The Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal

The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal grabbed national attention in 2011 as the largest in U.S. history.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed the results of a 10 month investigation by state officials.  Teachers and school administrators altered standardized test scores.

Forty four of Atlanta’s 58 schools were involved.  Those involved were required to quit or resign.  What prompted the cheating?  Could it happen in Palm Beach County?

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB) applies enormous accountability measures to teachers, schools and school districts regarding student performance  on standardized high stakes tests.  The  NCLB and the pressure it represents to achieve positive results and “look good”  concomitant with the incompetency, unprofessionalism and unethical behavior of all involved – school board members, superintendents, principals and teachers are the root causes for this humiliating situation.  Other scandals have emerged in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Orlando.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “the district set unrealistic test score goals or targets, a culture of pressure and retaliation spread through the district and Hall (Beverly Hall, the previous superintendent) emphasized test results and public praise at the expense of ethics.”  One teacher told investigators that the district was “run like a mob.”

The sordid details in Atlanta and other school districts across the country confirm, in my mind, that school reform is mission impossible.  We will sooner colonize Neptune than reform a broken national system.

The nature of standardized testing is part of the problem.  Standardized tests are not the solution to properly and professionally evaluate schools and staff.By definition, standardized tests are used by schools and school districts to compare a student’s performance to other students of the same age and grade and to compare schools and school districts.  It is also used to provide feedback to parents in the form of percentile ranks.  If your child scored at the 70th percentile, that means that she scored better than 70 percent of the students who took the same test.  Some school districts use these scores to determine promotion and to adjust curriculum and instruction protocols.

Standardized testing is convenient but not by any means comprehensive.  Hebert J. Walberg, writing in “Evaluating Educational Performance,”  states, “But we must avoid the error of equating what is most often measured or most conveniently measurable with what is most important in the environment and outcome domains.” 1

These high stakes tests are not comprehensive, offer a limited view of a learner’s capabilities and fall short of probing higher level thinking skills.

The State of Florida has tried to mitigate the pressure of using the results of one standardized test to evaluate teachers and school districts by examining standardized test results over a three year period.  This still does not solve the issue of realistic teacher or school evaluation.


Parents must get involved in their child’s education by becoming more informed and proactive. There will never be a sufficient number of outstanding teachers or administrators. Parents must be part of the equation if they want their children to succeed. Get started and become immediately more informed by reading books, and gathering information about your school district’s expectations and curriculum.

1 Herbert J. Walberg, Evaluating Educational Performance (CA: McCutchan 1974) p.2.

Dr. Casale is a state and national award winning educator and the author of numerous articles and essays on Education. His highly praised guide for parents, Wise Up and Be the Solution: How to Create a Culture of Learning at Home and Make Your Child a Success in School, is available in book stores, on and from his website,

Four Critical Back to School Priorities that Have Nothing to Do with Shopping



Four Critical Back to School Priorities That Have Nothing to Do with Shopping.

“First things first” ~Steven Covey-

The stores are mobbed and the sales are in full swing. The kids are hanging off the shopping carts, “Mom, I need this!”School supplies are rocketing off store shelves into shopping carts and eventually will land on the planet, School, in August or September. Newspapers are laden with ads for school supplies and TV commercials for school stuff dominate the commercials.

Gee, am I that ancient? I don’t remember my mom taking me to the store for supplies or even asking me what I needed. In those ancient times, all I needed was a pencil and some paper. And I think the teacher gave them to me. How did I get through school without a highlighter, a backpack, or a permanent marker?

Now, the vast array of required supplies includes so much more than pencils and paper and notebooks. Retractable highlighters, twistable crayons, clip boards, dry erase boards, shiny folders with graphics, three ring binders, pocket folders, back packs with wheels, thumb drives(what are those?) and much more, now comprise the grocery list of items that are the “must haves”.

Hey-you elementary kids -don’t forget to bring in your box of tissues. At the last school I taught in, the students in the fifth grade had to bring both tissues and zip lock bags. I’m not sure why. There was plenty of sneezing but I never used the zip lock bags. Maybe the used tissues were supposed to go into the bags. No one told me.

