It's time to grade parents, new bill proposes
By Leslie Postal and Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando Sentinel
9:02 p.m. EST, January 18, 2011
Every year, Florida's students, schools and districts are graded based on their performance. Now, it's time to start rating parents, a state lawmaker says.
State Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, filed a bill Tuesday that would require elementary school teachers to evaluate parents based on "the quality" of their involvement in their children's schools.
Parents with children in pre-K-to-third-grade would
get "satisfactory," "needs improvement" or "unsatisfactory" ratings in four broad categories.
They would be judged on their response to requests for meetings or communication, their children's completion of homework and preparation for tests, their children's absentee and tardy rates and their children's "physical preparation for school," including a good night's sleep and appropriate meals.
Parents' grades would appear on their kids' report cards.
"Although the school environment has a great impact on a child's well-being and academic success, parents and the home environment form the foundation of a child's present and future life," Stargel explains in the bill, HB 255.
"Without proper parental involvement in all aspects of a child's life, the child's prospects to be a well-equipped and useful member of society are greatly diminished," the bill states. Stargel, a mother of five, could not be reached late Tuesday.
Parents and teachers raised questions about the bill, saying it could backfire and make parent-teacher relations more tense. They also feared it would add to teachers' workloads if they had to keep track of parent progress as well as their students'.
"I think it would create a more hostile environment if the parent wasn't doing what they were supposed to do," said Andrew Spar, president of the Volusia Teachers Organization, that county's teachers union.
"At the end of the day, I don't think this would change anything. It would just create more work."
Spar said the descriptions of ideal parental involvement in Stargel's bill are good and there is no doubt that involved parents are key to student success. But trying to create a formal grading system — complete with parent appeals — would have little impact but to "put a tremendous burden on the teacher," he said.
Susan Persis, president of the Florida Association of School Administrators and the principal at Pine Trail Elementary in Ormond Beach, has other concerns – fairness being the chief among them.
"There are some parents who work two and three jobs and who care about their kids just as much as the parent who's the president of the PTA and is there at school every day," Persis said.
"It could be a time thing. It could be something going on in the family. Who is the teacher to say, 'You're not doing a good job?' "
But John Wilson, whose two sons are in kindergarten and third grade at Bentley Elementary in Seminole County, thinks Stargel's bill is a great idea.
Parents who are doing their part would appreciate the positive feedback from teachers, he said. Those who aren't doing their part might be encouraged to start.
"Someone who truly wants their child to learn and succeed and go above and beyond, they're not going to take it as an insult — they're going to step up and do more," he said.
It's not clear whether Stargel's bill will get any traction in the legislative session that starts in March, when many education-related ideas will be considered.
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