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High School Student-Led Conference

Rafael, a tenth-grade student at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in New York City discusses his progress with one of his teachers and his mother during his student-led conference. Rafael and his mother discuss the merits of student-led conferences.

This video accompanies the book Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-Engaged Assessment.


- Okay, so while he’s organizing, I’m Ms.Duarte. How are you?

- How are you?

- So Rafael is going to choose a couple pieces of work, he’s gonna talk about them and reflect on them in a way that’s meaningful. And we’re gonna take a look at his grades, and we’ll look at his transcript and see how he’s doing with reference to graduation, and credits, and G.P.A.

- Yesterday was my first 10th grade student-led conference with my mom. Basically, talked about all my work that I’ve done so far throughout the year. So I’m Rafael your son, right, this is Ms. Duarte, my former Spanish teacher. so this is my global history piece. It was a thematic essay. They gave you documents from--

- I am a single mother of three childrens here at WHEELS. And this is the year that I have all three of my kids at the same school.

- You have to use that document, the information on the document and write and essay based on a theme, a main theme. And the the theme was economic systems. A student-led conference helps us becoming more honest about the work because it lets us know that we have to tell the truth for our teachers to help us, and at the same time our parents. To see if they could find a way to help us with the teachers together.

- So what are the areas where you were struggling?

- Basically, my body paragraphs the sentence starters, and my ... If you know what you’re struggling with and you know that you need help in something, holding it back from yourself and from letting others know is not gonna help you at all. I kind of lost track.

- You lost track.

- Of how to do it, but I had a lesson on that and I got it down already.

- You really have to take the time to be involved. I’m like the person who is always behind them. I’m always like did you do your homework? Did you do this? Always asking them what’s going on in their activities at school.

- Do you want to talk about Spanish now?

- Aw, Spanish.

- I just want a little bit of background about this, so Rafael last year was in my Spanish class but it wasn’t actually a--

- I had to be honest about my AP Spanish Literature work because, or the overall class, because I’m not doing so well in it.

- [Ms. Duarte] Talk to us about how it’s going in Spanish.

- Well, right now it was surprising because I thought it was like last years class, but it’s nothing compared to last years class. Or somewhat, we still learn things like accentos or tildes.

- So similar message of course.

- But it’s very literature based. They have to do Shakespeare but it’s in Spanish.

- It’s like a challenge, and a learning strategy that she’s teaching you guys to improve even in your own language.

- They’ve been speaking it their whole lives, but they haven’t been studying it academically.

- Like the text is difficult.

- Yeah.

- I was surprised, like I’m just a sophomore

- I’ll take a look at the book.

- But we can talk at greater length about whether we think--

- I told Ms. Duarte and my mom that if I actually sit down and concentrate to do my work, I would be able to finish the work like any other class. The other day I sat down and I actually read the text, concentrated and read the text and did my homework. It’s hard, but I know that I can do it because I’m that type of student that doesn’t give up that easily.

- The teachers are there for you. You know they will help you and solve a way to get exactly where you want to be and where they want you to be.

- [Ms. Duarte] Absolutely.

- Basically, you guys are preparing him for college. College is not easy. College is ... I mean there’s things that really--

- That’s where--

- I consider families should be very involved, not only for the kids sake, but also to help the teachers with the goals that as a parent you have for these kids. You really have to take the time to be involved. If a kid is really focusing and also with the help of the parents this is how everything teams up. To pull these kids to be a success.

- My mom knows, that one of my weaknesses is being kind of stubborn about looking for help. I’m the person where I don’t like to look--

- You don’t like to make mistakes?

- Yeah, I don’t like to make mistakes. Before in last year’s last student-led conference, she told me that finishing up the year I had to look for help for whatever I need, and the same thing happened this year at the beginning of the year, I needed to seek help.

- Everybody has to go through that.

- [Ms. Duarte] Absolutely.

- That’s a strategy to learn. I mean you do mistake you try to catch up from there.

- Me and my mom made a goal for me so I would be able to stop having fear of being wrong, or saying something wrong in class when I participate because that’s the reason why I don’t really participate in my Spanish class because I’m afraid of being wrong in front of the whole class. She said that to just take the risk of raising your hand and being wrong once and a while.

- I have a vision of my kids being very successful. Finish your high school, go to college. For the neighborhood we’re in, I see that they’re gonna pull these kids to be a complete success. And as a parent I have no words to thank them.

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