Cleveland Makes Parent-Teacher Conferences Law, But No Punishment

Parents in Cleveland, Ohio are being urged to come out and meet their student’s teachers, and it is not just a request — it’s the law. The law was put in place for Cleveland school district with the hope of drawing in parents to parent teacher conferences.

When the state legislature passed the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools in 2012, State Rep. Sandra Williams made sure the bill included a requirement that all Cleveland parents attend a parent-teacher conference, or other event where they meet with their child’s teacher, by December each year.

Patrick O’Donnell of The Plain Dealer writes that around 15,000 students in the district have parents who have not yet met this request. Teacher communication is important and something that the Cleveland district and the state are tracking. Williams says this is a continuing problem and parents call her office each June complaining that they can’t graduate because they haven’t passed the Ohio Graduation Test — a requirement that would be clear if parents went in and talked to their teachers.

Her desire is to pass this requirement to all parents in the state of Ohio. There is no penalty for parents who don’t comply, but the law is set to make it clear that parents should be involved in their child’s education.

“You should know who your children’s teacher is,” Williams said. “It (the law) doesn’t have any teeth, but parents need to be called out.”

Michele Pomerantz, the district’s policy and labor liaison, says the district told parents about the law at the beginning of the school year and is now sending out reminder notices.

There is no reliable data yet to track compliance but the district estimates between 47-60% of parents have had a meeting with their child’s teachers. A better tracking system is set to be rolled out in the fall, and more accurate numbers will be available in a few weeks. Pomerantz says the district is pleased with the results.

Districts in Ohio, other than Cleveland, are not required to track conference attendance so there is no real comparison available to see how other districts do at getting parents out to conferences.

Lyman Millard spokesman for Breakthrough charter schools says that 95 percent of parents meet with their teachers each year. This is due to some of the teachers going into the students homes at the beginning of the school year to meet parents and that some teachers are more flexible with scheduling parent meetings. Before becoming proactive in efforts to meet with parents, one of Breakthrough Charter Schools had just a 35% attendance rate for conferences.

Tracy Hill, head of the district’s Family and Community Engagement (FACE) office, says the district has plans on making conferences more informative for parents and they plan on going over test data and report cards at conferences. They also plan on setting up a parent committee to help take technical language out of testing reports to make the language easier for parents to understand.