Dana Stahl, a learning specialist and educational consultant, will address educational questions and concerns that parents may have regarding their children’s academic development and progress in school. Topics can center on such concerns as how to handle homework dilemmas or what questions to ask at a Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) or Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting. Questions can range from “How best do parents advocate for their children?” to “How do parents interpret formal tests that have been administered?” to “Which schools and colleges are right for my child?.”

Readers can write to Dana at dana@educationalalternativesllc.com. Dana will respond to one reader’s question a month. Dana hopes that her response will alleviate parents’ concerns and offer useful educational advice.

Q. Is there a list of specific questions parents can use when preparing for a parent-teacher meetings?

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A. There is no specific list of questions to ask at a school because questions would vary widely with the profile of individual students. There are, however, questions that parents should ask that will help them to better understand how their children are performing in school.

Preparing questions to ask at a school meeting or at a parent-teacher conference will make the meetings more productive and lead to more informed outcomes. 

Parents should also be prepared to offer insights as to their children’s behavior, subject interests and dislikes, study patterns, time management and organizational skills, attention span on assignments, and how easily they tackle assignments from initiation to completion of tasks. Past experience in school and at home combined with professional feedback from school personnel could give parents a wealth of information that is beneficial to share at parent-teacher conferences.

Typically, teachers will begin the meeting by discussing your child’s profile and progress. The goal of a parent-teacher conference is to understand your child’s present level of performance. These meetings may be scheduled at the end of a marking period, or they may be scheduled to help decide how best to move forward in supporting your child at home and at school.

Questions you may consider asking include:

  • Is my son getting along well with his peers?

If the answer is no, then ask the following:

  • Is he sought out during structured or unstructured time?
  • Does he have one or two friends with whom he feels comfortable?
  • What steps are being taken to help him not be targeted by his peers?
  • What can we do together to help foster his relationships with his peers?
  • Is my daughter participating in class discussions and activities?

If the answer is no, then ask the following questions:

  • Is she paying attention in class and is she engaged in lectures and assigned tasks?
  • What are my child’s strongest and weakest subjects?
  • What are some examples of these strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will my child be evaluated academically?
  • What accommodations (such as the use of assisted technology--a calculator or spell check) can she use to complete assigned tasks?
  • What can I do at home to help support her academic progress?
  • What additional assistance or support do you recommend at this time to address the concerns that you have mentioned?
  • At what point will the “Child Study Team” (consisting of the classroom teacher, school psychologist, principal, learning specialist, parent, the speech and language pathologist—if applicable) be brought together to discuss my child’s profile and present level of performance?
  • When should we meet again to discuss my concerns and to update my child’s progress and performance?

As noted above, while there is no specific list of questions for parents to ask at school meetings, it is beneficial for parents to prepare a list of questions prior to formal meetings. It is also important to take notes and to obtain a stated plan of action at the end of the meeting. It is most important that parents should not leave any meeting unless they understand the next steps in securing the specific individualized needs of their child.

If the school or you believe that your child may require additional support and services in school, that could help take the form of a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP). In my next column, I will answer questions about the 504 Plan and IEP’s.

by Dana Stahl, M.Ed., Educational Alternatives LLC

Dana’s educational consultant practice focuses on assessment, advocacy and school placement for students with learning disabilities and social-emotional challenges. http://educationalalternativesllc.com