Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Modest Proposal

Last week I came across this article regarding a proposal that teachers would "grade" parents of children from first to third grade on basic things like getting their children to school on time, they've been fed, and ensuring that their homework is done.

I think this is a fantastic idea. Far too often is it forgotten that parents are a vital part of a child's education. Not for delivering content, but instilling in their children a value of education and equipping them to learn. Instead, these responsibilities are nearly universally dumped on teachers. But teachers can't teach when kids walk in the door loaded with the baggage their parents will lump on them.

So I think a reminder that parents are a part of the equation too, for these simple prerequisites at the very least, is a wonderful plan. Allowing a teacher to grade on these basics simply points out the connection in a non-binding way that places no punishment beyond a little personal guilt on parents who aren't pulling their weight in their child's education.

Sadly, commenters seem to to think otherwise. Looking over them, the most frequent response seems to be "If teachers can grade me, then I should get to grade the teacher."

In principle, I think that's a perfectly fair position. However, few commenters provide any reasonable criteria by which to judge! What sort of basic principles can one quickly and objectively use to measure propensity for success that aren't already used? The user "Kristi" provides some good ideas:
Does the teacher start class on time? Does the teacher have excessive absences and inservices? Adequate communication? Are the handouts and memos free from typographical and grammatical errors?
I think those would be some very basic foundational things by which anyone could judge, but the only ideas many of the other commenters seem to be providing are crazy ideas like "success based pay". Absolutely not. As this proposal is pointing out, teachers can't succeed when parents set their children up to fail. Yet these people want a teacher's (already meager) pay to rest in large part on someone else's efforts? Ridiculous.

Other commenters seem to think that teachers don't have the time to institute such policies. On the contrary. I think these grades could be easily determined since the data to create them is already collected: Missing homeworks and tardies. The only new data would be if a child came into the classroom complaining of not having breakfast on a routine basis, which I think would stick out anyway, and take no more time than a quick note in the teacher's gradebook. Done.

Still others try to excuse parents noting that in many instances, parents are simply too busy to involve themselves with their child's education since they are working two jobs to pay the rent. While this is true, and I greatly empathize, if in such cases parents can then shirk the blame, then so too should their students' teachers. If parents can be "too busy", then so can teachers since they already are frequently overworked with unmanageable class sizes. School districts with high cases of uninvolved parents cannot then be graded (via NCLB and other such acts) on the success of students since the large failure rate isn't their fault since they simply can't do anything about it, just like the parents can't. Such a proposal sounds ridiculous, even to me, but at the same time, it's fair.

But perhaps the saddest comments are those that decry the idea because it will create tension between teachers and parents. One commenter even proposes that this will lead to more school shootings by enraged parents. The idea that parents would go so far as to murder teachers is a bit far fetched, I hope, but the idea that parents wouldn't take too kindly to actually being held accountable for their own inactions is not far fetched at all. The comments clearly show this. But that's exactly why it's depressing. It shows just how little involvement parents want with their own children. As another commenter pointed out, the schools are providing a perfect mirror for American society and what a miserable state of affairs it is. Parents don't want to accept that responsibility, but I think we need to start working on putting it back in their hands. It's not going to happen if teachers are too scared of parents to do so.

2 comments:

morgajel said...

"One commenter even proposes that this will lead to more school shootings by enraged parents."

When I read that, the first thing that comes to mind is "My god, have we really become a nation of ninnies?"

If that's your biggest fear, you might as well pull your kid from school and wrap him in breathable bubble wrap, because reality is just too risky.

Unbelievable.

morgajel said...

"One commenter even proposes that this will lead to more school shootings by enraged parents."

When I read that, the first thing that comes to mind is "My god, have we really become a nation of ninnies?"

If that's your biggest fear, you might as well pull your kid from school and wrap him in breathable bubble wrap, because reality is just too risky.

Unbelievable.