Assessment as On-going Narrative & The Family Conference

On Friday, progress reports go out. These reports include a narrative section that provides teachers with an opportunity to share insights, strategies, and goals that they have for your child. Always thoughtful, these narratives reveal the deep understanding that your child's teachers have about her/his learning and social experience in the classroom. The narrative goes hand in hand with the reporting on skills and connects grade level expectations to the lived experience of the teacher and the student.

The narrative is at once a story and an invitation to dialog with your child about successes and challenges to date and their plans for the second half of the year. We hope that these reports will also make it easier for you to see the story of your child's school year as it has unfolded to date. That said, to the extent that these reports offer a window into the daily school experience of your child, they should also be seen in the larger context of your child's potential for growth and change. As we still have a substantial distance to travel before the end of the year, we hope that you will use these mid-year reports as we do: as one of a number of assessment maps that will guide us on our on-going journey.

It should be clear that ssessment is an on-going process at LREI; it is a means to an end, but not an end in and of itself. It's aim is to improve student understanding of key ideas and skills. Our teachers strive to develop assessments that are learner-centered and focused on student understanding in relation to the particular goals identified for each area of inquiry. Rather than being separate from learning, assessment plays a central role in the instructional process. The assessment process also sheds light on which instructional strategies are most effective. Through thoughtful assessment, the teacher gains critical feedback for choosing and utilizing those teaching strategies that can best help a learner progress towards the goals of a particular unit of study. Opportunities for meaningful assessment also allow students to gain deeper insight into areas of strength and challenge and allow them to develop plans to address growth in both of these areas.

The Family Conference is an extension of these assessment activities and should be viewed as a dynamic opportunity to talk about growth and development. The student's presence and participation in these discussions in the middle and high school is of vital importance. The Family Conference affords the student an opportunity to reflect, applaud, and problem-solve with two of her/his most important advocates, family members and thir advisor. These conferences should be approached with a forward-looking perspective. As prior performance is reviewed, all of the participants should seek to work together to identify strategies and opportunities for learning that will support the student's continued growth and development.

Family conferences are an important part of the educational experience at LREI. They are important for students, parents/guardians, and teachers. Like all learning opportunities, the Family Conference requires trust and a willingness to take risks on the part of all participants. While the conference may not be tension-free, it does provide an opportunity for inquiry and understanding. Here are two discussion ideas that you might want to consider as you prepare for these important dialogues:
  • share with your child memorable experiences from when you were a student and consider why such memories may be important to the educational life of your child
  • explore how you and your child approach the concept of learning and reflect on why looking at the differences and similarities in your responses might be important.
In preparation for these conferences, students spend time reflecting on their work thus far this school year. With their teachers' guidance, students have identified areas on which to focus as they move forward and developed plans for achieving these goals. Your child will have these reflections with her/him during your conference. Here are some additional topics/questions that you might reflect on before your family conference:
  • Your child's work habits at home--when are the most and least successful?
  • Which assignments, or types of assignments, seem to lead to the most success? To be the most frustrating?
  • Is our organizational plan working for your child?
  • How is your child managing her/his time?
  • When you and your child discuss school/school assignments at home, are there consistent themes that should be discussed at the conference?
  • Are there extracurricular commitments or extenuating circumstances that should be discussed at the conference?
The Family Conference in the middle and high school places the student at the center as an active participant. We do this for a number of reasons:
  1. to encourage students to accept personal responsibility for their academic performance;to help students develop the reflective skill of self-evaluation;to facilitate the development of students' organizational and oral communication skills and to increase their self-confidence; and
  2. to encourage students, parents, and teachers to engage in open and honest dialogue.
There’s no doubt that conferences are hard work, but the potential for learning that can take place when all participants commit to the process is clearly worth the effort.

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