Parent/Teacher Interview Tips: Ask “How do you measure my child’s progress?”



This is the third post in a series covering four critical questions you need to ask your child’s teacher in your next parent-teacher interview:

  1. Question #1 – “What does my child know now?”
  2. Question #2 – “What will you teach him/her next in (pick a curriculum)?”
  3. Question #3 – “How will you know that s/he knows it?”
  4. Question #4 – “How will I know that she knows it?”

Question #3 – How will you as the teacher know that s/he knows it?

Most parents are genuinely concerned that they do not know enough about what their child(ren) are learning at school.  Anecdotal report cards, a few short tests, and some projects do not provide sufficient information about their learning. Parents often complain that their child(ren) do not know things that they were expected to know when they went to school. They are pretty sure that teaching and results have changed in a direction which does not satisfy them. The international testing results and the state-wide annual testing tends to confirm their unease. Despite the billions of dollars spent annually on education at all levels of government, the Western Hemisphere is a long way from educational leadership and is not making significant progress.

As a parent, you are concerned more about your child(ren) than about the entire status of the nation’s educational plight. When you meet with your child(ren)’s teacher(‘s), you want information about the progress of your students. You assume that the teacher has this information as something other than the vague description of what s/he remembers. The teacher will only know how well your child is doing if s/he has collected samples of your child’s actual performance on specific skills, has evaluated and given them some kind of grade and is able to discuss these data with you.

Prior to any parent/teacher interview, you should contact the teacher to let them know that you expect to see actual samples of your student’s attempts to complete objectives outlined in the curricula. Specifically you want to see assignments that were handed in, or done as part of class time. You want to see whatever numerical or letter grades that have been awarded and the actual materials that were the source for that evaluation.

Some teachers have their students keep a portfolio of all of their work for a term or even a year. Every scrap of paper handed in to the teacher goes into the portfolio when it is handed back. In the interest of saving time, you might ask to see the portfolio prior to the interview so that you can peruse it and select some items to discuss with the teacher.

If the teacher does not have a paper trail on your child’s work, suggest that s/he start one immediately. Offer to assist by making sure that work done at home will be reliably handed in to him or her so that it can be added to the record.

If the teacher does not have actual samples of work done by your student, s/he should at least have a record of tests, grades and other measures that were awarded. Most teachers do keep a book of student grades. You should be provided this information and use it to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses as best you can.

If by some chance, you find that the teacher’s records are all in his or her head, and without any paper trail, you need to help the teacher create a document system at least for your child. Resistance by the teacher to do so leads directly to the principal’s office. Without feedback in the form of student productions, you will never know how your student is succeeding or even if he or she is succeeding. In some cases you might ruffle some feathers, but your child is certainly worth doing that for.

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