Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Rant - Casting Off Accessories, Teacher Accountability and the Reality of Our World

A few years ago, I did a post on how I think most parents consider their children to be accessories. Unfortunately, I still think that way. However, now these parents are apparently casting off their accessories because they're too much work.

Case in point. I had a student last year who had a lot of severe mental problems, bi-polar being the least of them. Biological dad was in jail somewhere in another state, he lived with mom and sister. He spent time during his sixth grade year in a mental institution, and did a return visit during the year I had him. He was spending most of his eighth grade year in our Behavior Adjustment unit but I noticed recently that I hadn't seen him around which was unusual. I mentioned this to the BA teacher the other day and she informed me that his mother had washed her hands of him and turned him over to the state and he was now in foster care and attending another school. The BA teacher was in court (called as a witness) when this happened and basically said that his mother told the court that she didn't want anything to do with him any more. I'm sure hearing that must have made this kid's day.

Another teacher, Mrs. Strawberry, was summoned to court last week to appear as a witness in a custody case involving a student. She mentioned that while she sat in the court waiting for her case to come up not one, not two, but three parents were there turning their kids over to the state! And that's just one day in one court in one city.

And of course last week we had the President trot out his first education policy speech laced with buzzwords like accountability. Of course, he means, like every other politician out there, teacher accountability.

What I want to know is when in the bloody hell are parents going to start to be held accountable?

I get a number of education-related email newsletters every day and one this week had an interesting blurb about a study done by Henry C. Berliner and published jointly by the Education and Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Arizona State University's Education Policy Research Unit that described seven out-of-school factors that play a role in a child's educational success. (For those of us in the classroom this is a big "duh" moment as we already know this - apparently most policy makers either don't or they don't care.) The factors include prenatal care, health care, food insecurity, environmental pollutants, family stress, neighborhood characteristics and extended learning systems.

I firmly believe that before any legislator, and that includes the President, makes any sort of law or policy in education, they need to walk in our shoes. This does not mean going to a high achieving elementary school with freshly scrubbed, well dressed, well fed cherubs who sit at your feet while you read a picture book to them and you get your photo op for the networks. How about working as a substitute teacher for a few weeks? Spend some time in the behavior adjustment unit with the kids with mental issues. How about some time working as the in school suspension teacher? Try to set up a parent meeting with a parent that not only didn't provide us with a working phone number, but all the other emergency contact numbers are bad as well. And then when you get that meeting set up (should that miracle occur) how about standing in the office for fifteen minutes waiting for the parent to not show up? How about enjoying that parent phone call where they tell you that "what happens in school is not my problem, you deal with it!". Sit in on an s-team meeting, a 504 meeting and an IEP meeting. Get all your paperwork done, your lessons planned, and then teach, teach, teach kids who aren't fed, washed, or cared for.

It's a tough thing to Not Leave A Child Behind when parents, such as they are, don't parent and are doing their best to drag their children down.

P.S. I haven't read the report cited above. I'd like to, but as of yet I haven't found it, just articles about it (and I'm not paying for any article, thankyewverymuch.) If anyone finds it, let us know.

16 comments:

CozyStitches said...

I'd love to read Henry C. Berliner's article, can you send it to me? I did a quick Google search but only found a for pay site. If it's a site that you pay for, no worries I don't expect you to send it. But if it's something available for free, I"d love to be able to read it. :)

Thanks!
Tammy (a future teacher)

vrgnamgnta said...

And then do all that work after you've been pink-slipped, because apparently they don't really need you. I'm with you on this one.

Rachel said...

*applauds* Ditto. I've been asking myself a similar question since the President released his statement on education (I, too, saw it fraught with buzzwords with very little actual "this is how we do it"). Really, I could rant about it for awhile, but I won't here. I've been asking this question, though, as for student accountability. I teach 10th grade - in two more years, these kids will be out in the real world where sometimes life isn't fair. Still, we continue to cut corners for them, for example if they fail a six-week grading period, they can complete "grade recovery" to pull it up to a D. When are we going to teach them personal responsibility by making them face consequences for their actions? Teacher incentives have good intentions behind them, but ultimately that takes responsibility away from the students, yet again.

