Posted on May 20, 2012
During the last week before the upcoming end-of-year conferences on May 21-22, I observed many moments of serious reflection among our students. Some teachers videotaped students one-one-one as they were being interviewed about their learning in a specific content area. Students were entering on laptops their final thoughts on pieces previously scanned into their portfolios, and others were rehearsing the conference process with their parents. Weeks ago and even this coming week, parents will be attending project presentations to hear first hand their child's learning.
This is a far cry from my own experience (and likely yours) as an elementary student when assessing my understanding entailed one test after another that was filed away, and the final evaluation appeared as capital letters on a sheet of paper. One piece of paper representing all of my efforts! In the grade school I attended, I remember the principal coming to each classroom, seated in a chair at the front of the classroom. Each student was called to stand in front of the principal while the teacher handed her the report card, and the the principal looked at it with approving nods or a stern glance toward the student. I carried my report card home each year and handed it over to my parents, mostly willingly. Talk about indelible memories!
On Monday and Tuesday this week, parents and their child (in kindergarten through fifth grade) will sit down with the classroom teacher to discuss together the student's achievements during the semester, with the student leading the conference. Prior to the conference, we expect parents to review the e-portfolios emailed home and to talk with their child about the artifacts and the reasons for their inclusion in the portfolio. Since it is the end of the school year, the teacher and parents may have recommendations for summer learning. Parents of preschoolers also participate in a conference to view particular "learning stories" documented in video, which the teacher explains by pointing out those "extraordinary learning in ordinary moments."
All in all, the assessment and evaluation experiences for students and parents are intended to underscore the notion that family and school are in partnership to support children's learning. The conferences, so unlike my experiences when I was a grade-school student, are celebrations of each child's growth and development, with balanced discussion about improvement needed. Imagine! Reflection and celebration, not admonishment!
In addition to the classroom teachers, parents are also encouraged to meet with the specialists (music, art, physical education, character education). The specialists may still be contacted via email to arrange for a scheduled appointment.
My sincere wishes for an engaging conference with your child center stage.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey