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Reflections from Katie: December 20, 2017

I have often felt that a major challenge facing our Cambridgeport School Council is that it is a body that is supposed to advise the principal and yet very few voices are actually present to do this. I have been considering ways to get more voices into the conversations at School Council meetings, and so the most recent effort was to create a survey for families about the upcoming topic for School Council Meeting. I wanted to share how the first attempt at this went.

The topic of the December School Council meeting was Parent Conferences. It was not put out as a topic because there is something “broken” about conferences, but rather because we want to ensure that families understand why we do conferences the way we do them. We sent the survey out twice over a two week period. We got 86 responses (roughly 35% of families responding). While I would hope for a higher response rate, this is certainly 86 more voices at the table than would otherwise be there. We also did a survey for classroom teachers, with 10 out of 15 classroom teachers responding (67% of teachers). At the School Council meeting on Wednesday the 13th, the job of those present was to analyze the data from the survey. Here are some of the observations we came up with:
  • 100% of teachers in grades 1-5 asked parents to have their children attend the conference, but only 70% of parents had their children attend. We are curious about why. Were there barriers that we could help alleviate? Or was this a parent preference?
  • 100% of teachers have many different answers for what the purpose of including children in the conference is. 7% of parents are not sure what the purpose of having children involved in their conference is.
  • 80% of parents are clear or very clear about the following: what skills their child has mastered, what skills their child needs additional work on, and their child’s social-emotional strengths and weaknesses (though we did also talk about the fact that social-emotional is also included in the skills). We felt that this is the most important outcome of parent conferences, and it seems that having children at the conference did not in any way get in the way of this learning for parents, and may have enhanced it.
  • 20% of parents are not very clear about their children’s social emotional areas of strength and areas for growth.
We agreed that one implication of this survey data is that families should be informed about these possible benefits and purposes of having children involved in conferences. Almost all teachers believe that the following are the purposes (and benefits) of including children in conferences:
  • It helps children take responsibility for their learning.
  • It allows children to set goals for their learning in the presence of parents and teachers.
  • It allows children to see their teachers and parents in partnership for their learning.
  • It gives children a chance to reflect on and speak about their learning.
  • It allows parents to see the relationship between child and teacher in action.
  • It allows parents to ask questions to clarify things their children have reported at home.
  • It empowers children in their learning.
  • It gives children voice in their learning.
  • It gives children a chance to demonstrate what they know/are able to do.
Parents are most certain about the following being purposes of involving children in conferences:
  • It helps children take responsibility for their learning.
  • It allows children to set goals for their learning in the presence of parents and teachers.
  • It allows children to see their teachers and parents in partnership for their learning.
  • It allows parents to see the relationship between child and teacher in action.
Our next school council meeting is on Wednesday, January 10th. Please look out for a survey in the first week of January about the next council meeting topic. I hope this format continues to allow more family voices to inform school council discussions.