Home > School and Learning > Parental Involvement > Parent-Teacher Conferences > How to Get What You Want from the Teacher

How to Get What You Want from the Teacher

Mastering Grade-Speak
The biggest waste of time in the parent-teacher conference occurs when the teacher has to explain the grading and testing systems. The exact meaning of terms like rubric, stanine, and standardized test confound many parents and frustrate quite a few teachers as well. Grading systems differ from state to state and even from district to district, but most use variations of the following.

Rubric. A rubric is a list of the skills needed to master a subject at a particular grade level. It is meant to clarify to both the child and the teacher exactly what is expected of the child by the end of the school year. Rubrics are usually broken down into four scoring levels:

1 = not proficient
2 = partially proficient
3 = proficient
4 = advanced

Sometimes the rubric score is used as a grade, especially in early elementary years. For older children, rubrics are used as "scoring devices" that are a partial basis for letter grades. There is no nationwide standard for rubrics – sometimes the school district provides them and sometimes teachers devise their own. In public schools, the district's rubrics for each grade level are usually available from the teacher or the front office.

Standardized Test (Stanford 9, Iowa, AIMS, TAAS, CAT, etc.). Standardized tests assess how well a student is learning. There is no national test; each state is free to select or devise its own. States also differ as to which grade levels must be tested. At the parent-teacher conference you can ask whether your child will be tested and if there is anything you should do to help him or her prepare.

Percentile rank. Percentile rank is a way of comparing a child's scores to those of children in a "norm group" who took the standardized test when it was being developed. If your child has a percentile rank of 80, it means that 80 percent of the children in the norm group got a lower score than your child. Being in the eightieth percentile does not mean that your child answered 80 percent of the questions correctly.

Stanine. Stanines are the most baffling of the scoring systems. The word is short for "standard nine" and refers to the nine sections of a bell curve into which a child's test results may fall. A stanine of 1, 2, or 3 is below average; 4, 5, or 6 is average; and 7, 8, or 9 is above average. Each stanine number indicates a range of performance, not a specific score.

Entrance into G.A.T.E. (Gifted and Talented Education) programs often depends on a child's stanine score. You can ask the teacher what the rules are in your school district, but don't squander too much of your conference time on the topic. You can squander time later when you research it online or compare notes with other confused parents.

There is much controversy about the value of yearly standardized testing, particularly in the early grades, because young children learn at vastly different rates. A 1999 study conducted by the Michigan Association for Early Childhood Teachers found that only 58 percent of teachers believe test scores are useful when conferring with parents. The scores remain a focal point of parent-teacher conferences because parents expect to see them and because it's more time-efficient to show a list of a fourth grader's scores than it is to dissect his essay. If test scores, class work, and your child's behavior are all worrisome, the teacher will certainly give you a heads-up. However, if only his test scores are problematic, it may simply be that he is stressed out about taking standardized tests. Many young children are. Ask the teacher how other children are doing in comparison to yours, and ask if she thinks your child needs extra help.

From Say the Magic Words by Lynette Padwa. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, go to Amazon.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks