Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teachers Grading Parents?

I recently read this article posted on Facebook by a friend of mine. I decided that my thoughts were too long to leave in a comment, so I shared it on my own Facebook page and came straight to Blogger to unload my mind. Lucky you ;)

If you don't feel like reading the article (or just did and have forgotten) the gist is that a Florida lawmaker has suggested that school teachers start giving grades to parents on their performance in three areas:
1. Child comes to school prepared with materials, having eaten a meal and having had a good
night's sleep
2. Homework is completed at home
3. Good communication between parents and teachers

Obviously the marks would be of no official consequence. Parents won't fail classes or not earn their degrees as a result of failing grades.

As a teacher and a parent my feelings on this are mixed.

I agree completely that parents need to be more involved in their kids' educations. I've seen all too many who aren't available (for valid and invalid reasons alike) to enforce studious behavior at home such as studying, completing assignments, going to bed at a reasonable hour, etc. This is not to mention lack of communication with teachers, failure to show up at scheduled conferences, and pure lack of relationship with kids altogether. A good example is a parent of one of my students who "yelled" at me over email one time for not notifying her when her kid had missed an assignment. Beyond the fact that it's nearly impossible to notify every parent when their kid misses an assignment, my gradebook was posted online. All the parent had to do was log in whenever she wanted, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and she would see my updated gradebook in real time. When I reminded her of this she replied that she did not have time to log in and check every day... but teachers have time to sit down and go through their 150-student roster and skim all 30+ grades that are entered for each of those students and then email the parents of all the kids who are missing an assignment. But wait! You also have to make phone calls for all the parents who don't have internet access, it's only fair. And when the phone number they gave you is invalid, then you have to go to the office and guidance and the phone company to try to track down a correct number. If you don't then you obviously fail as a teacher. All that said, I'm 100% in favor of doing something to draw parents' attention to the fact that their involvement counts as well as documentation in the grading records that there was or was not parent support. Especially in times when the notion of basing teacher salaries on student success is being tossed around, it is not unreasonable to also collect data on parent involvement to show that perhaps a teacher was doing their part and beyond but the students' failure could just maybe be tied to lack of support at home. Flat out, there's only so much a teacher can control and influence in 50 minutes a day. The best teacher on the planet is no guarantee that a student who goes home to zero educational support is going to succeed in school - or even care about school for that matter.

On the other hand, I don't think grading parents will change anything. Lots of parents who actually care will be offended. Other parents who barely care will be offended that teachers are holding up the mirror. And parents who couldn't care less won't even know they're being graded. The school system actually works a lot like a business with parents and students being "the customer." Many times principals and the higher ups hesitate to do something that could potentially make parents angry. Let me tell you, they may never show their faces for a conference or return a teacher's phone call, but if you offend them, call them out, or punish their kid for something they will be busting through the office doors with fists swinging in a heartbeat. This is how schools have gotten to where they are today actually. The system cares (probably a little too much) about making parents and students feel happy. Part of this is a result of new-age parents' belief that everything is the school's fault.

I'm going to stop there because I feel a major tirade coming on and I want to spare you from that (as if this wasn't tirade enough). It's also getting late and I should be going to bed. But I'll ask as I often do for your thoughts on this topic. It's always fun to hear what others think!

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