I am not even going to mention purchasing new clothes, the latest footwear, or newer and improved electronic hardware. Ouch!  Where’s my credit card?Is there a researched based connection between school supplies and school performance? Will Sarah and Jimmy suffer from brain freeze if they don’t possess retractable markers of every color? Are parents spending more time at the store and on-line rather than focusing on what should be their number one priority; converting their home into a learning palace?

One caveat to be noted throughout this essay is that no special skills are needed to accomplish your goals. What will be needed- in generous supply -are tough love, patience, courage, civility, accurate information, commitment, stamina, perseverance, and common sense. 


Number one: A Family Mission Statement

Create a mission statement based on what your hopes, dreams, and expectations are for your child and your family. A concise mission statement provides focus, direction, and represents a guide for the behavior of the entire family. For example; “Our family mission is to create an environment in our home that will support the physical, emotional, and academic growth and development of all family members.

Our home will be characterized by: love, respect, kindness, responsibility, hard work, selflessness and perseverance.”  (KISS- Keep it short and simple) Write it on a poster board, hang it up and refer to it often. Modify when needed. Discuss your mission statement with the entire family and ask for input from all members. It may help if your pet also nods in agreement. While consensus is desired, it is not mandatory. At times-in your house hold- autocracy is better than democracy. When in doubt, parents have the final say. Somebody has to be in charge and it helps if it’s the adults.

NUMBER TWO-You Must Have a Plan

A mission statement without a plan of action is like one of those birthday balloons: It looks nice for a while, but eventually, it loses its air and usefulness.  A specific plan of action must be devised to accommodate the mission statement if you expect to be successful. The following list, though not comprehensive will get you started:

  • Fill your house with good books and all manner of interesting reading materials. (electronic devices for reading are acceptable)
  • Routines are a must. Around all the other stuff, schedule quiet times for homework and reading; no TV or entertainment electronics. Family reading time is an overt message to children that reading is a top priority and the entire family will adhere to this routine at least on every school night. Family dinners are critical as are scheduled bed times and morning routines.
  • Model expected behavior, model expected behavior


Number Three –Daily Family Discussions about School

Take time each day to discuss school, learning, and the school work being brought home. Select a time and a place that is convenient, quiet, and lacking in drama. It doesn’t have to occur at the same place or at the same time. Keep it short or go with the flow. My favorite place to talk quietly with anyone without interruption is in the car. Remain calm but persistent.

“How was school today?”


“What did you do?”


“Did you learn anything?”


Does this sound familiar? We have all been there. When this conversation occurs (I recommend that you avoid it altogether) proceed immediately to plan B. Ask more specific questions about specific subjects and people. Probe until she surrenders and has to tell you something about what was read, written, measured, experimented with, drawn, played, sung, eaten, or observed. Ask about teachers and friends. Get creative.

Often, one of the best starting points for a discussion is the work your child brings home. Ask questions, ask for clarification, and ask for explanations. Remain positive, civil, and calm. Additionally, know your child’s schedule and use it to spark a conversation. What did you do in PE today? What did you do in your computer class? What did you do at recess?

Number Four-Communicate Regularly with Teachers

Starting on the first day of school, beginning in kindergarten, expect to see the results of school work. In some situations, such as in primary grades K-2, you may receive daily examples of your child’s work. Weekly may be the norm in other grades but, the bottom line is parents need this information. And if they are not receiving it, parents must insist. Contact the teacher. This is a critical component that informs parents about progress.

Never wait for interim reports or report cards. Never become complacent even if you know that your child is doing well. Never hesitate to contact the teacher or school officials with questions, concerns, compliments, or clarifications. Again, civility rules. Remain positive and calm. Cooperation and collaboration are in your best interests. But your responsibility and commitment trump everything:  Be diligent.


