Parents and Students Talking: How Individual Career Planning Conferences Can Make a Difference

By Eugenia Newell

Tulsa Public Schools has been bringing parents and students together through Individual Career Planning Conferences for a decade. These conferences provide a time for students, parents and counselors to review transcripts and test results from recent standardized tests. During this time students enroll for next year’s classes and begin a career plan. Conferences at both the middle and high school level are a catalyst for students to consider how academic interests and other special talents can be directed into career choices. Eighth grade and tenth grade conferences provide two opportunities for Tulsa parents and students to talk and together to make informed decisions about the future.

How Individual Career Planning Conferences Can Make a Difference

  • Counselors and administrators welcome these conferences because they bring parents to school for a positive reason. Parental involvement varies from school to school, but ranged from 26% to 92% during the 2006-2007 school year.
  • Counselors believe students whose parents participate are much more likely to take more rigorous coursework.
  • Although standardized test results are sent home with students, many parents need additional help in interpreting the results.
  • By helping students design a four to six year plan of study, parents become more familiar with the required and elective courses available at the school.
  • These conferences give students a chance to discuss career interests, sometimes for the first time, with their parents.
  • Parents who participate with their student can see how coordinating a plan of study with career interests and college majors can provide a seamless transition to postsecondary education.

Students are encouraged to become aware of career interests, and what they can do now to make their career dreams a reality. Career assessments information (provided by the EXPLORE and PLAN tests in Oklahoma) are often overlooked. The tests highlight academic strengths and weaknesses, but the career assessments are also a useful tool in helping students find a career focus.

Eighth grade Conferences

Students in Tulsa Public Schools move from middle to high school in the eighth grade, and the planning conferences are a valuable tool for involving parents in the enrollment process. During the eighth grade conference, counselors review and explain the outcomes from the student’s standardized test taken earlier in the school year. Parents are made aware of both the courses required for graduation and the high school electives available. Student transcripts are reviewed. Information gleaned from the career assessments can help students focus on career clusters that are of interest to them, and begin to consider how they will prepare for a career.

Tenth grade Conferences

While the eighth grade conferences focus on career awareness, high school conferences look beyond high school. They encourage students to use their elective courses to prepare them for college majors or professional certification. Conferences for tenth graders include a review and interpretation of the tests taken by students earlier in school year. Transcripts are reviewed to make sure graduation requirements are on track. The standardized tests can serve as a valuable predictor for the ACT and SAT entrance exams. If test scores show academic weaknesses, courses will be suggested to remediate the weaknesses. Career assessment will be reviewed and students will have a chance to use their elective classes to prepare for success. Representatives of postsecondary institutions are invited to tenth grade conferences. Parents and students have the opportunity discuss entrance requirements and financial aid information, and arrange campus tours. Concurrent and dual enrollment opportunities are presented.

Implementing Individual Career Planning Conferences

The Career Tech Department of Tulsa Public Schools provides the leadership for the program by working with school administrators, counselors and other community groups to coordinate and promote this program.

  • School counselors schedule 20 minute appointments with parents and students who meet around a table, usually in the school library.
  • Parents are notified by letter of the appointment time for their student, and are given a chance to reschedule if the appointed time is not convenient.
  • Parents and students are paired with Tulsa Public School Career Guidance Specialists and counselors who volunteer to provide assistance in interpreting the test results.
  • Students and parents select classes, and enrollment is reviewed and approved by school counselors.

Each student is given a portfolio to take home containing information discussed. Students are urged to use the portfolio to keep a record of extra curricular activities, examples of excellent work and school activities for resumes and/or postsecondary admission. Special needs students and their parents are accommodated by teachers and counselors familiar with their specific needs.

More and more Tulsa middle and high schools are becoming interested in providing career planning conferences. The continued growth is due in large part to word of mouth by counselors, administrators and parents who believe they promote a unique decision making process. While all planning conferences have the same elements in common, each school has designed the event to fit the needs of their community.

Eugenia Newell is a Career Guidance Specialist for Tulsa, OK Public Schools. She also served as Director of Career Services at Rogers State College. She has a Master's Degree in Occupational and Adult Education from OK State University. She can be contacted at newelje@tulsaschools.org .

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