Parent-Teacher Conferences: Critical to Student Outcomes

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Critical to Student Outcomes
Dr. Renée Greenfield, Head of School Blog
Listen to Renée read this article aloud.

We’re off and running with a new school year, and the excitement—the optimism—among teachers and students are palpable. Foundational to a Carroll education is collaboration with families, and that gets started right away with the first parent-teacher conference of the school year.

What I’ve learned working with parents is that they come to conferences with a mix of emotions. And they’re looking to schools and teachers to deliver on three key fronts:

  • to know and appreciate their child, 
  • to understand how their child learns, and
  • to have a plan for their child.

At Carroll, our approach is purposeful and straightforward, and leads to some pretty impactful conferences and, in turn, student outcomes.

Our dialogue during conferences is about what students can do and what they are working towards. Absent from our conferences is discussion of what our students can’t do.

Here’s a peek at our approach:

Purposeful Design

Our September parent-teacher conferences are the first of four—yes, four—that occur over the course of the school year. Among public and other independent schools, we offer twice as many opportunities for conferencing. Reallocating six days of classroom instruction to conferences is an intentional choice, because we recognize the invaluable role they play in the growth of each student. Here’s the sequence across the school year:

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Critical to Student Outcomes


  • We learn all we can from new and returning families alike about their children—their strengths, areas where they have made progress, and areas where they want to grow.
  • Together with parents, we set goals for the year.

November & March

  • Drawing on data—classroom measures, academic assessments, and recent neuropsych reports—we’re able to share with parents their student’s progress across all domains: academic, social, emotional, and behavioral.
  • We also learn from parents how their child is responding to their individualized learning plan and to any instructional adjustments that may have been implemented earlier in the school year.


  • Year-end review and goal-setting for the next school year.
  • Many Grade 9 students as well as some middle schoolers participate in this final conference, helping them to practice their self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-advocacy skills.  

Partnership with Parents

When parents arrive for their conferences, they don’t meet with one teacher or advisor. They meet with their child’s entire teaching team, often five or more adults. It’s an approach that epitomizes our deeply collaborative approach. Educating students with dyslexia is our expertise, and we’re eager to help families make sense of the neuroscience and data to better understand how their child learns. Families are the ultimate experts of their kids and we rely on their observations and feedback. When we learn directly from parents about their child, and when we come together to better understand our students and trust in one another’s expertise, we optimize their progress. We also recognize that every parent, every family, is at a different place in their dyslexia journey; we meet them where they are.

A Learning Plan

Families don’t leave Carroll conferences wondering, “What’s next?” In addition to establishing goals, every parent-teacher conference defines an explicit learning plan going forward, whether that means staying the course or making adjustments. Integrating what we learn about each and every student from their families is critical to the design of that plan.

So, yes, when September’s installment of conferences got underway earlier this month, I felt inspired and energized by all that’s to come for our students this school year. At Carroll, parent-teacher conferences are just one of the many ways that our students and families experience transformation and belonging.

Are you a current Carroll family with a memorable parent-teacher conference story? I invite you to share it with me –

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