Parent/Teacher Interview Tips: Ask “How will I know about my child’s progress?”


This is the fourth 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 #4 – How will I as a parent know that s/he learned it?

There is a dizzying array of marking methods in our schools. Here are five common ones.

6 out of 10 (a count over count score)

73% (a percent score, assumed to be but, not always out of 100) sometimes divided as number correct into total number of questions

B+ (letter grade score, Where A+ is the top)

E, VG, G, NI (Descriptive letter grades, assumed to be equal intervals apart)

Pass – Fail (rarely used because we almost never “fail“ students anymore.

So How Do You Tell The Score?

As you go down this list of performance indicators, the specificity of the information available decreases and opinion and judgement replace hard data. Six out of ten gives you real information. There were 10 questions and the student correctly answered six of them and either had errors or did not attempt or complete four others. At least that is true if the test actually contained 10 items.

Seventy-three percent is less specific because it removes the information about the number of items on the test or whatever was being marked. It usually is not strictly based on 100 items. More likely it is based on a marking scheme where each question is assigned a value which taken together add up to 100 marks.

B+ is an even softer evaluation because it has no numerical values at all. It assumes that it is an equal interval scale where each letter is equidistant from the next on some kind of continuum. This level of information is of almost no value in telling you the strengths and weaknesses of your student’s performance.

The other “measures” really are impressions and are not worth analysis.

Teachers who use count over count scores (i.e 18/20) will have the most useful information to share with parents. They can present the test paper handed in by your student, demonstrate what the student was able to do correctly, outline the errors or incompletions and discuss the strengths and weaknesses in that area of curriculum and oftentimes, suggest what needs to be done to effect a change.

If you find that the teacher has no numerical data, you may still be able to get useful information.

In many states and some provinces, there is periodic testing in subjects like reading and math implemented at the state or provincial level. These are typically done 2-3 times per year and have scores for the student, the class, the school, the district and the state or province. There are almost as many tests as there are jurisdictions, so you will have to follow up with your teacher or your district.

In short, there is no easy way to find out what your child actually knows using the mostly indirect performance measures adopted by most teachers in most schools. Your best defence is to make sure that the teacher is cogently aware that you are monitoring your child’s progress and will be asking for specific information about specific subjects in every parent/teacher interview. You may be considered a burr under his or her saddle, but you may also be rewarded by having real examples of your students work available for evaluation when you get to the meeting.

In the coming weeks, I will introduce you to a different way to evaluate learning and provide you the tools for doing it yourself in almost no time. Your child’s teacher is unlikely to be familiar with these methods, but they will allow you to have your own data to take to an interview to discuss with the teacher.

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