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May 18, 2012

Hey mom and dad: how’s your GPA?

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

You teach your kids to work hard in school and respect the teacher – but what if the tables were turned and that highly revered educator started grading you?

Welcome to parent report cards, a proposed pilot program at two struggling schools in Tennessee. It’s a novel idea, and I’m guessing a small part of teachers the world over consider it long overdue. In fact, it probably is.

Tennessee wants parents to grade themselves

But it’s not just an innovative school program, it’s the subject of a state bill that just passed the Tennessee State Legislature and the state’s governor is reportedly inclined to sign. If passed, parents would get a report card to evaluate themselves when they get their child’s report card. So teachers wouldn’t actually grade parents – but parents would grade themselves on how they’re supporting their children’s education at home (stuff like reviewing homework, communicating with the teacher, and attending school conferences) on an E to U (E=excellent, S=satisfactory, N=needs improvement, U=unsatisfactory) basis.

This is the state’s second major attempt to increase parental involvement in public education. Tennessee has already passed a parental contract which will go into effect next year. It allows schools to give parents contracts specifying how they should support their children's education. 

Schools can’t do it alone

If it passes and succeeds, the four-year pilot report card program could be expanded to more (maybe all) schools. Both the contract and the report card programs are more about raising awareness than censuring parents – there’s no real bite. Signing the contract is voluntary and there’s no penalty for failing to uphold it. Even if parents give themselves straight U’s, such “failure” has no external repercussions.

The point, however, is important – and one the legislature is trying to drive home: when parents get involved, kids are more successful at school – with better grades, better staying power, and a better chance of attending college. 

If your school sent home such a contract, would you sign it? If you had to grade yourself right now on reviewing your child’s homework each night and attending school meetings, would you get an E or U? You can tell me – I won’t judge. In fact, no one should; the point is to get us thinking.

Comments

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I think this is shaming families who are already struggling. If a family has one parent working two jobs, or a parent in jail or with substance abuse problems, a smarmy little report card is hardly going to make a difference. Nor will humiliating people for not going to meetings that they cannot get off of work or pay for childcare to attend. Most people care about their kids' educations; some of us are privileged with the time and resources to act on that care.

I think this is an interesting concept but it doesn't have any real bite to it. It is more about getting parents to think about how their attitudes toward school can affect their child's attitude. If you don't ask about homework, there is a strong possibility that the child will think it isn't important. However, there are many things that parents could do to make their child's education more productive. Do you teach your child manners or expect the school to do this? Do you teach your child that NO means NO, or are you so tired that you give in and the child learns that no means if I fuss enough I will get what I want? Do you teach your child to speak clearly and enunciate their words or do you allow them to mumble because you are too busy to really listen? Does your child hear you make excuses (little lies) on the phone or in person saying you can't do something because you are busy, when the child knows this isn't true? Do you tell your child to lie to the teacher about why they were absent or why they don't have their homework? Your words and actions are always observed and absorbed by your children. Are you setting the best example of how you want your child to think and act? Believe me, your child will bring those words and actions to school. If a child believes that the parent is too busy or too tired to care about school, then why should the child care about school? As busy as you are, as tired as you are, do you ask your child what they learned today? If they say nothing, do you dig deeper to find out if that is true or insist the child come home ready to tell you about their day because saying that it was fine, isn't good enough for you? I believe all parents want the best for their child. I believe all parents want the best education for their child. I am not sure all parents tell their child on a regular basis how much they care about their child getting the best education. I think parents often tell their children how smart they are, but I am not sure all parents tell their children that everything worthwhile, including a good education, takes hard work. I would like to see those things on a parent report card.

I think it is great concept. Parents involvement is critical in all aspect of child's growth in physical, social, mental, and Intellectual. if they don't have time and can't do their parenting roles then they should not bring the child to this world to be burden on the tax funds. To drive a car, we required to have a license; how come people can have children without knowing to be good parent.

The parents who would take part in this kind of voluntary program are't the parents the program is intended to target. We need to wake up and realize that you can't legislate people into becoming better parents. If they want to do it they already are. I'm sure the money would have been better spent on providing more sex education and birth control programs to the poor, but we're talking about Tennessee so that's not likely to happen.

I'll grade myself right after I get to grade the teachers and staff - there is a world of difference from one teacher to the next, even within a well-regarded school.

As to the parents, I agree with the OP in that shaming (of kids or parents) has no place. If you want to gauge the level of home support, perhaps we should have the students rate the parents. Of course, all this presumes no one (parents or students) lie on the form!

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