Monday, January 31, 2011

To Grade Parents or Not to Grade Parents. Today's Teacher Question

Teachers often quip that it's easy to understand why a kid is the way s/he is once we've met the parents. Generally, such observations reflect a student's classroom performance. Really, it should come as no surprise that the accountability culture defining education at present should lead to legislation with the intent of grading parents. That's what Republican Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, Florida proposes in HB 255.

Only a few years ago, some states debated legislation designed to hold parents accountable for their child's school attendance by incarcerating or fining the parent(s). Now Stargel calls for parental accountability through legislation that would more than double an elementary teacher's class size since parents, in a sense, assume the role of students in that they, too, will earn grades.

In part, the  proposed legislation reads: (6)ACCOUNTABILITY.---To help parents establish a home environment that supports the child as a student, each teacher shall monitor and assess the quality of the involvemtnt of the parents of each student in his or her class.

While my initial reaction was one of support for grading parents, as a parent myself, I'm not eager to be put under a microscope for the adolescent free will of my own boys, whose choices sometimes made me wander whether or not they were switched at birth.

Most parents, even those of a prodigal child, punish themeselves aplenty for the misdeeds of their culturally and peer-influenced offspring. They really don't need me weilding my purple pen at them.

I can hear the supermarket check-out line buzz already:
Bobby's Mom: What did you get in Mrs. Jones' class.
Brian's Mom: I got a "satisfactory."

Bobby's Mom: How did you do that? I know you didn't go to the conference.

Brian's Mom: I got a note from my husband, the doctor.

Don't we already have problems aplenty?

Writing in today's The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss calls the idea "nutty," and notes the mutual exclusivity of calls for value-added assessment measures for evaluating teachers in the same breath as calls to grade parents:

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.

Grading parents is a bad idea that we teachers should let pass. As this CNN story shows, we're already conflicted about the issue, and it isn't even law yet.


  1. You're exactly right on this, Glenda. Whle it's tempting to fire back when under fire, our energies are best spent by re-framing the discussion in terms of cooperation instead of accountability.

    We're usually better off concentrating on the Why of education rather than the How. All of the stakeholders tend to agree on Why we educate young people, but we get into ugly, fallacious arguments when we start to talk about How.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post.

  2. OK. I'll admit that after having spent 3/4 hours talking to a parent this week (at the parent's request) about how to help her child improve his marks, get his homework done, etc., only to come in the next morning and find that the student had not completed his measly 15 pages or 30 minutes of reading the previous night, I thought this proposed legislation might be a good idea.

    But, I was wrong in my thinking. I do like that the powers-that-be recognize the importance of parents in the educational development of their child. Because there's a whole lot of truth in that.

    But grading is never the answer to improving educational outcomes. Grading parents sounds like 'blaming' parents, and blame isn't going to affect positive change.

    In my view, informing, educating, sharing best parenting practices, encouraging is the only way to help parents create a good home environment to support their child in school. And, as you say Glenda, at times even the most well informed parents are not to blame for their child's work habits.

    Great post, Glenda.