Cassville rethinks parent-teacher conferences

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Ongoing school improvement meetings yield new strategies

In every school district, parent-teacher conferences are held periodically for parents and teachers to communicate about student performance, goals and any issues that may need to be addressed.

Traditionally, those meetings take place once or twice a semester. The Cassville school district, however, believes those meetings and conversations should be taking place sooner and more often, and as such, is taking steps to restructure them.

"The traditional model [of holding the conferences] is, 'First quarter is over and we're going to do conferences Tuesday and Thursday nights from 3:30-6:30 p.m. with teachers,'" said Richard Asbill, superintendent for the district. "The issue is, that's an event, not really a conference. We should be having a conversation at the beginning of the school year with the parent, saying, 'This is the class goal where we need by the end of the first semester and second semester, and it needs to be something that is ongoing.'

"We should not wait until the [end of the] first quarter to be the first opportunity that the parent is finding out if the student is doing well or struggling. That's not the best way, so we need to change the system and how we deliver customer service and how we are going to serve our customers differently and the students and parents are our customers."

Asbill believes ongoing communication will be a more effective method.

"We're looking at how are we going to help them through the year and not at one or two events and expect that that's going to be engaging to our parents," he said.

In some of the district's new school improvement meetings, both parents and teachers brought up the need for the change to engage parents and the community.

"It was reconfirmed with our school improvement meetings when our parents and community members bought right into that [new communication model]," Asbill said. "When you have an idea or concept of how you can do things right or better, you feel really good about it and know this is the direction to go in when parents and others say, 'Yes, this is what we want.'"

Asbill said the district's most recent school improvement meeting went well and, overall, he believes that feedback from the meetings from parent and community members, will yield many positive results for the district and will benefit everyone involved.

More meetings are set for the end of May and June.

"We will have all of that feedback that we will incorporate into our plans and use in revising our goals," he said. "That [goals] will look different at the elementary level versus the high school."

Some of those goals will include looking at career paths at the high school level, core skills at the middle school, specific goals at the elementary level, the way communication is addressed with parents during the year, and how social media is addressed.

"We will be looking at what our community and parents are looking at and saying, 'This is what we would like the school to know and want this changed,'" Asbill said. "It's been great for us in taking that step in saying, 'We need your engagement.' That's very important to the success of our school district."

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