“Knowledge is power and influence; being proactive increases both”

-James L. Casale


This brief article is merely an introduction to the priorities that must be maintained by parents if they want their child to succeed in school and life. Start with your expectations and a plan to turn your home into a learning fortress. Saturate it with good books and reading materials and talk about school and learning and expectations. Do not totally rely on teachers or other school officials. Be proactive.

“For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”

– William Ross Wallace

About the Author –Dr. Casale is a state and national award winning educator and the author of Wise Up and Be the Solution; How to create learning culture at home and make your child a success in school.His book is available in book stores, amazon and on his website He is available as a speaker.


Is it the Gorilla’s Fault?

 A recent article in a local newspaper titled, The Shame of Parent Shaming, reveals a total lack of understanding about a parent’s first mission; the safety and security of your child. The author’s dismissive and flippant remark; “If it hasn’t happened to you, your parental helicopter must be low enough to clip the tops of trees.” proves the point.

The author continues to shield the parents of the three year old that fell into the Gorilla’s enclosure by recounting her own horrific experience when her 14 month old child, standing next to mom, slipped through the railings of a bridge and landed in the creek below. The good news regarding both incidents is that both children were rescued unharmed and returned safely to the arms of their parents. The bad news is that these incidents happen too often with tragic endings.

Losing track of your child near a potentially perilous situation is not to be taken lightly. In fact, if you are one of those parents who lost sight of your toddler in a supermarket or big box store, the potential for danger is real if the child wanders out into the parking lot. Speaking of parking lots, I have witnessed- on numerous occasions- the “la dee da” body language of parents who are not properly connected to their toddlers while strolling through parking lots.

A critical component of watching out for your child is the parent’s ability to assess possible harmful situations. Pools, parking lots, amusement parks, beaches, playgrounds, and zoos are examples of the locations where helicoptering is appropriate. Remember that the toddler’s world of suspecting and assessing danger does not exist. Parents are the first teachers and role models who are charged with protecting their children as well as teaching them about harmful situations.

Bad things happen when parents are not paying attention to their number one responsibility. Witness the number of children who are left to suffocate in cars because of the ignoramuses that are in charge. These stories and others tell the tale of neglect and abuse. Some outcomes are happy and some are tragic. But let’s not give these parents a pass because, as the author quotes one of her sources that, “Children are attracted to the forbidden and are the consummate escape artists.”  Even gorillas and mama bears know better than that.

James L. Casale, Ph.D

Dr. Casale is the author of the highly praised book published by Skyhorse Publishing, Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create a culture of learning at home and make your child a success at school. It is available at book stores, on amazon and on Dr. Casale’s website, He is available as a speaker. Contact him at





Holidays and Family Time: What Are You Doing?


One of my readers suggested this topic. She believes, as I do, that additional family time, even for working parents,presents itself during holiday weekends and extended seasonal celebrations that include Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a result, I couldn’t help thinking about what my wife and I would do differently if we knew then-in the 60s and 70s- versus what we know now.

First Things First

First of all, our goal of raising and teaching our children to be kind, compassionate, considerate, selfless, respectful, responsible and life-long learners would have been written as a family mission statement and posted in a conspicuous place in our home. It would guide our actions as a family. I feel comfortable saying that in “those days “we knew little but tried hard to raise our two children, James and Karen, in an environment that emphasized personal and academic growth. At that time, I had not yet formulated Dr. Casale’s First Commandment of Parenting:

“Thou shalt have a family mission statement that is posted in a conspicuous place and referred to often.”

(For more information on family mission statements, read chapters one and two in Dr. Casale’s book.)

Memorial Day Weekend

Since I am writing this on Memorial Day weekend, and my family has a long history of military service, I’ll start here. Holiday celebrations are rich opportunities for parents to set an example as teachers and role models.

Do not allow this significant day to pass without choosing one or more of the following activities 🙁 If you do, I’ll have to revoke your citizenship)

  • Check a book out from your local library that explains this sacred day. Read it together and discuss it.
  • Listen to a version of Taps. It’s most likely on YouTube.
  • Display your American flag.
  • Attend a Memorial Day Parade.
  • Check TV programming that focuses on Memorial Day and watch it together.
  • Send a card to a veteran who is confined to hospital and thank him or her for their service.
  • Get creative

Holidays are the perfect opportunities to learn and focus on others who are less fortunate rather than on yourself. These life lessons never end in our quest to become better people and better citizens. If you have children at home at any age, it’s not too late to increase quality family time and stay true to your mission. The selfless things you do during any holiday weekend or season are transferable to other holidays and other seasonal celebrations.

Dr. Casale is the author of the highly praised parenting book, Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create learning culture at home make your child a success in school. (Skyhorse Publishing,NYC) – Available at book stores, amazon and

     Copyright: 28 May 2016 by James L. Casale, Ph.D.      




How Can Dads Contribute to Their Child’s Success?

When I write about parent involvement in their child’s education- becoming more knowledgeable and proactive- I am always addressing both parents. Dads must assume the critical and co-equal role of raising their child. Working full-time does not reduce the responsibility of partnering with your wife and being part of the team that is essentially a child’s first teachers and role models.

The changing family

Modern day families have evolved and changed, but not for the better. When I was growing up in ancient times, the typical family (not mine) was structured thus; mom stayed home and assumed the major responsibility of raising the kids. Dad worked all day and heard about “stuff” when he got home from work. There were few divorces, fewer single parents and out of wedlock babies were unheard of. 

Fast forward to the year 2000. Fewer than 25% of American households were made up of a married man and woman and one or more of their children. That is a decrease from 45% in 1960. Divorce rates continued to hover around 50% of all marriages. And about 1/3 of all babies were born out of wedlock. These statistics are alarming and represent the disintegration of the American family. The fallout is predictable. Teaching and guiding our future citizens is more difficult than ever. 

A new statistic

Statistics now back up the claim that when fathers read to their children, played with them and organized family activities, the children would be predisposed to have higher grades in school and later, successful marriages.

Researchers from Oxford University tracked 17,000 children for 40 years starting in 1958. “Kids, who grew up with an involved dad, were more likely to stay out of trouble, avoid drugs and premarital sex, and were less likely to have mental health issues.” These results were prevalent across all social classes.

According to Ann Buchannan, director of the Oxford University Research Center for Parenting and Children, story reading at an early age created a bond between dads and their children.

Four key areas for dad’s involvement

Eirini Flouri, a researcher from the National Child Development Study, explained the four key areas for dad’s involvement:

  1. Read to his child
  2. Took his child on outings
  3. Made education a priority
  4. Shared the management of the child equally with mom

While none of this is surprising, it emphasizes the importance and necessity of a proactive and dedicated dad who-along with mom- guides and nurtures his child.

This is not rocket science or neurosurgery. No special skills or college degrees are needed. What is needed is caring, knowledgeable and proactive dads who understand and accept their family obligations and act on them. Is there anything more important for a father than guiding and nurturing his children to become exemplary, caring, kind and respectful citizens of admirable character who love learning, their family and their country? 

It’s not easy

This is an ongoing process especially during the child’s formative years and beyond to adolescence. Raising children is not easy and every parent knows it. The requirements are: an abundance of love, common sense, patience, some basic knowledge and commitment to a plan that teaches, nurtures, and guides.

Raising a child is not women’s work; it’s mom’s and dad’s work. Don’t blame the schools or society for what you haven’t done or failed to do.

The role of first teacher and role model belongs to dad as well as mom. Love, lead and model your expectations.

Dr. Casale is the author of the highly praised book published by Skyhorse Publishing, Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create a culture of learning at home and make your child a success at school. It is available at book stores, on amazon and on Dr. Casale’s website, He is available as a speaker. Contact him at



Empty Lots and Building Forts: Why Electronic Devices Suck!

