Thursday, February 24, 2011

Can Parents Be Grounded?

Have you ever noticed that when a kid does well in school, the parents get most of the credit, but when they're failing, it's the teacher's fault?

So, in a "bold" move last week, my union proposed the novel idea of radically reforming education in Wisconsin. This reform will include three steps, one of which is moving to a merit pay system. This means they are suggesting that, in the future, teachers not be paid based on years of experience or education but rather on how successful our students are on state tests.

Okay.....I'll do my best, but what I want to know now is...Are parents ever going to be held accountable for how their kids do on state tests??*

If I happen to have a student whose parents say they would just like him to "have fun" at school and they really don't care whether he's passing classes or not.  Can I report them to the Bureau of Responsible Parenting? (Oh, wait--there isn't one. )

What about a student whose parents think homework isn't fair; junior should just play outside when he gets home from school, because they "just can't get him to do homework."?  If he gets behind in his work, they would like me to keep him after school to help him catch up**.  Can I bill them for that?  Should I "Just Say No" and suffer the consequences?

What if I have a student who doesn't have any parents at home (because they are both incarcerated) and his 18 year-old brother is in charge? Can I just give him the answers?

Some kids fall asleep in class on a daily basis because their parents are fighting half the night and they can't sleep. Should I invite them to sleep at my house?

I once had a student whose mom's idea of "quality time" was taking him out to a bar 2-3 nights per week, where she played in pool and dart leagues, got drunk, and had him (age 14) drive them home.  He complained to me about this regularly (just wanted to stay home) and refused to do homework as a sort payback to his mom for being so selfish. (Yes, I called Child Protective, but I couldn't tell them which bar they frequented, so they couldn't do anything.) Maybe I should have met him at the bar, helped him with his homework, and offered to be the Designated Driver?

Then there are the parents who do the work for their kids (It's just easier that way, I guess.) Will I be able to have such parents take the state tests for their kids?

Of course, I'm a special ed teacher. I'm not even going to get into the challenges of that!

I think the best I can do is squeeze every second of learning I can into the school day itself, even moreso than usual.
Something tells me 6th grade is going to become a lot less fun.

*I'm not saying that all students who don't make the grade have terrible parents; I'm just referring to the ones we all know should be taking part of the responsibility but aren't.  (And of course, I currently have NO parents like this.)

**Yes, they actually have the nerve to ask this. And yes, I have actually consented. ( know-- I'm a sucker.)

**And for the record, I've never been a fan of tenure, so I don't really object to this on principle; I've just always wondered when someone is going to do something about the parents who think educating kids is only the job of the school.


  1. Oh no! No! No! Merit based teaching is not so good, trust me! Our school system is set up in that fashion and it is miserable. Miserable for me as a parent and miserable for the child. My son has struggled this year because of the state testing... Teachers don't have time to really work with the students that are having minor/moderate trouble in a particualr subject because she has to get those that are really struggling caught up before they have the state test. I have asked on several occassions for websites or extra "homework" worksheets to help my son out at home and have received nothing. I'm trying to help, but again the teachers just don't have the extra time. IT's really brought down the morale of our son. He used to bring home straight A's, and the B's and C's are killing him. :( All of this for a stupid state test that grades the principal, school as a whole, the students and the teachers. I vote NO to merit based teaching if at all possible!!! Let the Administration and parents grade the teachers... I think they will find happier children and find that their kids are more diversified rather than being taught how to take a test.

  2. Oh, you are singing my song here ... These are all frustrations I face on a daily basis, and it's all exacerbated by the fact that I am also a parent and hold my own children to probably ridiculously high standards (I think children of teachers get double-teamed ... but I guess that's a post for a different day ;-))

    I have to tell you, this made me think of something that happened to me my second year of teaching. "Susy" was a really hardworking student, but very low. She wasn't eligible for special ed services because she was low across the board, and furthermore Mom was adamant that she be in college prep classes. ADAMANT.

    The poor kid was lost. Hopelessly lost. In class, she literally couldn't write a sentence. At home, she somehow managed to write essays that, compared to her classwork, looked pretty darn good. Susy started the habit of saying, "I'll finish it at home", and we eventually caught on that Mom was doing her homework (and the classwork that she couldn't do) for her.

    We called her on it, and Mom of course denied it. And so we did the next best thing ... we started grading the work meticulously. I might have had the easiest time, since Mom was an accountant and didn't write the best essays. I will never forget the day that Mom came in for what must have been the fifth or sixth time in the first two weeks of school and wanted to know why "Susy's paper" received a D since she had "read over it" and knew that it was a great paper. After about a minute of me talking about no organization and not incorporating grammars skills such as plurals vs. possessives which had been the subject of direct class instruction and so on, her face got redder and redder. This is horrible, but it was really funny.

    Mom never did admit to doing Susy's work for her, but she did finally let the poor kid move out of college prep classes when she realized that she wouldn't be able to get away with doing her work anymore.

    So sad :(

  3. Excellent post, my dear! Now, make sure it gets into the right hands, someone who can take it and use it to show a smattering of the things teachers have to deal with all the time!

  4. Please tell me that special ed students aren't held to the same metrics as other kids.

  5. Oh, so true! I went to school as a Reading Buddy for first graders, and already you can spot the children of parents who just don't care. They don't get there half the time, they haven't eaten breakfast, they picked their own clothes---or just slept in yesterday's. It just broke my heart.

  6. With merit based testing, who will want to teach the disadvantaged kids, the ones whose first language is not English? They don't do well on these tests, regardless of how well they are taught. Some people don't care, they just want their own kids to have "the best". But what happens to this kids who don't get an adequate education to earn a living? They turn to crime.

  7. Yes and that's another part of the whole Waiting For Superman post I made earlier this week. It frustrates me that there are so many dead beat parents. Why on earth do you have to have a license to do just about everything in this country but being responsible for another human being......anyone can do it that has the ability to reproduce! Gaaahhheeahhahah!!!

    I do think that parents should be held responsible. Another answer...of the many we need to seek out.

    AND as far as special education goes....I'm over the top frustrated with the fact that most of these kids take the same state test that the typical kids take when the special education kids don't even know how to write their names!

  8. I can not speak to the validity of what I'm about to post. I found it here:

    (Posted at 2:27 by someone named Dannelle from Wisconsin). I don't know if you'd heard of or seen this yet, so I thought I'd share.


    A reporter got through to our Governor last night on the phone and pretended to be Billionaire David Koch (who invested over $300,000 into his campaign). The conversation was recorded for 20 minutes and it is shocking! It was released viral and has been verified...

    He is tottaly bought and paid for...he has no intention on doing what is best for the people of this state...and clues the fake Kock onto who is "on their side" or who can be bought and names a bunch of other state governors in on "the movement"...

    Look out if you are in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and Michigan - your states were specifically named!

    This is SOOOOO bad for Wisconsin - seriously! There is talk of statewide strikes from everything from teachers to prison guards.

    This makes me sick to my stomach...

    You can catch the audio on facebook or see the transcript here :

  9. Wow...this post was awesome. I whole heartedly agree with every statement you made.

    It is an absolute tragedy that the people who educate this nation's children are treated so poorly. In my opinion, teacher's should be way more than they are now and NOT based on merit because you are right...when are the parent's supposed to step up and take control of how their child is performing.

    Grr. The whole situation infuriates me. I'd like to see one of those politicians take a teacher's salary for a month...

  10. Um, at what point, though, do we hold the STUDENTS responsible? I don't agree with merit based teaching, I dont believe it is the parent's fault entirely if a student doesn't do well, nor do I hold the teacher entirely at fault. MY children, at least, are responsible for their own choices in terms of homework, studying for tests, writing papers, whatever. I provide time in which to do it, a listening ear if they need it, some pointers if necessary. That is it. Because how well they succedd is up to them, NOT up the me or the teacher.

    And to Ann: please don't be so quick to assume; in Idaho, at least, we have an 85% free/reduced lunch rate. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps these kids haven't eaten brekfast because their parents can't afford it? And what parent is REALLY still pikcing out clothes for their first grader? I have a four year old who has been dressing himself and choosing his own clothes for two years. I am glad we don't run into you, becuase you would ASSUME that I don't care.

    None of this is any good, for anyone-students, teachers, OR parents, and it isn't just in Wisconsin this is happeneing.

  11. Some of these issues led me to choose a Magnet school for my kids- still in the public school system, but a different curriculum- it is a democratic, non-graded, multi-age classroom school. We, as parents, sign an agreement at the beginning of each to school year to attend conferences, read with our kids, check homework, and generally be involved in their lives, both in and out of school. Love it. PS- I'm in Ohio.

