Time to grade parents, not schools

Published 9:57 pm Monday, January 20, 2014

By Joseph L. Bass

With Virginia about to start rating public schools on an A-F scale, I think it’s time for us to consider whether to expand the approach.

My thoughts on the issue come from my experiences as a teacher and school administrator. Some years ago I taught in California public schools. Through regular assignments and university demonstration schools I taught all grade levels from preschool to university courses. Some university courses were part of future teacher preparation programs.

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I was also an administrator of youth and early childhood educational programs for those with educational disadvantages, and I lived in South Central Los Angeles for five years, an area known to experience educational challenges with many children.

Grading schools and teachers on an A-F scale is based on a major false assumption. The raw material schools start with is not the same. Some schools start with children that are seriously ill prepared to learn. Some schools start with children that are well advanced in preparation to become serious scholars.

Communities and parents have much to do with how prepared children are when entering school and while attending school. Schools and teachers cannot control these factors, nor are they chartered with the responsibility to change communities and parents. They are chartered to attempt to educate the children as they arrive at the schoolhouse door.

Recently a coworker told me about a movie she had seen. The plot involved a single mother, a drug addict who shoots up in front of her 13-year old son and does little or nothing to care for him. The boy is unhappy and angry about his lot. He has problems with hostility and with relating to adults and other children, and he doesn’t do well in schools.

This is a fictional movie, but I have seen similar situations many times while a teacher in California, and I have known of such situations in Virginia.

Our government has spent trillions of dollars during the last 50 years attempting to improve communities and parenting. These efforts have not been successful. The same community and personal problems have persisted for generations. And, of course, problem communities and parents deliver to the schools’ front doors children that are ill-prepared to thrive.

So, if grading schools and tying student achievement to teacher pay is a good idea, I think we should also rate communities and parents on the same scale and publish these scores in the media. And we should increase the taxes for these communities and parents, because dealing with their ill-prepared children costs more in our efforts to educate and socialize them.

Joseph L. Bass, Ed.D. is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.