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Florida lawmaker wants teachers to grade parents

By John Couwels, CNN
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Florida Rep. Kelli Stargel has proposed a bill to allow parents to be graded on their involvment in their kids' education.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State lawmaker Kelli Stargel has proposed a bill calling for parents to be graded
  • Parents of kids in kindergarten through third grade would be graded by teachers
  • The criteria would include making sure their kids are on time and do their homework
  • The bill is getting mixed reviews from parents and teachers

Orlando, Florida (CNN) -- If an elementary school teacher graded you on your involvement in your child's education, what kind of a grade would you get?

Should your kid's first-grade teacher be grading you in the first place? If Florida state Rep. Kelli Stargel's bill becomes law, public school teachers will be required to grade the parents of students in kindergarten through the third grade.

The parents' grades of "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" would be added to their children's report card.

Stargel, a Republican who sits on several education legislative committees, says that parental involvement is key to educating children for years to come.

As the mother of five, Stargel says, she understands the importance of her role in educating her children.

"I think a lot of parents understand that is something that is critical," she said. "On the other hand, you have some parents that don't realize they are not providing the needs."

Florida lawmakers have spent years overhauling the public school system to make schools and their teachers accountable for student achievements.

Teachers grading parents?
Should schools weigh all students?

Many parents and teachers have not welcomed the changes. In the late 1990s, the state began the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, in which a school would be graded based on the overall score of its students.

From the beginning, proponents of the FCAT wanted schools held accountable for their students' grades through standardized testing.

Critics contend that teachers are forced to spend too much time preparing students for the test instead of actually teaching.

Teachers, do you want to grade parents? Share your thoughts in the CNN Teachers' Lounge.

Last year, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a bill that tied a teacher's pay to his or her students' achievement. Another version of the bill is expected to pass this year under new Gov. Rick Scott.

"We have student accountability, we have teacher accountability, and we have administration accountability," Stargel said. "This was the missing link, which was, look at the parent and making sure the parents are held accountable."

Veita Stephens, an academic intervention facilitator for Polk County Public Schools, called the proposal a "unique notion."

"The thought has never entered my mind to grade a parent," she said.

Teachers agree that parental involvement is crucial to a child's education. But some teachers say that grading the parents is not the answer.

Sharon Francis, who teaches first grade in the small central Florida city of Winter Haven, is not sure that grading parents will work.

"I think those parents that are not going to show up or not do anything," said Francis, who teaches students from primarily poor homes, "it's not going to faze them, whether you put 'unsatisfactory.' "

The grading system is based on three criteria that Stargel wrote in the legislation:

• A child should be at school on time, prepared to learn after a good night's sleep, and have eaten a meal.

• A child should have the homework done and prepared for examinations.

• There should be regular communication between the parent and teacher.

"Those three things are key to a quality education," Stargel said.

Steve Perry, a CNN education contributor and founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, says he couldn't disagree more.

Perry insists that a good education is based on what a child learns in the classroom and not what a parent might know that could help their child.

"There is nothing in any teacher's training that would put them in a position to be able to effectively judge the parenting of one their student's parents," Perry argued. "If getting a bad grade was the impetus for people doing things right, then I would have an entire school of kids getting A's."

Kindergarten teacher Theresa Hill of Snively Elementary School in Winter Haven disagrees.

"This is the real world. You don't always get a superior rating if you're not doing a superior job. That's life," she said. "We grade our children based on their performance. Why should the parents be any different?"

Some parents said they laughed out loud after hearing about the proposed legislation.

On the sidelines of his son's soccer practice in Winter Park, J.C. Adams said he thought it was an interesting proposal.

"It could have some validity. We could try it and see how that might work out for everyone," he said.

We grade our children based on their performance. Why should the parents be any different?
--Theresa Hill, kindergarten teacher
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Kim Granger, who has two daughters -- one in high school and the other a mother of three young children -- welcomed the idea of being graded on her parental skills.

"I wouldn't mind that at all. I would get a good grade," she said. "If you're more involved with your children when they're littler, when they grow older, they're more stable, more willing to sit down and do the work."

Stargel acknowledges that not everyone agrees with her legislation, which she said is still under revision. The bill was not intended to tell parents how to raise their kids, she says.

"We want to make sure parents are involved in the education of their children," Stargel said.

Francis Monteiro agrees that parents like him appreciate feedback from their children's teachers, but he says requiring teachers to grade parents is not the answer.

"Bottom line: Everyone wants the best for their kids," he said.

 
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