Is there a mindset change needed to engage parents when using formative assessment during parent teacher interviews?

I’ve been thinking lately about our upcoming parent teacher interviews which we now hold in March and August of each year and whether we need to reset the context for both teachers and parents?

Let me set a little background context for this question. Last year a group of teacher leaders published a book on our revamped assessment processes. The book takes a formative assessment lense. Part of the book schedules parent teacher after an analysis of testing data conducted by teams. The teams pick out the essential next steps of the learning for groups of students and then plans a content and instructional framework for the next 4 months. We then hold parent teacher interviews to communicate the plan for their child.

I think traditional parent teacher interviews were held for the teacher to communicate progress over the preceding 3-6 months. Parents sometimes asked questions but generally it was a one way conversation. Some teachers attempted to ask parents questions to get further information about their child (generally a primary teacher) or allowed them to start a conversation about their concern but in a short scripted conversation time was limited for this.

In holding parent teacher interviews to communicate a forward looking plan to meet their child’s learning and or social needs I think we are trying to invite them to join teachers in some ways in meeting these goals. This is essentially changing the parameters of the relationship to a joint partnership rather than just a one way communication about results.

The question I have is then about how we frame this conversation – is it as simply as I’m planning this …… And your child needs to practice …… And see the relevance of this practice in ….. ? Is the parent role therefore about reinforcing school learning with practice?

Let’s be clear I’m not saying supporting practice is a bad thing for the research about practice is clear – done right and in the correct frequency it’s actually very important.

When I was in China last year teachers only taught 3 or 4 lessons a day (out of a 7-8 lesson day) at our sister school as the other time was taken up in setting and correcting daily homework (practice) as well as observing and perfecting lessons (instruction). In order to afford this classes were large in number (45). Parents expected and reinforced the 2-3 hrs nightly homework.

We have taken a different approach that is to have classes of around 25 and teachers teach around 5 of the 6 lessons on average a day. I think there is an interesting correlation here that we expect about 30 minutes homework about 4 days a week and I wonder is that about expectations of teachers time for correction?

Anyway I digress this is about reframing teacher parent conversations with a more formative lense. I appreciate some suggestions here for as George Otero says a schools job is to help a family educate their children.

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