Woodcrest to pilot parent-teacher listening conferences first day of school

When the first day of school rolls around in September, parents at District 16’s Woodcrest Elementary School will attend school rather than their kids.

Woodcrest Elementary School, in an effort to learn more about individual students, is piloting scheduling parent-teacher listening conferences the first day back to school. Teachers will do the listening.

The idea is to build community and engage parents and students before school starts, said Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg.

Ronneberg made his comments at a June 21 Spring Lake Park District 16 School Board work session.

The day is slated to run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. with 15-minute to 20-minute conferences scheduled throughout the day.

Meeting the parents before school starts would give teachers the opportunity to get to know parents, the best way to help their children and the best way to contact parents.

The goal is to get 95 percent of parents to attend the conferences by the end of the first week of school, Ronneberg said.

The way Woodcrest principal Judi Kahoun sees it, from the time children first start school in kindergarten through high school graduation, many of her students will partner with the district for the next 13 years.

“We’re hopeful it (the first-day conferences) will help us start the school year strong,” Kahoun said. “That it will take away any apprehension.”

The school did not take the decision lightly to meet with parents the first day of school.

Through research, it learned of positive results stemming from conferences and continuing to build relationships among parents and students and the school. Among books that influenced Woodcrest’s decision to go the learning conferences route were Eric Jensen’s “Teaching With the Brain in Mind” and “Teaching With Poverty in Mind,” based on brain research.

If the pilot is successful at Woodcrest, first-day listening conferences would be held at Northpoint and Park Terrace elementary schools next year, Ronneberg said.

Woodcrest recently, for the second year in a row, received a Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation Spotlight Award on closing the achievement gap. The school was one of two this year in the state to be awarded the honor by the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation. (Sauk Rapids Rice High School was the other school.)

Kahoun said Woodcrest is now at work planning a set of questions to ask parents about their children at the conferences to give the teacher insight into how that child learns. Among some of the tentative questions are: what are the hopes and dreams you have for your child? Another would be what is it you want your child to accomplish for the upcoming school year?

The closer the first day of school approaches, the more excited Kahoun gets about the pilot project.

“I feel we can do our best work when we are in partnership with the families,” she said. “We believe all kids can and will learn. That’s why we want to hit the ground running.”

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]