Parent-Teacher Conference: Your Rights and Responsibilities

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The last parent-teacher conferences of the year for public school children are scheduled for the week of May 10.  This can be a stressful time for both teachers and parents, especially if a child is struggling and in danger of failing.  It is at this conference that parents will be advised if their child’s promotion to the next grade is doubtful.

It is very important for a parent to know their rights and the rights of their child.  Each child who resides in NYC, whether a student at a public or non-public school, has the same rights.  One of the most important of these is the right of a parent to be actively involved in their child’s education.  Regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences are the opportunity for parents to not only learn more about their child’s academic progress, but also to communicate with teachers any concerns they have.

When getting ready for the conference, be prepared to listen as well as question the teacher.  A parent knows their child better than anyone else.  However, for a huge portion of each school day, the teacher is in a position to observe children in an environment that parents rarely see.

In the accompanying chart there is a sampling of possible questions a parent might ask to gain a better understanding of their child’s educational and social progress.  This is published by Advocates for Children of New York, a non-profit organization that works on behalf of children who are at greatest risk for academic failure due to factors such as poverty, disability, race, ethnicity, immigrant status or involvement in the foster care system.  However, the group’s web site, www.advocatesforchildren.org, is an invaluable resource for any parent.  Tips for everything from homework help, understanding Common Core standards, to applying to high school can be found there.

All parents should understand their rights as mandated by law.  A detailed but easy-to-understand explanation of those rights can be found at http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/FD3D0D8B-017B-4D6C-B413-E765C253AB79/0/2013ParentsBillofRightsFinal_English081015.pdf.  The first is the right to a free public school education.  If your child is enrolled in a non-public school but is struggling and requires special services of some kind, those services must be provided at no charge by the public school system.

Parents have the right to access information about their child.  They also have the right to file complaints and/or appeals regarding matters affecting their child’s education.  This includes the right to appeal promotional decisions.  It is at the May parent-teacher conference that parents must be informed if their child will not be promoted to the next grade level.

Along with rights must come responsibilities.  As a child’s first educator, a parent has the responsibility to be aware of their child’s school work, progress and problems.  Education should be a priority.  It is a partnership between parents and teachers.  When attending the parent-teacher meeting this spring, respect the staff’s evaluation of your child. However, contribute to the conversation and be firm if you feel your child’s needs are not being met. 

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