How Teachers Can Introduce and Implement Academic Parent-Teacher Teams in the Classroom

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 -- McKenna Wierman

The Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) model isn’t just the latest trend in classrooms across the country; it’s a great way to refresh the traditional parent-teacher conference in a way that’s productive and beneficial for you, your students, and their caregivers.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ATPP model, you’ll be glad to know it’s fairly simple. Basically, the ATPP model replaces traditional biannual one-on-one parent-teacher conferences with three larger and longer “team meetings” that include all the parents in your classroom, along with one or more individual meetings with each parent or parent-student pair throughout the year.

The purpose of the team meetings is to review and explain the academic data you’ve been actively gathering and monitoring, making sure to thoroughly explain to parents how you have been collecting data, what it means, and how you are using it. It can also be helpful to prepare individualized data reports to hand out to parents with details on their specific child’s performance. After going over the data, dedicate part of this meeting to give families information and skills to help support ongoing learning. Just as you would teach your students a new skill, coach parents on how they can facilitate instruction and practice to reinforce in-class learning. Include any materials and guided activities to extend learning with their children at home and take time to model this practice with parents and allow them to ask any questions.

By covering classwide academic data and progress with the larger group of parents, you’re freed up to focus on each student’s unique needs in your individual meetings. Traditional meetings with your individual student’s parents should last about 30 minutes each, and the focus should be to review the progress of the student more in-depth. Discuss specific strengths and weaknesses, and talk about what action strategies you’re using in the classroom with the child, as well as what parents can do to support that learning at home. This meeting is also your opportunity to get to know your students’ parents better, and if needed, discuss scheduling additional follow-up-meetings or arranging another conference that includes the student.

Feeling overwhelmed? Although it may seem a lot more intensive than traditional parent-teacher conferences at first, the APTT model is actually pretty simple to integrate into your classroom, and the academic payoffs make it more than worthwhile. Here are a few quick tips to help get you started.

1. First impressions are everything

All parents want to see their children succeed, and as an educator, you can help coach parents in the right direction. At the beginning of the school year or semester, send out a newsletter or email to parents explaining how you’ll be using the APTT model throughout the term and get them engaged early on. Make sure that you focus on the benefits of the model, such as developing strong home-to-school partnerships, a stronger sense of community within the classroom and school, increased student engagement at home and in class, and overall gains in student confidence and performance. Encourage parents to ask questions, and be sure to take time to address any concerns they raise. Keep in mind that some parents may not be totally on board with the APTT model at first—they may prefer more one-on-one time with you as their child’s teacher or may have scheduling difficulties attending longer group meetings. Hear them out, promise to work with them, and stress that the key to the model’s success lies in partnership and open communication.  

2. Keep in touch

Consistent connection with your students’ parents is one of the keys to success in the APTT model. Effective teams are built through communication, so make it a priority to keep parents engaged with regular emails, newsletters, and other convenient updates like social media posts or a classroom blog. This kind of reliable communication will help you when you need to reach out to schedule dates and times to hold group and individual meetings. Stress that your goal in using the APTT model is to bridge the gap between the classroom and home, so your students’ parents should always feel comfortable reaching out to you with questions, concerns, or feedback about their children’s performance at home. Understand that not all parents are going to be enthusiastic in the beginning, and it’s inevitable that some will be more engaged than others. Don’t get discouraged! Be patient, accommodating, and accessible; with time, the approach will pay off. 

3. Rock your team meetings

One of the best ways to earn the trust of your students’ parents and keep them engaged as members of your classroom team is to show them you are organized and thoughtful during your whole-group meetings. Start off meetings on a positive note, discussing student achievement, talking about the things students are currently learning, and presenting the class data you’ve been gathering. Next, reiterate to parents that their involvement matters, that they play a significant role in their children’s academic success, and that you appreciate the time they’re taking to participate in these meetings. When you introduce activities and strategies for parents to implement at home, give them time to work in small groups and practice using the techniques so that they understand their benefits and will feel comfortable trying them with their children. The goal should always be to have parents leave your meetings feeling empowered in their ability to help their children learn and succeed in the classroom.

4. Don’t let hiccups get you down

If it’s your first year implementing APTT in your classroom, don’t be surprised if things don’t run exactly as envisioned. Maybe some of the take-home activities you introduce to parents are a flop, you run into roadblocks getting parents to attend team meetings, or parents give you feedback that they felt like they weren’t receiving enough individual attention. Take note of any failures, mistakes, and flubs—as well as successes—and then learn from them. Encourage parents and students to give you feedback about the approach, and be open to constructive criticism. It’s also important to keep in mind that just like your class of students will be different every year, so will your parent teams. What worked the year before may not always work in the future, and that’s OK. What’s important is that you establish trust and open lines of communication between you and your students’ parents and work together to improve each student’s academic achievement.

Looking for more tips to partner effectively with your students’ parents? Check out this blog for 4 Tips to Use Student Data for More Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences