Joanne Mier (in front, right), an English Language Learner tutor, is pictured with Blytheville Middle School teacher Dennis Camp and a parent at the school’s Nov. 10 parent-teacher conference, translating the conversation from English to Spanish. This is a service provided by the Blytheville School District and available to any of the district’s families.
By DAVID COOKE
Blytheville Schools PR Dir.
Blytheville School District leaders have changed the way teachers meet with the parents to discuss the students’ grades and their progress inside the classroom. And after just a couple of conferences, the new midterm conferences are working well.
Until this year, parent-teacher conferences were twice a school year at the end of the first and third quarters to discuss the report card grades the students had made. Moving the conferences to mid-term allows parents and teachers to conference in person rather than just get a paper progress report, according to district Curriculum director Sally Cooke. This earlier conference time informs parents of their child's progress while they still have time to work to improve their grades before they are turned in for report cards. Often it is the connection between the teacher and parent that can help a child make the appropriate changes to work habits that can help them become more successful.
“This has been a huge help to both the parents and teachers,” said Allison Turner, the district’s director of Community Development, “and everyone has agreed that this (moving the conferences to an earlier time when the grades are not final) is benefitting our students. These conferences are not the only opportunity for parents to be involved with their child's education, but we do want to continue to offer them and provide the chance for parents to meet all of the teachers on one day.”
Turner stated, however, that the administrators and teachers at each of the four schools in the district welcome parents to their respective buildings every day. “I do want to encourage all of the parents to set up meetings with their child’s teachers any day,” she said. “Just because we set up those parent-teacher conferences for a few times during the year doesn't mean we don't welcome parents every other day. I firmly believe that an informed and invested parent can make a huge difference in a child's education, and we want to continue to build relationships with the parents in our community.”
The teachers and students are also apparently positive about the increased number of conferences. Blytheville Elementary School fifth-grader Nikylah Ousley likes that "you can express what you need help on, and your teacher gets to help and tell your parents how you can get better.”
Amanda Haynes, Blytheville High School teacher, explained how encouraging the conferences are that parents can state how they themselves feel, and communicating that to the teacher and having that conversation gives them another opportunity to be involved in their child's life.
Turner added that the district leaders hope that parents who might not be able to attend the parent-teacher conferences in the afternoons or early evening will be able to come to conferences in the morning, which is why they have two opportunities to attend. “Our motto as a school district is ‘Learners Today - Leaders Tomorrow’, and we want to use every resource possible to help our students become the leaders we know they can be in our community and beyond,” she continued. “This starts at home, and our parents are the best resources we have in empowering our students and shaping the future.”