Meet Kate Goedeker, the Assistant Principal at Oakland Unity Middle School. As a recent project, the school just completed their founding year and are gearing up for another year with 80 new students and 5 new staff members.
We asked Kate a few questions to learn about what’s happening in Oakland.
What led you to teaching/education?
My interest in education started during my undergraduate career at Loyola University Chicago. Though I was studying politics, I started working for Loyola’s School of Education because of my interest in educational equity. For the next three years, I spent every Saturday in one of the eight lowest-performing schools in the Chicago Public School district. When my students earned college scholarships after winning a knowledge bowl competition, I internalized that their potential could be realized despite the challenges they faced. As a result, I decided to apply for Teach For America, Hawaii. I moved to Hawaii in 2008 to start my career in education.
We’ve heard that the teachers and students at your site has implemented student-led conferences. Could you tell us more about that?
At Unity Middle School, student-led conferences happen twice per year. We prioritize 100% of conferences happening. To support that scheduling undertaking, SLC weeks are minimum weeks where the school day ends at noon. Conferences occur throughout the afternoon with morning and evening slots also available to support our families’ busy schedules.
Each student, his advisor, and his parents meet for an hour long conference. Students formally begin the conferences and talk about each class and major assessments in detail with their parents. Parents leave the conferences fully informed of their student’s progress and goals.
What advice would you give a teacher who is trying to implement student-led conferences instead of the traditional parent-teacher conference?
I would advise schools aiming to implement student-led conferences to start preparing students for conferences earlier than you think! This year, we started preparing students about one month in advance. As a staff, we developed a script of what we felt a strong conferences would look like. Then, we distributed the script to students about a month ahead of conferences. Students worked diligently to make the outlined script their own and get comfortable speaking about their data. Because students are so often the quiet attendee at a conference (or not present at all), preparing students to lead their own conference takes a lot of strategic planning. Next year, we will start preparing students more than a month in advance as we build confident speakers.
How has Illuminate helped support your teachers and students with implementing student-led conferences?
We are actually working on a custom view for students this year. However, last year students used Illuminate to share all assessment results with their parents. Particularly, students spoke to their strengths and growth areas and used assessments from Illuminate to highlight those areas. This year, we are excited to figure out a holistic view for students and families. We are also excited about how much detail is in the Fountas & Pinnell report and plan to use it this year, as well!