Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Novel Way to Aggravate Parents

Concerned Parent (thanks, CP!) sent in a link to this article: Parent Report Cards are Novel Way to Boost Support.

I really hate the article, beginning with the headline. There's nothing novel about report cards, which are highly over-rated as a motivational tool. And I'm not reassured by the point that the parents are encouraged to grade themselves, which, if possible, is even more patronizing. "We know it would never occur to you to wonder how you're doing as a parent, so we've provided a handy rubric!"

This paragraph had steam coming out of my ears:

Nashville resident Christi Witherspoon favors the measures. Despite her busy schedule as a doctor, she and her husband, Roger, spend as much as three hours each night helping their two young daughters with homework.
The daughters in question are 6 and 9 years old! Homework has eaten the family's life, and Mom is OK with that? There's a word for spending 3 hours a day doing academic work with your kids -- it's called "homeschooling."
Under Tennessee's contract legislation, parents in each school district are asked to sign a document agreeing to review homework and attend school functions or teacher conferences, among other things.
Correlation is not causation, people! While it may be true that the children of parents who attend parent-teacher conferences do better in school than the children of parents who don't show up, that doesn't imply that the parent-teacher conferences actually accomplish anything. It's more likely that the kind of parents who show up for conferences are also the kind who offer a supportive environment at home.


  1. "There's a word for spending 3 hours a day doing academic work with your kids -- it's called "homeschooling." "

    Amen. I have spent the past year with a son in first grade. He has had more homework each night than my 4th grader, 7th grader, and 11th grader. Math worksheets, fill-in-the-blank language arts sheets, came home every Friday and were due back the next Thursday.

    I tried speaking to the teacher at the beginning of the year about how the homework seemed excessive (especially since they spend 90 minutes per day in math instruction!). Her reply was that none of the other parents had complained and that the parent-volunteer who puts together the homework packets for the teacher thought that there should be MORE work in the packets. WTF? What the hell do they do in the 6.5 hours a day they are there?

    I did I make it through public school back in the 80s and early 90s. My mom didn't spend every waking moment volunteering in my classroom, and she was a stay-at-home mom. My parents showed up for chorus performances, band performances, and teacher conferences. They didn't show up for parties, and I can recall the room-mom as the only parent at holiday parties in elementary school.

    What do you think is the driving force behind these parents who want to hang out at their kids' school daily to "help"? I'm a "show up for performances and major parties" kind of mom. Should I feel guilty because I don't volunteer to come in and listen to kids read, or grade homework packets, or run off copies of worksheets for homework packets?

    Am I a crappy parent I keep hearing these teachers complain about?

  2. Juli, they always say that none of the other parents have complained. Even if it's true, which it probably isn't, who cares? You're complaining now.

    I also wonder why the demands on the parents' time has gone up exponentially while parents' available time has decreased because of more mothers taking up paid employment. It's a mystery.

    There's a cultural shift going on. The capitalist work ethic has become so powerful that nobody is allowed to have leisure time anymore -- not mothers, not children.

    Are you one of the parents the teachers complain about? Who knows? I've lost interest in this question for my own life. Let 'em complain.

  3. What FedUpMom said. You have no way of knowing whether other parents are also complaining. It is likely that 90%+ have expressed no thoughts on the matter whatsoever. Schools love to act like silence is approval, while simultaneously doing everything they can to make people feel "unsupportive" if they speak up.

    There may well be parents who respond to getting three hours of homework for their six- and nine-year-olds by saying "Please sir, may I have another," but I suspect they are the outliers, not you. If the school really cared what parents thought, it would be asking them, rather than waiting to see if anyone complains.

    I know HomeworkBlues will chime in soon with "Just Say No," and I agree.

  4. PsychMom says:

    Had an interesting year in grade 5 this year. all, of the requirements that were specified in September went by the wayside as far as I can tell...due to parent noncompliance. From what I heard, ..the teacher asked for cooperation from the parents to check the class website each week for class happenings and homework and the comeback from the crowd was...Uh, that's not going to happen. So I was heartened by that. It is important to remind that we attend a private school FULL of highly motivated involved parents.

    I don't know if the mood will stick for next year, but I think we're on to something.

  5. Let's make a deal, teach. We'll compare our SAT scores and the one who did better gets to decide how my child learns at home.

  6. I will indeed, Chris! Just Say No. Don't ask,tell. You can be polite, you can be civil. Be articulate and firm. Don't allow schools to legislate your home life.

    Why don't you guys write a resolution? Whereas...we have come to the conclusion...we have decided.

    I have more to say on this next week. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

  7. Can't stop myself. One more point. Juli writes: "Her reply was that none of the other parents had complained and that the parent-volunteer who puts together the homework packets for the teacher thought that there should be MORE work in the packets."

    Oh, lovely. Now the parent volunteer gets to decide how you run your home life. If she wants a thicker home packet, she is welcome to it. Tell teacher to assign it to HER. Proof once again that schools make decisions based on ideology rather than sound practice.

    Notice how the opinion of the person NOT in the room always counts more than yours? And I agree with Chris. Being told that no one has complained is not a vote of confidence. It's a vote of intimidation.

  8. PsychMom adds:

    To Juli...Let's put in another context. If you had a concern about the care your child received at the dentist's office, would you be satisfied if the dentist said, "Well no one else has complained."
    Or if you went to the shoe store with shoes that have something wrong with them and they hurt your child's foot, and the manager of the shoe store says, "Well, no one else has brought these shoes back". You, nor I, would give a sweet pippi whether anyone else had complained. These blasted shoes don't work for us...take them back.

    Hearing this response from teachers is just plain lame. At that moment you are speaking about your child and your experience, so whatever else is happening with other children really has nothing to do with it. You're talking about first grade too aren't's a ridiculous amount of work in any context.

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