ice cream socials, are typically eliminated to make time for these parent-teacher interactions that are focused around student achievement.
At the APTT meetings:
- Teachers share anonymous data about student learning in one or two grade-level reading or math skills that the classroom needs to improve on. This data is the entrée to engaging parents as members of the education team.
- Teachers show parents strategies they can use at home to improve identified skills.
- Parents then write a 60-day “SMART” goal outlining how they and the child will work together to improve the skill. “SMART” goals are defined as “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound.”
A key component of the APTT approach is to keep the mood — of both the meetings and the parents’ subsequent work with their children — lighthearted and fun, while also productive.
The educator who created the APTT model, Maria Peredes, reached 92 percent parent attendance at these events in the diverse and low-income district where she worked.
Peredes also found that more fathers participated in these meetings than the purely social events held in the past.
The pilot aims to advance student learning statewide by demonstrating effective implementation of the APTT method.
The schools receive training and on site technical assistance in implementing the new approach.
The basic idea for every school is to give parents a well thought-out program — knowledge, tools, and skills to help their children learn. APTT meetings take what teachers implicitly want, desire, and need — and make these things explicit to parents who may not otherwise know, especially parents who are not highly educated themselves.
The most experienced educators had some trepidation about this new model, yet were sold after the first meeting, when parent excitement and commitment was clearly stronger.
The initial enthusiasm increased when after the second meeting, classrooms using the APTT model had higher achievement levels than comparable classes following the traditional engagement model.
Teachers remarked that their workload had decreased, because students were coming into school more prepared, having not only done their homework but having studied the material.
Schools in more states should implement Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTTs) to effectively provide parents with the information, skills, and materials they need to support student learning at home. APTT is a classroom-based, teacher-led, data-driven family engagement model focused on collaborating with families to support children’s academic goals by linking home and school learning, and builds educators’ and families’ capacity. They effectively work together to drive student achievement while creating a school culture of mutual support and shared responsibility.
Innovative 21st Century public school education models will need new strategies to re-purpose parent teacher conferences and align family engagement with school improvement goals. Providing information with cultural/linguistic responsiveness relevant to the curriculum, enhances and increases confidence and competence of both parents and educators to partner, collaborate and connect learning at school with learning at home. There are additional components of this program that will be covered in greater detail. So far, this one sounds like a winner filled with potential to close gaps in achievement, opportunity and access to quality education. Best of all, families are equal partners in the process. Do you agree?
For more about APTT’s see: