Keeping parents accountable

Keeping parents accountable

September 11, 2013

In today’s paper, in “Needed: A report card on parents,” Esther Cepeda argues that for all the insistence on grading school and teacher performance what is often missing is an assessment as to how parents are keeping up their side of the bargain. As Cepeda says about school reform movements, “parent performance is rarely figured into such calculations.” She adds that maybe we should be focusing as much on universal parenting school as we do on universal pre-school.

Sadly, many of my experiences match Cepeda’s depictions. Just one anecdotal example.
A couple of years ago, I had one of my first assignments in the RCSD. It was at the old Edison. The school was taking mid-terms, and it was my job to call home to students who had failed to show. I thought it might be amusing in a way. I pictured hapless kids being sheepishly aroused from beds by unamused mothers. I imagined I might be lecturing kids as they tried a foolish string of excuses.Parental-Involvement-logo-150x150

I was given a list of about forty parent names. I was able to contact exactly two students, brothers who were left unsupervised, so had no transportation to make the test. (A saintly school psychologist offered to pick them up, but it didn’t quite work out.) From what I recall, the vast majority of numbers were from defunct cell phones. I did reach a few live lines, but no one answered or returned my calls. One number was for McDonalds, but I was told the woman had not worked there in months.

I asked other teachers about it. They gave the unfortunate resigned shrug. They dealt with the inability to contact parents so frequently it barely raised an eyebrow.

For me it was a first time experience. And a very depressing one. The bottom line was that these forty parents sent their kids to school without providing any way for the schools to contact them. When one cell phone ended, they never provided an updated number. Same when they moved.

I thought to myself. What if this had been a medical emergency? What if—for whatever reason—it was really important that parents be contacted and be in touch with the school?

From this small experience, when I read about addressing parent performance, in some cases we need to start with the basics. Parents, let schools know where you are. That’s your side of the bargain.

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About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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