According to news reports over the weekend, a Republican state legislator in Florida named Kelli Stargel – a mother of five and the chair of the state legislature’s k-12 education committee – has introduced legislation to require public school teachers and administrators to issue actual grades to the parents of their students. Stargel is calling her legislation the “Parent Involvement and Accountability in Public Schools” bill. According to one Florida newspaper:
The bill states that each prekindergarten through third grade student’s report card will include a section in which the teacher grades the parental involvement as satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory. Parents will be rated in the following areas:
Parental response to requests for conferences or communication.
The student’s completion of homework and preparation for tests.
The student’s physical preparation for school that has an effect on mental preparation.
The frequency of the student’s absence and tardiness.
Parents will be able to appeal the involvement grade assigned by the teacher and there is no consequence to having a low rating. Through the appeal process, the principal, teacher, and parent would meet to discuss how the grade was determined and discuss the steps needed to improve the grade.
Honestly, my mouth is hanging open in astonishment after reading this. Where did Rep. Stargel get this nutty idea? Maybe from a close reading of Orwell’s 1984?
Parental involvement in children’s education is important, yes. However, the expectations of parents (read: mothers) in this regard have become increasingly burdensome in recent decades. When I was a third grader, my parents helped me with big projects, and they occasionally attended a school function. Today, however, “good” parents are expected to make involvement with their children’s school and classroom a kind of second job. I see many moms who volunteer at school several days per week. When they aren’t actually AT the school, they are selling candy bars and wrapping paper to raise money for the school. These moms know more about the minutiae of their kids’ classwork than the kids themselves, and they expect to spend hours each night sitting next to their children as they complete their homework. Prep for a school project – like the annual science fair – is a major family undertaking requiring intensive maternal involvement at every turn, as well as expensive and fancy supplies.
I guess that’s great for those moms who have the kinds of jobs and lives that allow for that sort of hyper-parenting related to their kids’ education, but for those of us who don’t, it’s intimidating, and it puts our kids at a disadvantage at school. I work full time-plus, and there’s no way I can be hanging around my kids’ school all the time, even if I wanted to. Additionally, as I often tell my children, I already completed 4th grade, and I don’t intend to do it again as their full-time study-buddy every night. They need to learn to get things done on their own, with my encouragement and support. They also need to learn to live with the consequences if they fail to turn something in, or do poorly on a test.
This ridiculous idea of giving parents actual “grades” related to their “parental involvement” with their kids’ schools would just lend more weight to this unhealthy trend of teachers and administrators expecting more and more and more of parents, and of parents judging other parents. If such a grading system were implemented, you can’t tell me that the mom who helped sew the costumes for the school play, sold more fundraising coupon books than anyone else and who volunteers to drive for every other field trip wouldn’t get a much higher grade from the teacher than the mom who works 45 hours a week in a factory and who is lucky to be able to spend even a few hours with her kids in the evenings, before starting in on the laundry, bills and lunch-packing after she gets her children into bed at night. Even if factory mom always responds promptly to requests for conferences, and even if her child works as hard for his “C” on his science fair project as volunteer mom’s child works for her “A,” factory mom will inevitably get the lower parental grade. And that’s not fair.
So what do you think of grading parents in this way? Would you support this legislation in your own state? And how about parental involvement in the schools? Are we asked to do too much, or should parents who don’t do enough be made to feel guilty and inadequate? Talk about it in the comments below.