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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 01/31/2011

Legislation: Teachers should grade parents

By Valerie Strauss

In the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category, a Florida (no surprise there) state legislator has filed a bill that would require some elementary school teachers to grade parents on how involved they are at their children's schools.

Schools, students, teachers, now parents: The grading frenzy moves on. The bill, HB 255, was just filed in the Florida House by Rep. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, says:

“Although the school environment has a great impact on a child’s well-being and academic success, parents and the home environment form the foundation of a child’s present and future life. Without proper parental involvement in all aspects of a child’s life, the child’s prospects to be a well-equipped and useful member of society are greatly diminished.”

Yes, Stargel has that right. It is imperative that students have all kinds of support in their home life to be successful at school.

This, though, raises the question of why Stargel and other legislators who think this parent evaluation system is a good idea have voted to evaluate and pay teachers on the basis of how their students do on standardized test scores.

The big movement in teacher evaluation across the country is to link standardized test scores to student pay through a “value-added” formula that fails to take into account any part of a child’s life outside school.

Requiring teachers to grade parents is a nutty idea. Some parents work two or three jobs and can’t be as involved as they would like to be, and, besides, teachers have enough to do already.

Even if it were possible to set up a reasonable parent evaluation system, there could be no real enforcement mechanism, at least not in traditional public schools. Private schools, and even public charter schools, quietly counsel kids out for bad academic performance; traditional public schools can’t.

Now that Stargel has shown that she accepts the fact that home life has a major impact on academic performance, she and her colleagues should now ask themselves just how hypocritical it would be to keep pushing “value-added” assesssment of teachers.

The legislation calls for teachers to assess how involved parents are in meeting teacher requests for conferences and other forms of communication; and ensuring that children are physically ready to attend school, that they show up on time, and that they complete homework and prepare for tests.

The evaluation then would be part of the student’s report card, and a parent could appeal under a process that would be set up by the Board of Education. Of course, though, there is no real way to make a parent do better.

Here’s the list of things that Stargel’s bill says parents are supposed to be doing:

(2) CAUSES FOR STUDENT UNDERACHIEVEMENT.—The following behaviors with respect to the relationship between a child’s home and school are identified as possible causes for a student’s underachievement:

(a) A child is not physically prepared for the school day to inadequate rest or improper clothing, lack of necessary school supplies, or frequent tardiness or absence.

(b) A child is not mentally prepared for the school day due to uncompleted homework or inadequate preparation for tests.

(c) Communication between parents and the teacher is often written rather than through personal contact and often occurs only when a problem has arisen rather than on a consistent basis throughout the school year.

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 31, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Parents, Teachers  | Tags:  bill for teachers to grade parents, florida bill teachers, florida legislature, florida schools, legislation teachers parents, parents, teachers, teachers grading parents  
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Next: The 'thinking gap' (and why teachers shouldn't keep kids busy every second)


What would be the repercussions of a bad grade?

They are correct that the parents matter. They are incorrect in thinking that putting a number to how good or bad a parent is will change anything.

Posted by: ubblybubbly | January 31, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

They are also incorrect in thinking that teachers should judge who is parenting well or not. Let's face it, teachers and parents are only human. Aren't we forgetting that the students themselves have to take some responsibility for their grades?

Posted by: ubblybubbly | January 31, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

If we spend enough time pointing fingers at each other, it will almost feel like we're working on the problem.

Politician s point the finger at school administra tors and teachers. Administra tors point the finger at teachers. Teachers point the finger at students and parents and the government . Students point the finger at teachers. Politician s now want to point the finger at parents.

Too much energy is being wasted on trying to find out "Who's the blame" and making sure that person isn't ME.

I think it is time for us to get on the SAME SIDE. Students, Parents, Teachers, Administra tors, Politician s, and Reformers need to realize that we all want what's best for kids. Once we do that, then we can have a productive argument about WHAT we think is in the best interest of kids and work to make that happen.

Posted by: orphal | January 31, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Good points about pointing the finger. If enough people point the finger, education will wind up like the French Revolution.

In our town, parents have a list of what is expected in terms of their involvement with students. It is substantial, works out very well and forces a constant dialogue between parents and faculty. We have a very successful program and a top US ranked HS. It might be a better idea to grade and rank our selves (parents/teachers) as a team rather than creating yet another useless and defensive opportunity for finger pointing at the other half of the responsible party.

Kaarme is helping to take some of the burden off of teachers and counselors by providing non profit software and search tools to help the students and parents take more charge of the higher education process at home.

Posted by: mgn_one | January 31, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Are they serious?

Most of the teacher I knew in the 1970s had trouble arranging a conference with a parent because both the teachers and the parents in that town were either working two jobs or commuting long distances and never had free time that coincided.

The city's honors English reading reading list one summer included the assignment of reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," watching a video of the movie, and on the first day of school writing an essay contrasting the two treatments. When several students came to school on the first day to report they had not been able to watch the video because they didn't have VCRs, the teacher asked, "What kind of parents do you have who won't buy their kids a VCR?" (One student was bold enough to reply, "Parents on welfare and food stamps.")

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 31, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

As crazy as the bill sounds, it is a matter of fact (as Strauss points out) that parent involvement is *directly* related to student achievement. There is over 40 years of research from the Chicago Longitudinal Study that has demonstrated that parent involvement is the single most important factor for shaping child development and impacting both school and life success.. Instead of grading, perhaps the bill should recommend parent involvement programs or services. The organization I work with provides parent involvement programming that is 100% effective in delivering content to parents to enhance their involvement - Pocket Literacy Coach.

Posted by: DrDrew1 | February 1, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

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