If a Mississippi lawmaker gets his way, teachers in the state will begin issuing "parent report cards."
That means moms and dads who sit down for their annual or twice-yearly parent-teacher conferences will be graded on things like how well they communicate with teachers, how often their children complete homework assignments, and how many times their kids are absent or late to school.
Report cards have always made sense. Most parents have jobs, and teachers are the ones who are with their children seven hours a day. The teachers get a first-hand look at how children interact with their peers, how well they absorb lessons, and how well they perform on tests and quizzes.
A report card provides vital information to a parent and can help nip problems in the bud before they become serious. If a child is squinting at the blackboard, the parents should know so they can get their kid an eye exam. If a boy's getting bullied, or a girl is feeling pressure from her peers, parents can step in and work the problem from their end. If a child regularly tells his parents he's done with his homework, but he's not handing assignments in to the teacher, it's important for the parents to know.
But teachers do not know much about the parents of the children they instruct. A teacher doesn't know who's a latchkey kid, or whose single mom works three jobs to keep her children clothed and fed. A teacher doesn't know if a child's parents have split up, or if someone in the family's been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Teachers don't know how parents talk to their kids at home, or even what kind of environment the kids go home to.
It's a teacher's job to educate a child, not educate that child's parent.
Without a mechanism for the parents to evaluate teachers, a "parent report card" is a one-way dialogue almost guaranteed to cause tempers to flare. How will that single mother respond when she's left her third job to meet with her son's teacher, and sees she's been given an F for not communicating with the teacher enough? What about the dad who's going through a divorce or coming to grips with his wife's terminal cancer?
"As a parent, my own child-rearing techniques may not always rate as 'highly effective,'" Terri Friedlander, a teacher and parent, wrote in an editorial for Florida Today. "We all make mistakes along the way and don't need the stress of being graded to know there's always room for improvement."
Florida voted down a similar measure in 2011, but not before the idea gained some traction among educators in the state.
But for almost everyone who's not a teacher or school faculty, the proposal sounds like a bad idea. The Heritage Foundation's Mary Clare Reim summed it up well in a story by MississippiWatchdog.com.
“My initial reaction is, this is absurd,” Reim said. “The concept that parents should be graded by teachers on their involvement is a reversal of what the education system should look like. Parents should be grading teachers on their performance. Putting grades on parental involvement from the top down is not the way this should work.”
Mississippi's lower state chamber, dominated by Republicans, voted in favor of the proposed bill 75-43, MississippiWatch.com reported. If the state's senators have more sense, they'll kill the bill outright so everyone can pretend this absurdity was never proposed.
Otherwise, the lawmakers who pushed for the bill should keep in mind that parents have report cards for them, too -- they're called votes, and they have more finality than symbolic letter grades. If Mississippi's legislators continue with this folly, parents should fail them out of office.