Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rethinking Parent-Teacher Conferences

In November, I held my first Academic Parent Teacher Team (APTT) Meeting with one of the kinder teachers and the families of the students in her class. We met in the evening - all the parents and Melinda and I. The kids were invited too, but went to a childcare room with another teacher and National Junior Honor Society students from the middle school. The kids got to play games while the parents got to learn about what their kiddos were doing in class.

The APTT meetings were developed by Maria C. Paredes from the Creighton School District in Phoenix, Arizona. Maria was working on her PhD at Arizona State and developed this system for parent teacher conferences. Her meetings are different than your traditional parent-teacher conference in a few ways:

First, parents meet as a whole group - all parents in the whole homeroom come together for 75 minutes and learn together with the classroom teacher.

The picture above was from our first meeting in November. Because this was a kinder class, we held the meeting in our library so the parents had a little more space for working (and sitting!)

For this kind of meeting to be an APTT meeting, you have to have three parts: student data, goal setting, and aligned activities.

We decided to show data in two categories: sight words and letter names and sounds. This data was collected the week of the meeting. It was translated into a class-wide bar graph that was shown to parents, but the individual student data was anonymous. As you can see below, data on the whole class is presented, but each parent only knows their child's scores based on the letters along the horizontal axis of the graph.

In an APTT meeting, you start with student data like this. Each parent is given a folder with all of the materials as well:

In the folder, the parents can find the documents I used to collect data so they can see exactly which letter names, sounds, and sight words the children did and didn't know. In addition to the data sheets, there are lists of sight words and sounds, goal setting sheets, and the materials that go with the aligned activities.

Which brings me to the second part of the APTT meeting....

Based on the data the parents see, and in comparison to the child's peers and the expected benchmark norms, the parents set goals for their child. The goals are expected to be met by the time we meet for our second meeting, which in our case, is coming up this month.

After sight-words and letter names and sounds were described and data was shown, parents were asked to write a goal for their child in each category. Parents recorded this goal on a sheet that we gave to them, which was to be turned in to us at the end of the session. We wanted to make a copy of this form so we had it and then we would send it home on the following day.

Now, in order for a goal to be accomplished, we had to provide parents and their children activities to use to reach the goals. So, we gave them two ideas, in addition to the materials that they would need to complete them.

Our activities included two games:

As we carried out our conversation about these games, Melinda ended up going over how all the letters sound - common mistakes that parents and even I make - like when you say the letter m: sometimes people say it /muh/ rather than /m/. It's little moments like these (and a parent saying, "Ohhhhmigosh! I've been saying it wrong all these years!) that are so great about the APTT meetings.

Our first meeting was a success and I know the next one will go even better. In our first meeting, parents probably weren't really sure what to expect and maybe even feeling a little out of their comfort zone (as was I!) But, by the end of the meeting, many parents had met and talked with other parents in the room. One other outcome of these APTT meetings is the networking that naturally takes place as parents get to know one another and discuss the objectives and activities students do in class. Someone even said on their way out, "Oh yeah, we were pretty quiet tonight, but I'm sure it will be different at our next meeting because we'll already all know one another!"

I think overall it was a great experience and I'm really looking forward to seeing the parents again this month!

Thank you to all the parents who participated and we're looking forward to seeing you later this month!

Hope you're keeping warm with this arctic blast across the country!

If you're interested in learning more about these meetings, you can google Academic Parent Teacher Teams or look at these websites:

Going Deeper: Academic Parent Teacher Teams from Wisconsin RtI Center  - This link has a few videos of a teacher conducting an APTT meeting!


  1. I left a bunch of comments on your other blog post about APTT, and after doing some digging on your blog....I got most of them answered! Great post! My school is very interested in changing the way we do parent teacher conferences....and this seems like a pretty good fit. Was it difficult to get this up and going in your building? How often do you do APTT?

    Thanks for any help....and great post!

    Mind Sparks

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