Friday, March 17, 2006


This article echoes what I hear in the trenches every day.

"Maybe it isn't the teachers....."


At Friday, March 17, 2006, Anonymous parakeethead said...

While I generally agree with the tone of the article, I do have a question about one statement. The author states, referring to public schools, that "Too few of them take a hard line with parents; a stand in which they say, these are OUR responsiblities-and those are YOURS."

My question is this. If a public school does choose to take a stand such as the one suggested, and if parents still refuse to accept their responsibilities, what options are available to the school teachers and administrators? Law enforcement? Child services? Expulsion? Parenting classes?

It would be interesting to hear responses from education "insiders" as well as critics of public education.

At Friday, March 17, 2006, Blogger Indiana Public School Superintendent said...

I question that same comment. It is one thing to talk about "parental accountability" but when you start considering the "big brother" aspects of how you would hold them accountable it kind of loses its luster - or maybe I should say - "bluster."

At Friday, March 17, 2006, Blogger Mamacita said...

While it is true that some of the problems originate right at the school, and some of the problems are the sole responsibility of the individual student, it is also sadly true that the majority of the problems (at least, the ones I dealt with for 26 years) are absolutely and 100% the fault of the parents. Not the decent and hardworking parents, no no no; I'm referring to those parents who are negligent, stupid, lazy, permanently unemployed, addicted, abusive, and entitled. Which, to our national shame, are fast becoming the majority. Good parents: please rise up and demand justice for your good children; I'm sick and tired of rotten parents getting mercy for their rotten kids, at the expense of the good kids.

At Friday, March 17, 2006, Anonymous Maverick Bibliographer said...

Well, there should be ways to hold parents who do not do their parenting job accountable. If it takes law enforcement and expulsions, so be it. The students who do want to learn have a right to an education that is safe and effective. As long as schools are afraid to say we will hold you accountable; we expect your kid to behave, and we expect you to do your job as a parent or else, things will be the same. I say this as one of the few hardworking decent parents who constantly has to worry about whether my child will be ok surrounded by all those brats, and I say it as a former school teacher who had more than his share of those kids whose parents simply did not do their job. In my case, I also had a principal who preferred to take any parent's side over a teacher's just to avoid any "confrontation." I say it's high time to confront. It's time for the powers that be in education to get a pair. Best.

At Saturday, March 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Maverick Bibliographer!! I am one of those parents who sends their children to school each day, fed, homework in hand, behaving, etc. I am sick of educators saying "we can't do this or that as we might get sued". Stop being afraid of lawsuits and do what is right for the children!! Enforce dress codes, behavior codes, etc. Child need limitations, they need to know their bad choices (and good choices) have consequences. Children know, in many cases, they run the school!

At the same time education needs to move away from a system of constant negative reward to true positive reward (not some made up stuff because it might damage the child's self-esteem). Students need to be feel they are wanted in school, the faculty and staff have high expectations of them and they believe the students can and will excel. More of a tough love approach. No softening on grading but truly being supportive of students and pushing them higher.

We are dealing with this issue in my district today. I am fearful the administration is giving up. They don't appear to get it.I believe most parents will support them if they need to discipline a child, push them to do more, etc.

Another thing our district is considering is doing away with any score below a 50. That means the lowest F one can get as a final grade is a 50. They fear the -0- grade if that is in fact the F the student earned takes away all hope for improving and ruins a GPA. My opinion -- if that is the level of work the student did, that is the grade they deserve. I would welcome feed back on any of these comments.

Thanks for your blog --


At Saturday, March 18, 2006, Anonymous jambanja said...

I tend to think that comments such as Elizabeth and Maverick Bibliographer make are representative of many people today. At the same time, I fear that legislators are making it increasingly more difficult to hold students and parents more accountable. Emphasis on things such as keeping dropouts in schoool and reducing suspension and expulsion rates may cause educators to give more second and third chances to students than they really deserve.

I guess my suggestion would be to not only look at the schools, but also at the lawmakers and the politicians who seem to have an agenda to make public schools look bad.

What is the appropriate balance between making every effort to try to engage students who present difficulties while at the same time providing the best possible atmosphere for dedicated, hard working students?

I do find it interesting that for whatever reason, the two commenters referenced above provide ideas that still appear to see schools as the solution to the problem rather than the parents.

It just seems to me that the idea that every problem in school is the school's responsiblity to fix is so ingrained in our culture that it is very difficult to see beyond that.

At Saturday, March 18, 2006, Blogger Indiana Public School Superintendent said...

In many cases the problem isn't really parents. It's the fact that there AREN'T any parents. Siring a child is a far cry from raising one.

I agree wholeheartedly with jambanja's last comment.

"It just seems to me that the idea that every problem in school is the school's responsiblity to fix is so ingrained in our culture that it is very difficult to see beyond that."

At Monday, March 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jambanja and Superintendent --

I do believe many of the problems in the schools today are the direct result of school administrations over the years not saying "No, that [whatever that is] is not the responsibility of the schools." Why is this done? Because the districts gets more money.

Yes, I do believe laws need to be changed. I believe 16 or 17 year old freshmen need to be at an alternative school. I believe students sent to alternative schools for zero tolerance offenses should not be allowed back in to their original school ever again. They need to be in a different, stricter environment. I believe parents should be held accountable for their students' actions, too. The parents should be forced to pay fines, come to school to meet with the teacher, staff, etc. However, when 64% or more of your students qualify for free and reduced meals, who is going to go get the parents and bring them to the school? Many of these parents get their pay docked if they leave the job, many of the parents are absent, etc.

I believe consistently disruptive students need help with whatever is causing them to misbehave. Isn't it usually because they are bored, ready to move on or truly don't understand the topic being covered? Isn't this behavior a way of asking for help? (Yes, I am excluding the true special ed child that has been mainstreamed maybe prematurely and should be removed from the classroom, too.) Maybe tutoring or an accelerated class could help the majority of these students?

Parents must do their part. I do mine. However, when they are no parents as the Superintendent said, the burden does fall on the schools.

Administrators, teachers, principals, etc. have been fearful [my opinion] of teaching a child that his/her actions have consequences. If they did they might get sued. Children know the staff will not enforce the discipline outlined in the handbook. They want to go to ISS or OSS -- anything to get out of the classroom and to somewhere they can have fun. Doesn't fun come after the hard work is done and done well?

Schools must enforce their rules from the moment students set foot in the building. Children need and want boundries. They want to feel safe. They need a safe environment in which to try, fail, try again and succeed. They need teachers who believe in them, who push them, who are there to catch them when they fall and push them up again. (They need this from their parents, too.)

As children succeed they are given more responsibility and freedoms. If they abuse this trust those freedoms and responsibilities are taken away. This is what I try to do at home. Shouldn't there be consistency between the home and school? I think there should.

Kids are in the school building 7 or more hours a day. If teachers, staff and administrators are not going to do their part to push my child, encourage, support and even, if necessary, discipline him while I am not there, why am I supporting your school? Children need consistency.

(This next part is a general statement.) Take a chance. Get to really know your students and the parents who are involved. Show the kids you love them, set the bar high for them and be there to catch them when they need help. I think you will be amazed at the results in most of the kids. Yes, those 7 hours or more a day the kids are in your building might be all that is needed to help them move forward in life. You never know who the significant adult will be in the a child's life. It just might be a teacher, administrator, coach, etc. that is the difference between dropping out and exceling.

I would still welcome comments on a minimum grade of 50 for an F.

Thanks for your time and reading my comments. Together we can make an incredible difference in the life of a child.Now to get this message through to my district's administrators, teachers, staff, etc. --


At Monday, March 20, 2006, Blogger annie said...

i think this is a very important discussion that merits consideration--but from whom?

maybe the supe can help with the chain of command.

it used to be that a teacher had a certain power of domain in his or her classroom. maybe some still do but i bet they have to sneak.

now, it seems, the teacher who has a specific problem with behavior in the classroom receives neither the administrative support from the principal nor is it ok to get tough in the classroom.

and why is that?

well, the statistical results of putting kids out the door, by suspension or expulsion is certainly frowned upon by both the supe and the boe.

has the chain of command been whipped by the statistical measurements policy? i think so.

anecdotally, my favorite teacher was a strict disciplinarian from a kid's worst nightmare. the offenses, no matter how simple, outrageous, or subjective were all spelled out, upfront.

she was as extreme a character as Tennesse Williams might have created-- a southern, hysterical, tyranical at times, but colorful, and certainly masterful teacher...

rule # one: you do not say "shut up." now, "shut up" was practically the same as "hello" between my older brother and i in our household.

but, it only took one slip up and the term has to this day been extinguished from mine and my subsequent offspring's vocabulary. ( they are allowed to cuss if they do it right...)

i can tell you the exact moment in time, because time stopped, i can see "Blanch," her mauve-colored dress, her severely high heels, the expressions of my classmates and tell you the exact smell (my own persperation-drenched body) and color of the air (black, streaked with red fire)at the moment that i said the forbidden words.

now, my children sweat in classrooms where students disrupt and destroy opportunities for the entire classroom. the principal seems to cower rather than answer to defensive, upset parents. the teacher has no alternative but to "deal." and the county office is all about these
f%$@-ing statistical measurements to prove "proficiency."

what has changed is perhaps autonomy or the identity of the professionals. it has been an insideous transition, slow and deadly, no child believes in the ultimate ability of a teacher or a principal to stand up to a parent.

these particular stakes are quite you know. but nothing we can do could quickly make a difference--the problem is the evolution of policy which has undermined the power of a profession.

At Monday, March 20, 2006, Blogger Strausser said...

As an 8th grade teacher I cannot count the times that I utter the words "apple-tree syndrome" after I meet with a parent. Some of my most challenging students come from the most challenging parents (a la "the apple does not fall from the tree").

The thing that really hit home from this article is that whereas there are great parents and great teachers there are also bad parents and bad teachers. It is really impossible to cast one blanket over either group. (even though a bad parent only really screws up their own kid where a bad teacher can effect many)

It sounds terrible but some students are just so far gone because of enabling parents that there really is nothing we can do as educators no matter how much the parent screams that you are a horrible teacher (see my latest post on my blog where a parent talked about getting a lynch mob organized). If a parent is pushing off all of the blame on the teacher and sees that their child can "do no wrong", then there really is nothing we can do except really feel sorry for the child and hope that at some point they learn accountability at another point in their life.



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