I have complained a number of times about how it is unfair to hold schools accountable for all student performance because it ignores extenuating circumstances that typically come down to parents not really doing the job. A while ago, Cate sent me a link to this news story about a Florida law that, if enacted would have teachers give parents a grade. A nice idea, but very obviously flawed. It will never be enacted, of course, but if it were, it would just create problems. Most bad parents don’t really care. That’s why they’re bad.
All this did get me to thinking, though. The primary problem in assessing schools is that the more students you have who are “at risk” (as in, their basic needs aren’t being met), the worse your school tends to do on standardized testing. It’s the great and obvious inequality in the school assessment system. (An aside: not all at risk kids are really at risk. There are many parents who do a great job, but for reasons beyond their control don’t have much money. Their kids are technically labeled “at risk,” but I’m not talking about them in this post. I’m talking about the parents who fall asleep on the job.) So, I wondered what could be done to level the playing field, and this is what I came up with:
I mentioned in an earlier post that, generally speaking, it should be unacceptable for a student to ever make anything below a C. This is because there are numerous levels in high school. If a child really has a hard time with math or English, then that child can take a lower level class that will typically teach at the student’s level. Basically, it is not required that each student fill his or her schedule with AP classes. Along these lines, I have a proposal to fix the school assessment system. It goes like this:
No school shall be held accountable for the test scores of any student with more than one below C grade in the past academic year unless incompetent instruction is shown.
Pretty simple, right? Now let me break it down. The first thing you probably think is that schools would just start giving bad grades to all but the brightest kids. I don’t think this is true. Most parents are involved enough that they are going to complain if their child is receiving unfair grades. Additionally, very few teachers are corrupt in this manner. I’m not saying abuse can’t occur in this system, but I don’t think it’s nearly as likely as you would at first believe.
Plus, there is that provision about incompetent instruction. I think it is fair, in this instance, to shift the burden of proof to the parents because if their children are doing so poorly in school, chances are it has something to do with what is going on at home. This is not something a teacher can control. However, I should be clear about what constitutes incompetent instruction. it’s not just what goes on in the classroom. Part of the job of every teacher is to get in contact with the parents of struggling students and see what needs to be done. We should be held accountable for this and it’s fairly easy to prove whether we’re doing it or not. That said, I can’t count the number to times I’ve heard something along the lines of, “I don’t know what to do with him either,” when speaking to a parent. That is not good enough, thus the rule.
Will this ever be implemented? No, of course not. People don’t want to be responsible and the great thing about scapegoating teachers is that it reduces the number of people who are responsible for their actions. Everyone gets to say of their poorly performing children: “Damn schools, they are not getting the job done.” I think it’s fair for the schools to start asking if the parents are either.