Low attendance and parent dissatisfaction are among the reasons Albuquerque school officials are looking at canceling student-led conferences at high schools next spring.
School board members have mixed opinions about the idea, though, saying the conferences may be beneficial, particularly at lower-income schools.
Chief Academic Officer Linda Sink, at a board committee meeting last week, recommended canceling the spring conferences. Students are out of class for two days while conferences take place. The recommendation would not affect elementary or middle schools.
“I am recommending that we not have kids out of school for the spring student-led conferences when we only have about half of the attendance happening,” Sink said.
In APS’ annual parent survey, 68 percent of high school parents said they liked student-led conferences. That was the lowest satisfaction of any question on the survey.
Sink showed the board conference attendance numbers and pointed to low attendance rates particularly at La Cueva, with 14 percent, and Eldorado at 22 percent.
Board member David Peercy pointed to other schools that had high attendance, like Atrisco Heritage Academy, Cibola and West Mesa. Those schools had spring attendance that ranged from 78 percent to 83 percent.
“Some of those are pretty high, so maybe they’re getting something out of this. Maybe others aren’t,” Peercy said. “So the question is, do we make a blanket decision, let’s throw it all away?”
Sink said attendance may be lower at more affluent schools because parents communicate with school staff in other ways.
“Many of the parents feel like they’re already very involved with their children and even their teachers,” Sink said. “They do it individually on their own time, so they don’t see this as a need.”
Board member Martin Esquivel has criticized high school conferences. The current format is that parents meet with their child and the child’s adviser, who may not be the child’s teacher in any core subjects.
“I don’t think this trade-off is worthwhile,” he said. “I don’t think trading off the instructional time for a 30-minute parent-teacher conference with only one teacher in charge of all the six classes is worth it. And I think that’s really how we should frame the issue as a policy issue: Do we want to give away this instructional time?”
Superintendent Winston Brooks said he has looked for ways to improve high school conferences, but many districts struggle with ways to make the time meaningful.
“I do not know of a good way to have high school parent-teacher conferences,” he said. “Forget student-led or not, it is just insane. I agree with some of you that to go talk to an adviser who doesn’t know your kid is a waste of time. On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where you try to see your child’s seven teachers, and that doesn’t work either.”
The board did not vote on the issue, which was only scheduled for discussion.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal