Catherine Cushinberry

Grading Parents on Their Involvement — The Irony of it All

by Dr. Catherine Cushinberry

The Mississippi Legislature is considering H.R. 4, a bill that would require teachers to grade parents on their involvement in the school. The parent’s grade would be included on the student’s report card.

Teachers would rate parents on criteria such as whether they attended parent-teacher conferences, how often their children wore their school uniform and completed their homework, and if their children were frequently absent or tardy.

My organization, Parents for Public Schools (PPS), vehemently opposes this bill!

If Mississippi legislators really wanted to promote family engagement, they would have listened to our diverse families about the challenges they face. They would have asked our families what would help them be more engaged.

Our legislators would have learned that many parents work multiple jobs and don’t have the resources, such as childcare or transportation, to meet the criteria in the bill. They would have learned that parents want information and encouragement from teachers, not to be blamed when their children struggle.

If our legislators wanted to base their proposal on proven practice, rather than score points for looking tough, they would have asked researchers for evidence-based solutions. They would have learned that it is far more effective for schools to welcome, invite and support families to be engaged in their children’s learning. Shaming parents with a low grade when they don’t know what was expected of them or feel confident about how to help their children, much less have a chance to collaborate with teachers on how best to work together, is unfair. Furthermore, it doesn’t work.

Mississippi’s education system is 50th in the nation. Blaming parents is not the way to improve the quality of our public schools.  Providing funds to hire parent involvement coordinators, offer parent education training opportunities, bring on additional classroom assistants and reading coaches, and open parent resource centers, would have a more positive impact on our children’s educational success.

Personally, before we rate parents on their involvement, I would like to see a grade on my Legislators’ support of public education.  At this time, I would say they are failing.

Dr. Catherine Cushinberry – Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools, member of NAFSCE Policy Council