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Parental Report Cards: Florida Lawmaker Wants Teachers Grading Your Parenting Skills

| March 30, 2011

A Republican who loves government interference in the home: Lakeland's Kelli Stargel

A Republican who loves government interference in the home: Lakeland's Kelli Stargel (Florida House/Mark Foley)

If teachers are being graded for their student’s performance, is it only fair that parents also be held accountable for how well-prepared the student is?

That’s the question a House committee pondered Tuesday when it took up HB 255, by Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. The bill, referring to “parental involvement and accountability in the public schools,” would require teachers in grades Pre-K through 3 to grade parents on their involvement, including factors like homework completion, whether the child is physically prepared for class and their absences.

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“It’s not grading whether the parent fed a three-course breakfast or what time they went to bed, but is that child prepared for school?” Stargel said. “It’s mostly so we can identify those parents who are not involved.”

Stargel’s own parenting skills might have been exempt: the 45-year-old mother of five–she got pregnant with her first child at 17, subsequently married and had five children–home-schooled four of them for part of their education. But the bill got Stargel some national exposure. In January she made an appearance on Fox and Friends and was interviewed on CNN.

Stargel said the intent is not to punish those parents, but to figure out what can be done to motivate or help them.

“We all know a more involved parent (has) a more successful student,” Stargel said. “Without proper parental involvement in all aspects of a child’s life, the child’s prospects to be a well-equipped and useful member of society are greatly diminished,” the bill reads in the first of a series of social and pedagogical assumptions about what causes “student underachievement.” The bill lists inadequate rest, lack of supplies, tardiness, absences, poor communications and poor homework preparation. It does not mention issues that have become increasingly relevant among Florida families, Flagler families in particular: unemployment, underemployment, foreclosures, transience, overwork and other economic stress factors.

Some lawmakers questioned whether the bill was inappropriately targeting parents who do not have significant amounts of time to devote to homework preparation and test quizzing.

“How will the grading system be fair to that parent who wants to have that involvement but his or her financial situation won’t allow that to happen?” asked Rep. Charles Chestnut, D-Gainesville.

The report card would include a section in which the teacher grades the parental involvement on given criteria as satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory. The proposal doesn’t mention penalties or consequences in case of an unsatisfactory grade. But it provides for an appeals process that would have to be developed by the State Board of Education, enabling parents unhappy with their grade to have a face-to-face meeting with the principal and the teacher to discuss how the grade was determined, and how it may be improved.

The Florida Parent Teacher Association spoke out against the bill. “Mandating one more school accountability issue is not the best idea at this time,” said Cindy Gerhardt, the President of Florida PTA. “We love the bill, but we don’t feel that the teacher having to grade the parent is really going to improve that relationship.”

The concept of grading parents has caught a lot of flack, Stargel admitted, and said whether it would work is “up for debate.”

“What I do like about a grade is it is a clear measure of your accountability,” Stargel said. Lawmakers said charter schools have long required parents to sign contracts promising a certain level of monitoring and involvement.

The concept of grading parents is not totally foreign to Florida public schools. In rural Gadsden County, near Tallahassee, the school district has adopted a grading system called “Different Levels of Parent Involvement.”

Gadsden County Parent Services Coordinator Audrey Lewis told the committee the Gadsden initially considered a more formal “grade” but that parents pushed back.

By just changing the name to the DLOPI acronym, Lewis said, more parents came on board.

The program now ranks parents on five different categories, from attendance, to communication with teachers, tutoring, volunteer effort and leadership. “Parent involvement is not all about carnivals and bake sales,” Lewis said.

The bill appears unlikely to pass this year, though it may provide a preview of the Legislature’s education agenda for next year. The House committee took no vote on the bill Tuesday and with just about a month to go in the session and no movement on a Senate companion, its prospects appear slim.

–Lilly Rockwell, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive

17 Responses for “Parental Report Cards: Florida Lawmaker Wants Teachers Grading Your Parenting Skills”

  1. Tom Brown says:

    Can we leave Mars and get back to the real world, Ms. Stargel? Kids are lucky if both parents only work one job each. Many put in double shifts to provide the basics. Ozzie & Harriet went off the air years ago.

