Editorial: Involve students in parent-advisor conferences

Volume 120 Board

Last Thursday, students sat at home while advisors met with parents and shared comments from each of their teachers. For students, the conferences lie  behind a frustrating shroud of secrecy — teachers don’t tell students what they wrote and most advisors don’t share comments with students, so we are left with what filters through our parents. 

Here’s the reasoning behind this opaque setup: teachers write comments for each of their students about what they’re doing well and where they can improve. Advisors receive comments for their students’ two days before the conferences.

Parents don’t see these comments. Advisors are instructed not to quote directly from the comments at conferences — they are a private communication between them and teachers, Dean of UD Faculty Dr. Andrew Fippinger said. Rather than reading comments verbatim and class-by-class, the advisor’s role is to notice trends and convey a holistic picture of students for parents, Head of UD Dr. Jessica Levenstein told us.

Students also cannot read their teachers’ comments. While advisors are encouraged to synthesize key points and share trends, they cannot show the exact words to students, Fippinger said. If a teacher wants to share comments with students, they can send them as fleshed out, formal academic reports, Levenstein said.

The game of telephone — from teachers to advisors to parents to us — muddles teachers’ messages and takes agency away from us. The communication is one sided: rather than a conversation where we can voice our side of our experience, we get told what other people think without an opportunity to hear the exact feedback, much less respond.

These conferences should treat us like active participants in our education. Teachers should offer feedback directly to their students along with mid-sems; students and parents should read them and have the option to meet together with advisors, who can continue to help them interpret the feedback. That doesn’t need to create more work for teachers. The comments can remain blunt and brief. We’re high schoolers, we should be mature enough to handle critiques.  

Students are the ones who are supposed to act on teachers’ comments. We should be able to hear them too.