School Matters: Parent-teacher conferences keep communication open

by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe 7th Mission Support Command Public Affairs

Photo courtesy of American Forces Network Kaiserslautern High School student, parent and teacher talk during the filming of a video about the importance of parent-teacher conferences coming up Feb. 9 at the school. The video was part of the “School Matters” campaign being launched online and on American Forces Network Television to encourage parents and students to attend the conferences.
Photo courtesy of American Forces Network
Kaiserslautern High School student, parent and teacher talk during the filming of a video about the importance of parent-teacher conferences coming up Feb. 9 at the school. The video was part of the “School Matters” campaign being launched online and on American Forces Network Television to encourage parents and students to attend the conferences.

Parent-teacher conferences in the Kaiserslautern area are scheduled for Tuesday, and school officials and key leaders strongly encourage parents to attend.

The event gives parents the opportunity to talk to their children’s teachers about what’s happening at school, said Dr. Barriett Smith, the principal at Kaiserslautern High School.

Even parents of students who are doing well should stay in contact with teachers, he said. It is important to keep lines of communication open, Smith added.


In addition, the “School Matters” campaign was recently launched by KHS online and on American Forces Network television to encourage parents and students to attend conferences.

Research shows that students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and they are more likely to complete high school than students whose parents are not involved in their school, according to Dr. Dell McMullen, the Director of the Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe.

McMullen oversees the operations of 66 schools located on U.S. military installations throughout eight countries in Europe, educating more than 28,000 students.

Positive effects of parental involvement have been demonstrated at both the elementary and secondary school levels, McMullen stated. It is extremely important for parents to participate in school meetings, conferences and activities to work in partnership with teachers to ensure success for their child.

“I urge all parents to make sure they take an active role in their children’s education and especially to attend parent-teacher conferences,” said Brig. Gen. Arlan DeBlieck, commanding general of the 7th Mission Support Command and deputy commanding general of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. “I also urge all leaders and supervisors to give them the time they need.”

Madeline Hickey, a ninth-grader at KHS, goes to the conferences with her parents.

“They want me to follow my dreams and succeed and go to college and do what I want to do,” Hickey said, adding she wants to go to college and study criminal justice, and she’d like to work for the FBI as a forensic pathologist.

Alaina Pemberton, who is in the 11th grade at KHS, said her parents are very supportive, and her dad regularly emails back and forth with her teachers.

“He takes the pressure off of being in high school,” Pemberton said. “He makes it my responsibility to do the best I can.”

Pemberton said her parents support her when she struggles with a subject in school.

“They trust that I’m going to do the right thing they encourage me to do,” Pemberton said.

Smith has three students in the DODEA school system, one in elementary school and two in middle school. The kids are doing well academically, but he still attends conferences with their teachers.

Parent support at home is key to student success, Smith said. Young people need to be competitive today to get jobs in what has become a global market place.

“Your child needs to be prepared,” Smith said.

Freshman high school students often have the most challenging adjustment to make, from middle school to high school, Smith said. They are required to work more independently, he added.

In addition, military kids face the challenges of moving often and adjusting to new peers and surroundings, Smith said.

Both Hickey and Pemberton say they have been able to easily transition when they move, but Pemberton said DODEA schools are different than public school in the United States.

“(DODEA schools) hold you to a higher standard in your work,” said Pemberton, who came to the KHS in October after attending school in Michigan for the past few years. “They make you think about what you’re learning.”

Hickey spent the past three years in Kaiserslautern, including seventh and eighth grade in Kaiserslautern Middle School. Her family plans to move this summer, and she will likely be going to a public school in Idaho.

To help students focus, Smith recommends having a consistent, always-set time to spend on school work after school. Even if there is no homework, students can do something academic, such as  reading, he said.

KHS has various resources to help those who are falling behind or struggling with class work, Smith said. These options include the after school tutoring program from 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, headed by Mrs. Charlotte George; peer tutoring provided by National Honor Society students at the high school; and the 21st TSC mentoring program.

KHS students should not be bringing a lot of homework home with them, Smith said. Every other day they have an 85-minute seminar in which they can complete much of their homework.

“Students should not come home with a lot of work if they are using their time wisely,” Smith said.

Students can also speak to the teachers of classes in which they are struggling during this time, Smith added.

Another tool for parents is Gradespeed, a website where  teachers post updated grades every Thursday.

“My mom checks Gradespeed all the time,” Hickey said. “She puts something on the line if I’m failing a class.”

The best way to keep track of student’s progress is to talk to them, Smith said.

“Talk to your student on a daily basis to see what’s going on in school,” Smith said.

Parents can feel free to reach out to teachers at any time during the school year, Smith added.

“Don’t be shy about that,” Smith said.

Right now, DODEA’s number one priority is the implementation of College and Career Readiness Standards, according to McMullen.

With that will come many changes, McMullen said in an email. It is vitally important that parents attend school meetings and events to stay informed regarding the changes that they will see with their child’s education due to the implementation of these new standards. The school work and homework will look different.

“Attending your child’s parent-teacher conference will help you to help your children become better prepared for their future, wherever that may take them,” McMullen added.