  12. Amen, Sister! (Things are getting ugly here in California, too.)

  13. It's been shown that tests are biased against students who don't give a shit.
    watch the report -

    Good post Mrs. 4444. The worlds problems can not be solved by one group. Everyone needs to get involved.

  14. I'm surprised and pleased to learn that a teachers' union is willing to accept merit-based compensation!

    Can't do much about bad parents. But poor teachers need to find something else -- and the good ones need a chance to excel.

  15. The people who want to institute this kind of system just refuse to see that in the "social experiment" that we call public school, there are factors that are not controllable. If they institute this kind of system, who will work in the neediest schools? Who will be willing to help the kid who is already three years behind?


    It's enough to make me want to get out of public education altogether.

  16. I don't have a problem with anyone picking their clothes. What I think Ann might be referring to is parents not noticing when their kids are wearing filthy clothing. I get that some families don't have washing machines, and I get that some kids have "favorite" items, but unless they are sleeping in them day after day, the parent could take them and hide them, wash them by hand, or just say NO. With all of the free stuff handed out (at least here), there is no excuse for a kid to look like a ragamuffin. I could care less (as long as the clothing is clean), but it breaks my heart to know that their peers are keeping their distance because they just don't respect kids who don't appear to respect themselves.

    Shannon-That's SCARY!! Since we won't have collective bargaining, we won't be able to negotiating learning conditions (class sizes). I'm trying to stay positive, but it's scary.

    I wonder if anyone knows of a system in which merit pay has resulted in great schools?

  17. I am floored by this, and worried, and saddened. I don't see any way that there could be a good outcome in this.

  18. I would call this post "Should Parents be responsible for their children once their children can attend school". Some parents I have known can't wait for their kids to begin school so they have that many hours without their kids. So sad.
    You bring up valid issues, each and every one.

  19. I have a new friend who's kindergarten boy still baby talks (they baby talk back), can barely write his own name, knows no shapes or colors, and is apparently the king of the house. They already knew within months of starting that he would repeat K. They don't read to him, they don't discipline or correct him, they don't work with him at all, and felt the K teacher demanded way to much and yet was a failure because he still couldn't do any of these things. He daily hears them complain about the teacher (whom I think is AWESOME) and has begun to complain to her and talk back as well. He has no problem learning, just no encouragement to do so. I just want to revoke their parenting card....

  20. I hear ya loud and clear sister. Some of the things these kiddos go through at home would blow the average Joe's mind. I once had a student who didn't complete his assignment 'cause the man who spent the night with Mom chased her around the house with a butcher knife. Ain't nothin' quite as exciting as Special Ed.!!!

    I hate the fact that teachers have to teach for the tests instead of covering the curriculum with enough repetition that it 'sticks'.

    You my dear, have an amazing weekend!!!

    BTW: I've seen just a little glimmer of hope in my situation.

  21. Excellent post and you have many supporters on here! Keep on striving for excellence. I am more glad than ever that I teach adults! The worst thing they did to me last week was when 2 Somali women talked with each other in their language a few times. I just walked over near them and they quit. I am subbing in that class, so they probably were just trying to see what they could get away with, but they are so cute. :)

  22. Education can not be laid solely at the feet of teachers. Or parents. Or Students.

    It takes all three working together.

    When parents do not get involved, do not love their children, do not help them succeed....their children suffer and so do their grades and scores on tests. Teachers can not be expected to fill in all those blanks (on the tests...or in the children's lives).

  23. I'm surprised your union would agree to this. Merit pay is a tough system when your job is not dependent merely on yourself.

    My parents, my mother especially since she was a SAHM, took a very active role in my education. She was always pushing me until she didn't have to any more, it just became ingrained in me.

    I remember once in junior high I had once put off reading Huck Finn until the day before. My mother spent the whole day and night reading it with me.

    It is absolutely a parent's job to assist kids in their education. No child WANTS to study, especially when they get older and and the assignments get tougher.

  24. From my perspective as a Canadian, this merit-based system solely based on testing seems silly. There's so much more to teaching than tests. And yes, irresponsible parents need to be accountable too. After all, isn't that in the best interest of the child?


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