Can home visits replace the parent-teacher conference?
- Aurora Central High School in Colorado is seeking to improve parent engagement and student attendance rates by holding parent-teacher conferences at the homes of select families in the district, Chalkbeat reports.
- Since not many parents were attending parent-teacher conferences, the school has eliminated those in favor of the new home visiting approach, an idea that has received mixed reactions from parents in the district.
- The home visits take place on Friday afternoons when schools release early; however, Bruce Wilcox, president of the Aurora teachers union, said he worries about placing the burden of parent engagement on busy teachers in a situation where fewer resources, such as access to translators, are available.
Home visits are not a new concept. Head Start programs have employed them for years, as have some Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood programs in some areas. However, a growing number of school districts are seeing home visits as a way to engage with families on their own turf. The visits help families connect with their children's teachers, thus encouraging student attendance and parental support. The visits also allow teachers to see a student in their home setting, a practice that can help increase their awareness of the child’s support systems and the challenges they face. As a result, these home visits can help transform a struggling school district.
What is more controversial is how those home visits should be used. While some schools, such as Aurora Central High School see these as replacements for school-based parent teacher conferences, other schools feel that the discussion of student progress interferes with the goal of home visits. In an article entitled, “Making Your First ELL Home Visit: A Guide for Classroom Teachers,” the authors write, “Home visits are not meant to replace parent-teacher conferences or to discuss children's progress. When done early, before any school problems might arise, home visits signal that teachers are eager to work with all families and avoid putting parents on the defensive. Teachers who have made home visits say they build stronger relationships with parents and their children and improve attendance and achievement.”
However home visits are used, school administrators need to provide proper training for teachers and help them understand the safety precautions they need to take. Teachers also need to have clear direction for the visit. For instance, though they should certainly note any apparent signs of abuse or neglect, that is not the primary purpose of the visit. According to a report by futureofchildren.org, researchers found “little evidence that home-visiting programs directly prevent child abuse and neglect. But home visits can impart positive benefits to families by way of influencing maternal parenting practices, the quality of the child’s home environment, and children’s development.”