Newsline Volume 31, Number 1

Building Effective Parent-Teacher Partnerships

By Janet Vohs, Director of Publications, Mass PIRC

handshake between two womenWhen parents and teachers work together, children do better in school. Sharing information—both giving and receiving it—is key to building effective parent-teacher partnerships. Parents have many opportunities to share information about their child with the teachers. If your child receives special education services and supports, parents and teachers will share information as they work together to develop the child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP). But this is only one opportunity to provide information. Whether or not a student has an IEP, all students have unique needs and there are other ways for parents and teachers to share information that will support each child’s educational progress.

Information to Give
Early in the school year, before concerns arise, introduce yourself to your child’s teachers. First impressions count. Be friendly and confident. The information you are sharing will help the teacher. Consider preparing a one-page description about your child, highlighting strengths as well as concerns. Include examples of the accommodations that have worked in other classes. If you speak English as a second language, let the teacher know you may need help with translations. A teacher or parent liaison who speaks your native language may be able to translate. Or, you might bring a friend or relative with you.

Information to Get
These six questions are a starting point for getting information from your child’s teachers that will help you work in partnership to support your child’s education.

1.) What is my child expected to learn this year? Ask for a copy of the class curriculum or syllabus. This is the actual content, assignments and projects. It’s based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks that guide the education of all students, including students with special needs. Read the Frameworks for the core subject areas at www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.php.

2.) How will my child’s academic progress be measured? Beginning in 3rd grade, students take MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests to see how well they are mastering the material in each core subject. Ask the teacher which MCAS tests your child will take this year. MCAS results can help identify strengths and weaknesses in a subject area. Test grades and report cards show how your child is doing throughout the year. Having ongoing communication with the teacher will help you know about problems in advance, rather than first learning about them on a report card. Ask the teacher to let you know when she is pleased with your child’s performance as well as when there are concerns.

3.) How do you accommodate differences in learning? Find out what happens if your child falls behind, seems bored, or is not challenged enough. Ask about opportunities for tutoring or other special help, including clubs or after-school activities that can reinforce your child’s special strengths and interests.

4.) What would you like to know about my child? Teachers appreciate knowing about changes at home that may affect the student’s behavior at school. Also, let the teacher know if your child is having difficulties at school or with homework.

5.) What can I do at home to support my child’s progress in school? Ask about homework assignments and how much time your child should spend on it. And, ask how you can link what your child is learning in school to activities at home. For example, if your child is learning fractions, perhaps you can cook together and measure ingredients for a recipe. If your child is not doing well in a subject, ask how you can help your child improve and succeed.

6.) What is the best way for us to communicate? Exchange contact information. Ask for the best way to keep in touch. Some teachers have specific times for making and receiving phone calls. Others may prefer e-mail or written notes sent back and forth with the student.

These questions are only a starting place. You will have additional questions if you need clarification or have a concern about services or supports your child needs. When teachers and parents work as partners, they help ensure each child’s academic success.

teacher with 3 studentsMass PIRC is a Federation project devoted to helping parents of all children participate as equal partners with educators in their children’s education. Call us at 1-877-471-0980 or visit www.masspirc.org. We have a wealth of resources to support you in your partnership role!