 I never met David Gelernter in person. I became acquainted with him by way of several articles I read in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. He is a respected professor of computer science at Yale University. I, on the other hand, am technologically challenged and of a different era but, we share a similar position when it comes to the use of electronics solely for entertainment and social purposes. I’ll let him explain,

“Many children will settle down with the latest iStuff, each like a happy dog with a big bone, and all those pads, pods, smartphones, videogame machines and computers look like good useful fun. But look again. We ought to group these machines with alcohol and adult movies. They’re fine for grown-ups but no good for children under 13 except for on-line learning when they are at home and simple cell phones when they go out.”Mr. Gerlertner also believes that that these digital toys represent a “mental purgatory” that harms a child’s ability to concentrate.

Professor Gelernter and I are in good company, namely, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP’s recommendations regarding the use of electronics for entertainment include: establishing a family use media plan, banning all electronics at mealtimes and after bedtimes, and eliminating TVs from children’s bedrooms. According to Marjorie Hogan, co-author of the AAP’s recommendations and a pediatrician, “Excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression and lack of sleep. Do I have to even continue? OK, one more tidbit.

Even preschoolers are being rewarded with iPads.  A working parent told me recently that she bought an iPad for her kindergartner and he spent six hours on it in one day. Oh,he was not doing research. The mom also informed me that her child’s teacher informed her that James, not his real name, was not making as much progress as the other students in his kindergarten class. He was falling behind. I’m not sure what that means in kindergarten.

In ancient times, before these devices existed, parents usually plopped their kids down in front of the boob tube. This allowed mom some precious free time for mom. What free time?  You know, free time to clean up, do the wash, vacuum and take an aspirin for that impending headache. This was not the case in my house.

I spent most of my early childhood, the late 40s and 50s, growing up in suburban New York City as a latch key kid. I was not tempted or subjected to today’s electronic madness. We didn’t own our 12 inch black and white TV until 1953 and when we got one, the novelty wore off quickly. How much Howdy Doody could one watch?

Unlike my grandchildren , whose fixation on all things electronic are robbing them of precious time and adventures, I was lured to the outdoors by a neighborhood dotted with empty lots, a bunch of like-minded kids and a cornucopia of exciting adventures, games, activities and relationships yet to be discovered.

Each lot had a separate purpose. We used one for our pick-up tackle football games; one was our makeshift baseball field with,stones, coats, and hats as bases, and one special vacant lot where we built our fort using empty wooden vegetable boxes and any scrap metal, tar paper or debris we could find. This was our ultimate hiding place where we forged friendships, plotted activities, made up the rules for our games like stoop ball and stick ball and dreamed.

When we were not hiding out in our fort, we were playing games in one of our other lots, hunting frogs in a nearby brook(sorry PETA), riding our bicycles, flipping baseball cards,(oh, where are all those Mickey Mantle rookie cards?),

fending off my sister who wanted to hang around with us, and, in the winter, throwing snowballs at kids from other parts of the neighborhood, sleigh riding and ice skating.

I never had a set of Legos but, I do remember playing occasionally with Lincoln Logs. Boring!  What mattered most to me was being outside with my friends and making up stuff to do on the fly. These days too much time is spent indoors engaging in sedentary and often solitary electronic activities that seem to mesmerize and hypnotize kids away from the cool stuff like building forts.

Dr. Casale is the author of the highly praised book published by Skyhorse Publishing, Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create a culture of learning at home and make your child a success at school. It is available at book stores, on amazon and on Dr. Casale’s website, He is available as a speaker. Contact him at











The Parent Report Card: How do you measure up?


 The Parent Report Card: How do you measure up?

The responsibility of educating a child was never intended to be the sole responsibility of school teachers. School teachers, principals and other line positions act in loco parentis; in place of parents. After all, who are a child’s first teachers and role models? Who is the first mediator of a child’s culture? It’s you the parents and you are accountable.

The Palm Beach Post recently reported (3/19/16) on a bill being considered by the Mississippi legislature in an article, “Bill would let teachers grade parents on student involvement.”  This topic-parent accountability-has been talked about for decades. But, schools, school officials, Board members, state legislatures, the federal government and lay people, in their naiveté, still think that more money and resources are the cure for ailing schools. My five decades in the public schools in four different states have convinced me of the value of a major recommendation of the 1966 Coleman Report: “The best predictor of school success is the quality of the family”.

