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On the Same Page

By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
      During a parent-teacher conference at Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School last fall, Kathryn Auh met with one of her daughter's teachers, got written comments from the other four and listened to her child present her own work and test scores.
       At Jefferson Middle School, some parents had to spend the entire day juggling conferences because time slots of 10 minutes per teacher weren't coordinated. Parent Shal-Marie Lucero simply caught up with her daughter's teachers at another time.
       But if you're a parent of a child at Desert Ridge, Madison or Eisenhower middle schools, expect no conferences at all unless you call and make an appointment with the teachers.
       “Everyone is doing something different,” said Freida Trujillo, a resource counselor for the APS Health and Wellness Department. “No two schools are doing the same thing.”
       Starting next year, that will change. The district plans to require a universal parent-teacher conference, giving parents a chance to discuss their child's progress.
       While the details are not clear yet, conferences next year will become standard throughout the district instead of allowing each school to determine its own practice, counseling manager Laura Owen said.
       “Hopefully, it will provide a great resource and guidance for students,” she said. “It will help them all to succeed academically. It's not fair if you go to one school, you get a certain kind of guidance.”
       Over the last two years, Albuquerque Public Schools has been surveying its schools to learn what type of contact they are making with parents.
       Elementaries, the district found, have the practice down, with one teacher scheduling appointments over two days with their classroom parents, Owen said.
       High schools are required to hold annual meetings with parents to discuss a student's Next Step Plan, which helps determine class selections and post-graduation plans.
       But at middle schools, the findings show that:
       n 14 of 26 middle schools advertise parent conferences on their school Web site.
       n 15 middle schools hold two conferences a year.
       n four middle schools hold three a year.
       n three middle schools hold one a year.
       n four middle schools don't schedule conferences but hold them at the request of a parent.
       At all levels, APS staffers found some schools have 15-minute teacher-parent meetings, while others are more detailed, lasting 30 to 40 minutes with reviews of test scores, student academic/career interests and academic advisement.
       The district is now meeting with counselors, principals and eventually teachers to set guidelines for the new conferences. The format will be included in teacher training before the start of the school year.
       The best solution would be to require two parent conferences a year of 20 to 30 minutes each, with accommodations for non-English speaking families, Owen said.
       The district also hopes to have a universal schedule for the conferences to make it easier for parents who must take off time from work to attend. Part of that may include a partnership with employers like the city, for instance, to allow employees time off to attend parent conferences.
       “It's still going to be a challenge,” Owen said. “Especially when you look at how big our high schools are.”
       APS is also trying to examine how to handle conferences in the upper grades, where students have multiple teachers.
       High schools, for instance, will all switch to a new seven-period class schedule next year that will include an advisory period for students. The parent conference must include the mandated “Next Step” plan, along with student career interests, test scores and post-graduation plans.
       At the very least, Trujillo said, the parents should be able to meet with their child's teachers in core subjects like math, English, science and social studies.
       





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