Important conversations

Stevenson: ‘face-to-face’ discussions at parent-teacher conferences are valuable

Parent-teacher conferences offer families and school staff a chance to discuss students’ education and progress. One such face-to-face meeting was this one in Lenihan Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher Julie Finch’s classroom Thursday evening.

For many in Central Iowa, October means cooler temperatures and colorful leaves; for Marshalltown Community School District families, the month also brings parent-teacher conferences.

“It’s for parents to get to meet the teacher in a more personal, one-on-one way,” said the district’s Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson on the parent-teacher conferences. “It also allows parents to ask teachers questions that they might have specific to their child, as well as for teachers to share information about how the child is progressing.”

In a time when teachers and parents can connect digitally on social media or by sending a text or email, Stevenson said there’s still a lot of value in the in-person conferences.

“I do believe there’s still some importance in having that group of people at the table — parents, student, teacher — getting to all hear the same message at the same time with that face-to-face contact,” she said. “Most schools and districts have continued to put this practice of fall-and-winter [or] fall-and-spring parent teacher conferences.”

Marshalltown is among those schools, with a second round of conferences set for the last week of February of 2018.

Along with parents, Stevenson said students can benefit by participating in the conferences. She said the district encourages students to participate when they can.

“The biggest thing for students and parents is it allows them to get a good picture of where they’re performing right now,” Stevenson said. “The classroom teachers are kind of the hub of receiving the information, and then they share it with others as needed or requested by the parents.”

She said the information parents learn from conferences can be valuable for a child’s education at home.

“There are a lot of ways parents can take the information they receive, process it and make choices about how … to help their child be successful,” Stevenson said.

After a classroom teacher holds a conference, they may pass along needed information to other staff members, such as counselors and other personnel. Additionally, families can meet with other instructors when the visit the school.

“All teachers are there, art, music, everybody,” Stevenson said. “Parents are more than welcome to stop into those areas and ask questions or introduce themselves to teachers.”

Other information is shared with families attending conferences.

“At this week’s conferences, at the elementary level, for example, parents are hearing about ST Math and Lexia (Core 5) and how they can log their kids on at home if they have a device with Wi-Fi,” Stevenson said. “Generally, we’ll have some sort of assessment information to share with them.”

So far this week, conferences throughout the district took place Monday-Thursday in the afternoon. Parents who were unable to attend conferences earlier this week will be able to meet between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. today, as students do not have classes.

“We strive for 100 percent, we want 100 percent of our families to attend (conferences),” Stevenson said. “We get pretty close to that in a majority of our schools.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or