On the Importance of Parent-Teacher Conferences

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Discussions of teacher quality are always elevated by the input of excellent teachers. One of our favorite teacher/columnists is Patrick Welsh, an English teacher in Alexandria and a USA Today contributor. Welsh's most recent essay is on the importance of parent-teacher conferences and the tragicomic behavior of parents when they get there. The biggest problem, of course, is that many parents don't even schedule such conferences with their high school kids' teachers and seem not to care how their children fare academically after they leave their elementary school years. Big mistake, says Welsh. The first years of high school are when kids are most at risk of being lost to an alcohol-soaked, marijuana-permeated party culture that could significantly damage their life prospects.

But parents who show up to parent-teacher conferences are often at a loss for how to behave. Sometimes they are uppity and presumptuous, unwilling to accept that their student's low grade could be the child's fault. Such parental "grade-grubbing" notwithstanding, Welsh argues that face-to-face conferences are the key to teachers and students getting more out of their time in the classroom.