Why is this ignored by most public school systems and the parent groups that support them? The School District of Palm Beach County, a few years ago, was considering the establishment of a Parent Academy that would presumably inform and guide parents toward a more proactive role in their child’s education. That thought lasted about as long as it takes to conduct a Board meeting. It was mentioned briefly in the Palm Beach Post but fizzled out like a faulty sparkler.

Parents seem to abrogate their child rearing responsibilities to schools and school teachers. Then, if things don’t go well, they blame the teachers. Isn’t this backward? Your child’s education doesn’t begin with teachers; it begins at home when the baby arrives from the hospital.

Parenting is difficult, but it is not hand surgery. No special skills are needed. What is needed is a positive attitude about education and a solid commitment to become more informed and knowledgeable. Parents do not have to help with homework or design leaning activities. But they do have to set the tone in their house that education is important. That tone, minimally, consists of the following: high expectations, filling the house with good books, limiting TV and all entertainment electronics, family dinners and discussions, working cooperatively with the school, reading to and in front of your children and most importantly; modeling all expected behaviors such as respect, responsibility, compassion, selflessness, and perseverance.

When parents truly understand their critical role as teachers and role models, they will embrace John Gardner’s profound quote, “The smallest school in America is the family.”


James L. Casale, Ph.D. is the author of the highly praised parenting book,“Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create a culture of learning at home and make your child a success in school.” He is available as a speaker. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. Subscribe to his website,

Let em Fail

Let em’ Fail 

by James L. Casale. Ph.D.

Some people think I opine too much about video games. But, I was recently contacted by working parents, Joe and Marie,(their names were changed to protect the guilty) who are at “wits end” with their children, a boy age 15 and a girl age 13 who seem obsessed with entertainment electronics especially, video games, TV and texting on cell phones.

The entertainment referenced above, of course, takes the place of doing homework, achieving at their expected levels in school (they are both potentially “A” students) and helping their parents around the house. This has become NOT acceptable to their parents.

I wrote in one of my long ago posts, “Pediatricians say limit electronics” about the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatricians. If you really want to raise children who are responsible, self-disciplined and selfless, go back to the basics. You are in charge. You must be in charge. You’re the adults.


  • Create a family media policy. Give everyone a copy
  • No TVs in children’s bedrooms
  • No entertainment devices allowed in children’s bedrooms after bedtime
  • No entertainment devices allowed at all for children not meeting academic expectations or home responsibilities
  • Consider signed contracts that delineate specific expectations such as when homework will be done, when and how rooms must be cleaned and chores accomplished.
  • Remain in constant contact with your children’s teacher(s);seek information and advice
  • Read my book, “Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create learning culture at home and make your child a success in school”.
  • Avoid stress and anxiety and yelling and screaming. Allow your children to suffer the consequences of their choices.

Copyright 11 March 2016 by James L. Casale, Ph.D. / All rights reserved at

Dr. Casale is available as a speaker. Contact him at

As a Parent, Do You Enable the Irresponsible Behavior of Your Child?


Three True Stories

Story # 1

While dining in one of our favorite restaurants in Juno Beach, Florida, my wife and I observed the following episode:

A mom, accompanied by her toddler son, the boy’s grandmother, and the child’s humungous toy fire engine, were seated at a table near us. The boy placed the fire engine directly on top of the table, leaving little room for anything else.

The server arrived to take their order. The server may have assumed that the toy truck would no longer be on top of the table when she returned with the food. WRONG, the toy remained on the table and the server had to figure out where to place the food other than on top of the heads of mom and grandma.

Where are the adults in this situation? Who is teaching whom? What is this kid learning? Dr. Casale’s Rule # 17-No toys, games, or electronics are allowed at any table anywhere, when food and family conversation are being served.

True Story #2

A kindergartner was in the principal’s office with his parents listening attentively to the principal and the teacher. These two professional educators were calmly explaining the reasons why this child should not be taking things from other kids’ desks and claiming them as his own. When the conference concluded and the participants were leaving, the mother was overheard saying to her child, “It’s no big deal.”

