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A Virtual Option to Wrangle Busy Parents for Teacher Conferences

Man holding an tablet device

Parents are Essential ... and Busy

In the 1980s, Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla set out to compile the findings of 35 academic studies that considered whether parent involvement in learning helps students improve. Their groundbreaking work laid out what is now more or less a fact: getting parents involved leads to significant, measurable benefits for children, families, and schools.

"The form of parent involvement does not seem to be critical," Anne and Nancy write in the first edition of their work, "The Evidence Grows." "So long as it is reasonably well-planned, comprehensive and long-lasting."

It's a tall order in 2015, especially for single parents or parents working hourly jobs. A poll last year found that nearly half of parents who want to be more involved in their child's education are "too busy" to increase what they're already doing.

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Virtual Parent Conferences

Learning research scientist Dr. Rob Kadel is working with his colleagues on one way that could help busy parents.

Not all parents are able to take advantage of parent-teacher conferences. It's a major time commitment to take off work, travel to school, and wait in line. The process could easily take an hour-and-a-half.

"Can we improve parent attendance if we offer a virtual option?" Rob asks. "The convenience factor could make a big difference."

Rolling Out the Idea

This fall, two school districts will be testing a virtual, video conference option for parents, using Apple's Facetime, a Google Hangout, or Microsoft's Skype. An hour-and-a-half challenge for working parents suddenly becomes a 15-minute work break.

"Parent involvement in learning is so crucial," Rob says. "We're not only helping parents who feel left by the wayside because of complicated life circumstances. We're also finding great ways to collaborate over learning by means of technology, in ways outside of the classroom."

We'll have updates in this space once Rob and his team dig through the results from their work. Until then, we leave you with these tips to make the most out of a parent-teacher conference from Pearsons' partners at the NBC Parent Toolkit.

Parent Conference Tip

Download a list of questions to ask during a parent-teacher conference here.