Ask most Kane County teachers, and they’ll tell you that every parent-teacher conference is a win-win-win. It helps the teacher learn about the student, it helps parent engagement and it helps students improve performance. It’s also simply a great opportunity to put a name with a face, build relationships and set up ongoing communication between parent and teacher.
But more and more often these days, Kane County teachers are noticing an alarming trend: Fewer parents of high-school-aged children are attending parent-teacher conferences.
According to Shirley LeClere, director of professional development at the Kane County Regional Office of Education, teachers say parents’ attendance drops significantly between their children’s eighth-grade and ninth-grade school years.
LeClere says Kane County is fortunate to have an extraordinary team of educators and administrators devoted to children and adolescents’ success, but without support at home and at school, weaknesses can go unidentified.
“If parents cannot take part in the scheduled conferences, teachers and administrators encourage phone conferences set up at a later date,” LeClere said.
LeClere says there are any number of reasons for the decline in parent participation. Some parents question the benefit of the standard 10- or 15-minute meeting. Others have important commitments — a night job or second job or previous obligation — that conflict with the scheduled conference dates and times.
Still other parents feel uncomfortable attending the conferences because of a language barrier. If parents do not speak English, conferences can be intimidating. To counter that concern, a number of Kane County school districts have developed support programs. Examples include West Aurora School Distict 129’s The Driver Seat Seminars and District U-46’s Family Welcome Center for non-English speaking families.
At the bottom of this page is a list of the districts’ websites with contact information for additional support in these arenas.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Parent-Teacher Conference
For parents who do attend their students’ parent-teacher conferences, the Harvard Family Research Project suggests parents come prepared to ask questions that cover progress, assignments, perceived strengths and weaknesses of your student, and how to support learning at home and in school.
Other important questions to ask include:
- What kind of assessments will s/he participate in?
- How are grades determined?
- What valuable skills will s/he learning in this particular class?
“Parents also should ask if their child is on track with grade level materials and expectations,” LeClere said.
A tip sheet can be found here to make the most out of your 10-15 minute conference.
LeClere notes that questions like, “What are my child’s strengths?” can seem open-ended, but they can help develop meaningful dialogue.
“Some parents find themselves learning new qualities of their child when they ask even the most simple questions,” she said. “Many discover talents that the child does not display at home, like those in leadership.”
For information on conferences and other helpful resources, please visit or contact your district.
- Aurora West 129 – www.sd129.org – (630)-299-5550
- Aurora East 131 – www.d131.org – (630) 301-5000
- Batavia 101 – www.bps101.net – (630) 937-8800
- Geneva 304 – www.geneva304.org – (630) 463-3000
- Kaneland 302 – www.kaneland.org – (630)-365-5111
- Central 301 – www.burlington.k12.il.us – (847)-464-6005
- St. Charles 303 – www.d303.org – (331)-228–2000
- U-46 – www.u-46.org – (847)-888–5000
- District 300 – www.d300.org – (847)-551-8300
This article was written by Ellen Kamps of the Kane County Regional Office of Education. For more information, visit the Kane County ROE website.