A newly proposed bill in the Mississippi House of Representatives requiring parents to receive "grades" on their involvement in their children's education from teachers is a good, albeit controversial idea.
The legislation was proposed by Democratic Rep. Gregory Holloway and was passed 75-43 by the Republican-dominated House, according to Mississippi Watchdog.
"What we wanted to do is try to shock parents back into reality to say, 'If your kid is failing, then you are failing your kid,'" Holloway said of the bill, according to Newser.
Certainly, many parents in Mississippi will not be happy with the new legislation and may see it as intrusive.
The controversy over the law reflects America's tendency to play the "blame game" over education reform in public schools. While some say ineffective teachers are to blame for failing schools, others point the finger at unengaged parents. The problem with this type of thinking is that it leads to an "us-versus-them" mentality that only further hurts the students: Instead of fostering partnership, it breeds distrust.
Mississippi has been among the states with the lowest standardized testing scores and graduation rates in the U.S. for some time, and the state's education system has had a roughly $1.7 billion budget shortfall since 2008, Jackson Free Press reports. The state has only fully funded its school system three times since 1997, according to WBUR.
As a result, students in the state often lack access to basic school supplies and textbooks, while teachers are forced to do more with less as per pupil spending declines year after year.
And the system itself isn't the only part that's struggling: Mississippi was ranked as the poorest state in the U.S. in 2015, according to Voice of America, and 246,000 children -- 34 percent -- are living in poverty in Mississippi, Esquire reported.
The facts speak for themselves: Mississippi is struggling, and as a result, so are its children. So what needs to be done?
The answer is: as much as possible. This new parent grading law is not a magic bullet, but there are no magic bullets when it comes to education reform. The fact of the matter is a child's poor performance is not solely the parents' fault or the teachers' fault; rather, it's no one's and everyone's fault all at the same time.
Do parents, teachers, and the state as a whole want their children to succeed? Of course. But that's just not enough. Everyone needs to be involved and engaged in order to create an environment for success for the students, and they also need to be held accountable for that engagement.
That's where parent grading comes in. Both principals and teachers in Mississippi are currently held accountable via statewide evaluation systems, Journal of Educational Leadership in Action reports. This system evaluates teachers based on their planning, assessment, instruction, learning environment and professional responsibilities in the classroom, as well as individual student and school growth. Principals are evaluated based on their schools' math and language arts goals, as well as surveys filled out by their staff and supervisor.
So why shouldn't parents be held to that same standard of evaluation? After all, it's been proven time and time again that parental involvement is integral to a child's success in school, the National Education Association reported. A comprehensive report on research conducted between 1992 and 2002 showed that children with involved parents are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores as well as enroll in higher-level programs. They are also more likely to be promoted, pass their classes, attend school regularly, and -- perhaps most importantly -- graduate and attend postsecondary education.
Given this information, it makes sense to ensure that parents are involved in their children's education, and just as teachers are held accountable for their actions, parents should be as well.
According to the proposed bill, teachers would use a report card to grade parents on communication with teachers, how well students prepare for tests and how often the students are tardy or absent, Newser reports. Now, this measure will have to be implemented carefully to ensure that it does not lead to resentment between the teachers and parents. But the fact remains that regular communication between parents and teachers is certainly something characteristic of states with well-regarded public school systems, such as Connecticut or New Jersey.
The big caveat here is the fact that more parental involvement alone is not going to improve education outcomes if students don't have regular access to things like textbooks and science labs. This is where the legislation falls short; it fails to take into account that parents are busy, cannot always attend to every assignment, and are going to be hard-pressed to make up for the lack of educational resources inside the schools themselves.
In short, the law is a step in the right direction, but the job is by no means done. The next step is to make sure the state of Mississippi is also held accountable for student education and ensure that the lawmakers provide schools with the resources they need.