If your child is one of the 210,000 students in grades 3-8 who scored a Level 1 or 2 on last spring's state ELA or math exams, you should know that schools are offering families 30 minute one-on-one conferences with their child's teachers from now through January.

The $5 million Department of Education initiative was prompted by advocates from the Coalition of Educational Justice (CEJ), said Megan Hester, a community organizer with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform which works with CEJ. 

Hester said that when scores came out last summer some CEJ parents wondered whether they should be alarmed at their child's low test scores and what they could be doing about it.

After doing some research, CEJ parents decided that "the only way parents can really support their kids is to sit down one on one with their teachers," Hester said. The group negotiated with the DOE which agreed to budget $5 million to fund family meetings with teachers at which parents could learn strategies of how to help their children.

The regular twice-annual Parent/Teacher conferences in elementary and middle school took place this week and last, but those conferences are generally much shorter than those offered through this initiative. Some schools incorporated the half hour conferences, others did not.

The DOE issued a statement announcing that "schools will be inviting families of 4th-8th grade children who scored a Level 1 or Level 2 on the 2013 State Common Core exams to participate in a one-to-one conversation about your child's progress. Families will be offered personalized sessions of up to 30 minutes to discuss your child's performance, strengths, and specific tools and activities that will help you work together to help your child improve." But it's unclear whether all families have gotten that message, Hester said.

"With 210,000 kids affected, it's an enormous challenge: how do we get the word out to more than 500 schools?" she said. "We're really trying to get the word out so parents can go to their schools and make it happen."

See below a video by CEJ  about the benefits of these extended conferences. The DOE is adapting the video and will be posting it on its website, Hester said.

To request an extended conversation, contact your child's school. You can also contact the Division of Family and Community Engagement at (212) 374-4118 or the Coalition for Educational Justice at [email protected] with any questions.