I was pregnant with my third child, had a preschooler at home and a was a first time kindergarten mom. I held a position on my PTA board and volunteered regularly in the classroom. I cared deeply about education and about my children. And I was barfing. Every morning.
We were frequently late for school. We weren’t late by much, usually just five or ten minutes. It was a distraction to the class, I’m sure, but I was doing the best I could.
Then I got a form letter from the principal’s office letting me know that Laylee had been marked tardy 11 times in the first half of the school year. It said that I wasn’t living up to my “parental responsibilities” and threatened legal action.
I hated that letter passionately. I hated being judged by the administration and I hated that they used what turned out to be hollow threats to get my attention. A 5-year-old is not even legally required to attend school in Washington State.
However, after going in to meet with the Principal, and after my initial defensiveness wore off, it did inspire me to get my butt in gear and try harder to get Laylee to school on time. But I still hate that letter.
Our kids get report cards. Our teachers are being evaluated every time they turn around. But what about parents? Is it time for schools to start formally grading us on how we’re doing at supporting our children’s education?
Florida State Legislator Kelli Stargel plans to introduce a bill this legislative session that would make it mandatory for elementary school teachers in her state to grade parents on the quality of their involvement in their children’s education. The grade – either satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory – would show up on the child’s report card.
I strongly believe that parents are ultimately responsible for the raising and education of their children. However, I’m not sure that teachers should be faced with the pressure of grading other adults, when helping children be successful in school depends on having quality relationships with parents.
Also, it seems pretty clear to me that I’m already being graded on my participation at school. I get the tardy letter when we're frequently late. I get progress reports and notes home about Laylee and Magoo. I receive a lot of communication from both of their teachers about how they’re doing and it makes me reflect on my own effectiveness and how I’m doing as a parent.
I think parents who would use the state-mandated grading in a positive way to improve their involvement are the same parents who are already self-reflective and striving to do better. For the parents that currently think their children’s education has nothing to do with them, do you think grades on report cards would really inspire them to do better?
Maybe it would. Would the number of families who benefit from that little kick in the pants be worth the extra work for teachers and the risk of alienating parents who are already struggling? Of course the most important question is, would this new legislation provide a net benefit for kids?