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Mastery-based education

Children grab folders out of their desk before heading to recess during Julie Delia’s fifth grade class in August 2014 at Oregon Trail Elementary in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — It seems like it was just summertime, but students have already finished their first quarter of school.

Student-led conferences are this week in the Twin Falls School District, following the first quarter of the school year ending Friday. Many other Magic Valley school districts also have parent-teacher conferences coming up.

It’s a chance for students to reflect on their work and for parents to get updates and voice questions or concerns. Teachers often give tips on how parents can best help their children at home and information about any changes with curriculum and testing.

Julie Delia, a fifth-grade teacher at Rock Creek Elementary School, puts together a list of things she wants children to talk with their parents about during their conference. That includes goals, strengths and weaknesses, their data binder with test scores, and report card.

“The kids will pretty much lead the discussion with me giving them a cheat sheet to help stay on track,” Delia said.

Children will share one or two things from their report card they feel good about or need to work on, she said. “The parents can read the report cards later.”

For a discussion about a child’s behavior, “that’s one I’ll kind of chime in on,” she said.

At Twin Falls middle and high schools, student-led conferences are with the student’s advisory teacher.

Parents also pick up progress reports the night of their child’s conference, which include first-quarter grades.

To prepare for conferences, sophomores in Lorraine Rapp’s advisory class at Twin Falls High School create one educational goal for the school year they’ll share with their parents.

Students also fill out a short self-evaluation form for each of their classes and set aside examples of their best work. During advisory class, Rapp’s students role play to practice for the conference.

Here are six tips for parents about how to prepare and what to expect during student-led conferences:

Come with questions and concerns

Delia encourages parents to bring their questions and concerns to the student-led conference.

“We can usually solve things together really quickly or more easily than when everybody gets riled up,” she said. Conferences are an opportunity to talk through concerns and to figure out how to make things better for the child.

Make sure your child is prepared

For middle or high school students, ask them if they’re prepared with samples of their classwork to share during their conference.

“It’s obviously not very productive if students don’t bring sample work to share,” said Rapp, a business and sophomore advisory teacher.

At middle and high schools, you won’t meet with every teacher

For the student-led conference, parents don’t meet with teachers for their child’s individual classes, such as English and math.

If parents have a question about their child’s missing assignments or grades in a specific class, call or email that teacher to set up a time to meet later, Rapp said.

You’ll be asked if you’re getting school information

During conferences, Rapp plans to check with parents to make sure they’re receiving emails she sends out. She said she wants to ensure correspondence is happening.

Expect to hear about a new reading test

If your child is in elementary school, you may hear about Istation’s Indicators of Progress, Early Reading test, which has replaced the Idaho Reading Indicator.

“The big new thing that is on the horizon this year is the IStation testing, which has replaced the IRI,” Delia said. “We’ll talk to our parents about that and what that really means.”

The computer-based test was rolled out statewide this fall. It’s for kindergarten through third-graders, but some older elementary grade levels also use the program to measure reading progress.

With the old IRI test, one of the main complaints among educators was it tested only children’s reading speed. The new test measures performance in six areas of literacy.

Expect to receive suggestions of things to work on at home

Delia plans to talk with parents about things they can do at home to help their child, including making sure they can tell time, count money and use everyday math skills.

Delia said she’s finding some of her students aren’t understanding fractions, but there are practical ways parents can help with that at home. “They need to do some baking.”

Also, your child’s teacher will likely mention the importance of reading at home.

“The more they read, the better,” Delia said. “It comes down really to building vocabulary.”

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