As you stated, I too have expressed a wish that there were some sort of "reality check" for people wanting to make decisions on education policy. *sigh*

Kristie Walker said...

I'm hoping that our President understands the challenges you've outlined. The below quote from his speech to Congress back in February was the most hopeful thing I've heard from a politician in ages--a recognition that it's not all us as teachers. But, of course, the follow-through remains to be seen.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent -- for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father, when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That's an American issue.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/02/24/politics/main4826494.shtml?source=RSSattr=Politics_4826494

Mrs. Bluebird said...

I'm waiting for the follow through on the President's words. Right now that's all they are - a bunch of pretty words. I'm waiting to hear how he's going to get those parents off their butts and to parent teacher conferences. I have 110 students and NOT ONE parent showed up for conferences last month. Not even the 20 we sent personal invitations to. That's beyond disgusting.

I'm waiting. But I'm not holding my breath.

J said...

Is this it?
http://epicpolicy.org/files/PB-Berliner-NON-SCHOOL.pdf

The Bus Driver said...

Well said Bluebird. We get alot of ignorance here when it comes to parenting and it seems parents pick and choose whichever battles they're going to win due to screaming discrimination, but these same parents change their phone numbers like they change underwear.

dkzody said...

But, you are probably told, as we are, if you were a better teacher, your students would be doing better and the parents would want to be involved. We just don't encourage them enough. I am so fed up with this constant barrage.

Darren said...

Those of us who would kill for our children, we just don't or can't understand those who would give up on their children.

BUT

How different a parent would I be if my child were out of control, through no fault of mine at all? What if my kid were a bad seed? How long would I, could I, hold out? They shouldn't, but thoughts like that keep me awake some nights. I'm thankful for the child I have, IEP and all.

Snippety Gibbet said...

AMEN, my sister. AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!

Allison said...

Parents giving up on their kids is simply not okay - I completely agree. But I think that President Obama feels that way too. He's referred several times to the need for parental involvement and responsibility. In the third presidential debate, he said, "But there's one last ingredient that I just want to mention, and that's parents. We can't do it just in the schools. Parents are going to have to show more responsibility. They've got to turn off the TV set, put away the video games, and, finally, start instilling that thirst for knowledge that our students need." (http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/president/debates/transcripts/third-presidential-debate.html)

And I also agree with him about getting rid of bad teachers. If someone is bad at their job, they shouldn't get to keep that job. I know a teacher at my school who leaves the room during class to make personal calls. The kids text rather than do any work. I've never seen him voluntarily talk to a student; every time I've seen him teach (which is repeatedly, because of the room he's in), all he does is talk on the phone and sit on the computer. That's bullshit, and he should be fired. I hope Obama does "reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences." I do too.

Peach Pod said...

I totally agree. I am tired of working harder toward the success of children than their own parents do. If the parents do not check homework (or even check to see if they had homework) or require their kids to study or even attend school, how is it my job to fix that? How is it my job to overcome the fact that even though it has been recommended that a child repeat a grade (often several times) and the parent refuses to allow it? Why do I have to care more than the parent?

As far as accountability, is a standardized test really the right benchmark for this? Am I supposed to compare my students (77% subsidized lunch, 43% public housing, 3 students that have carried weapons in my class, 2 pregnancies (I teach 8th grade) and 14 kids with probation officers) to kids in upper-middle class with 2 college educated parents?

Mrs. T said...

You hit the nail on the head. Kids who are absent 27 days in a quarter? Parents should be held accountable. I can't teach them if they are not here.

Miss A said...

Amen!

Steph said...

Amen Sister!!!

Ahistoricality said...

Yup.