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Monday, January 31, 2011

Silly Florida Education Ideas Make National News

Unfortunately it seems like Florida makes this type of stuff up all the time. -cpg

From the Washington Posts Answer Sheet

by Valerie Strauss

In the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category, a Florida (no surprise there) state legislator has filed a bill that would require some elementary school teachers to grade parents on how involved they are at their children's schools.

Schools, students, teachers, now parents: The grading frenzy moves on. The bill, HB 255, was just filed in the Florida House by Rep. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, says:

“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. 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.”

Yes, Stargel has that right. It is imperative that students have all kinds of support in their home life to be successful at school.

This, though, raises the question of why Stargel and other legislators who think this parent evaluation system is a good idea have voted to evaluate and pay teachers on the basis of how their students do on standardized test scores.

The big movement in teacher evaluation across the country is to link standardized test scores to student pay through a “value-added” formula that fails to take into account any part of a child’s life outside school.

Requiring teachers to grade parents is a nutty idea. Some parents work two or three jobs and can’t be as involved as they would like to be, and, besides, teachers have enough to do already.

Even if it were possible to set up a reasonable parent evaluation system, there could be no real enforcement mechanism, at least not in traditional public schools. Private schools, and even public charter schools, quietly counsel kids out for bad academic performance; traditional public schools can’t.

Now that Stargel has shown that she accepts the fact that home life has a major impact on academic performance, she and her colleagues should now ask themselves just how hypocritical it would be to keep pushing “value-added” assesssment of teachers.

The legislation calls for teachers to assess how involved parents are in meeting teacher requests for conferences and other forms of communication; and ensuring that children are physically ready to attend school, that they show up on time, and that they complete homework and prepare for tests.

The evaluation then would be part of the student’s report card, and a parent could appeal under a process that would be set up by the Board of Education. Of course, though, there is no real way to make a parent do better.

Here’s the list of things that Stargel’s bill says parents are supposed to be doing:

(2) CAUSES FOR STUDENT UNDERACHIEVEMENT.—The following behaviors with respect to the relationship between a child’s home and school are identified as possible causes for a student’s underachievement:

(a) A child is not physically prepared for the school day to inadequate rest or improper clothing, lack of necessary school supplies, or frequent tardiness or absence.

(b) A child is not mentally prepared for the school day due to uncompleted homework or inadequate preparation for tests.

(c) Communication between parents and the teacher is often written rather than through personal contact and often occurs only when a problem has arisen rather than on a consistent basis throughout the school year

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