What is this boy learning? What goes on in this home? Dr. Casale’s Rule # 2-No stealing.

True Story #3

A young man in his early twenties decided that it would be nothing more than a prank to throw a live alligator through the drive-in window at a local Wendy’s. He easily qualifies as a moron, even though, when being interviewed by a local TV organization outside the police station, he appeared to be sane as well as remorseful.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and theft. When his mother heard the charges, she thought them to be extreme and said. “Well, I mean, how could you not think that something like that was a prank.”

This young man lives with his parents and has never heard of Dr. Casale’s Rule # 7; Never disappoint your parents no matter what age you are.

Dr. Casale is the published author of the highly praised book, “Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create a learning culture at home and make your child a success in school.” (Available in book stores, amazon, and from Dr. Casale’s website,





Seven Things Parents Must Do Before, During, and After Teacher Conferences

Seven Things Parents Must Do Before, During and After Teacher Conferences

By James L. Casale, Ph.D.

You receive a note, phone call or an email from your child’s teacher. If you were paying attention, you already know there are or may be some issues with your child’s progress and/or behavior. Do you dread going to this meeting?  As a teacher, I was well prepared to meet parents and students at conferences. As a parent, I was also prepared because I was a teacher and knew what to expect.

Conversely and more often than you think, parents are the ones who initiate a conference. No matter, the seven rules still apply.

Don’t panic and worst of all, don’t start interrogating your child. Not long ago, I accompanied my daughter-in-law to her parent conference. She reached out to me, and since her son is my grandson, I was eager to help.

  1. Stay calm; civility rules. Do not waste your time and energy on anger and angst. Actually you can take control of the situation if you think ahead about preparing for the conference whether you initiated it or not.
  2. Get that writing pad out and start writing. Any issue-major or minor- requires the facts as you know or understand them. Write notes that reveal your concerns, what you know, or understand. Don’t write sentences or a narrative. Jot down the main ideas and your questions. At the conference with my grandson, we had a copy of our questions and gave them to the teacher. It was a great discussion starter. For example in my grandson’s case, his mother was upset that the teacher was writing negative comments on his planner, and on tests, the teacher always emphasized what was wrong; not what was right. The child-an elementary student became discouraged and upset. Simple questions emerged: Is this necessary? Can you call or e-mail me instead? On a test, can you place the number correct over the number possible instead of writing” four are wrong”?
  3. Bring evidence. Maintain a portfolio of all your child’s school work including teacher notes, awards, and report cards. These are certainly what the teacher will have ready when you arrive. They become the basis for a discussion, a plan of action and eventual resolution of a problem. If the issue is mostly behavioral, re-read the first sentence in #2
  4. Bring the child. It is usually appropriate to have the child present at a conference. Kids don’t like this. They love to complain, but they don’t like the face to face discussions. Bring them anyway. It can be a healthy experience. They are normally part of the plan of action and the resolution of the issues.
  5. Take notes during the conference. Record, to the best of your ability, the essence of the discussion, the mutual plan to correct deficiencies, and the date for the first follow-up discussion. The next discussion date should be the following week. Agree on a method to keep in touch.
  6. Act as the gatekeeper. Monitor the situation. Nothing should really surprise you if you are paying attention. Your home can be a learning palace if you construct an environment that emphasizes learning, respect, responsibility, selflessness, compassion, and work. NO SPECIAL SKILLS ARE NEEDED.
  7. Don’t do it for them. You are not required to do their homework or solve all their problems. Sometime we have to let our kids fail. When my high school grandson decided not to do his homework or fulfill his responsibilities, he failed two courses. He spent his summer retaking the courses. He had no summer job. He earned no money. He was miserable. Your fault? No. His fault? Yes.

Dr. Casale is the author of the highly praised parenting book, Wise Up and be the Solution: How to create learning culture at home make your child a success in school. Skyhorse Publishing (NYC)

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Copyright 12 February 2016 by James L. Casale, Ph.D. and

All rights reserved.