  2. Aradhika Webber says:

    Get out of my life! Already tired of intrusions from every angle.

  3. runningonempty says:

    Re Responses: Awwwww, poor parents are upset they have to be PARENTS rather than their child’s “buddy.”

  4. Lusine says:

    BRAVO! Finally some accountability! Teachers statewide can rejoice! Those not liking this probably have something to hide! Let’s finally stop assuming it is a teacher’s responsibility to raise your kid!

    If you cannot handle the responsibilities of being a parent, use birth control!

  5. Stacey M. says:

    Yet, in those countries where we are falling behind, society demands that parents are involved. It is part of their family’s honor.

  6. elaygee says:

    A former teenage slut turned fundamentalist maniac making the rules for everyone else now? How unique.

  7. Bob Z. says:

    How can a teacher grade a parent without being in their home 24/7? There are too many variables and factors involved for a teacher to make such an assessment. And even if they did, what would the parent say if they received an unsatisfactory grade? Maybe they’ll complain to the school’s principal that they are not doing their job, which could impact their evaluations (?)…more stress on the teachers is surely not needed!

  8. William says:

    Earth to Stargel….


  9. Kevin says:

    Wow, I cannot believe I agree and enjoyed Elaygee’s comment! (William also with his “STFU”) Is this idiot republican even conscious of her profound ignorance? Someone needs to slap her down–verbally of course.

  10. BW says:

    What I am not getting about this is what this type of legislation accomplishes. Do we need a law or this better served as a best practice in a school district? Is this more for teachers to use as a defense of performance on a merit review? What ‘accountability’ could you possibly impose on a parent who is not perceived as involved in their child’s education? How do you even begin to evaluate that? Likewise, if this is identified with the parent there is accountability for the teacher too. What are they doing to reach out to the parent? If they can not demonstrate that they have effectively pursued reaching out to the parent and worked with them to develop a plan then that should reflect on the teacher’s performance as well.

    What this really is is pure rubbish. It will create wasted time and money with no beneficial results. What’s even scarier is that the one’s in charge of our children’s education are the one’s coming up with pure silliness. Vote it down and never speak of it again. It’s ridiculous and a huge waste of time and energy.

  11. Nancy N. says:

    This is insane! You can’t legislate good parenting skills into people. They either have them or they don’t…bad parents aren’t going to snap out of it and change their ways for fear of a bad evaluation from their child’s teacher! The issue is much more complex than that. Welcome to the real world Stargel!

    All this sort of evaluating does is drive a wedge between parents and teachers because it sets up a unequal power relationship of “I’m evaluating you”. Instead of letting them work together as a team.

    It would also give teachers who are compained about or who are resisted in some way by parents who are advocating for their kids a way of retaliating against that parent…it’s just not constructive in so many ways.

  12. JR says:

    Maybe a letter grade is going a bit far, but requiring parental involvement will be central to turning the educational system around. Disregarding the personal — foul mouthed — attacks, they don’t deserve to be recognized, the argument that parents do not have enough time is preposterous. They can make time, you cannot convince me that parents are physically unable help their children — parent is both a noun and a verb — those that cannot do parent (verb), don’t deserve to be called a parent (noun).

  13. Weldon Ryan says:

    I wish people would wake up to what this is. Convoluted people making rules and laws with out a well rounded consideration of others. Politicians caring about they rise to power. Making gains on others backs. Complete control of the masses. Teachers and Politicians exists because thy are performing a salaried service!!! They serve the people. Or do they? Americans and particularly parents get hit from all sides. They do far more than the negative blasts say they do. On a whole parents are very involved. Only in the state of Florida where we have such high unemployment and most everyone is in distress do we surrender to the whim of fools! These politicians should find ways to make life easy on the working class as apposed to making life harder. Ms. Stargil should be run out of town for her insensitivity and her ignorance.

  14. Not so crazy... says:

    Bob Z, I understand where you’re coming from. But consider all the factors that affect a child’s performance in school, and how many of those that are beyond a teacher’s control. Yet teachers will be paid based on their students’ test scores. It’s not that much different. We have to come up with a way to make parents more accountable.

  15. I don't get it says:

    How ridicules to expect parents to be responsible for their children’s education. Isn’t that what we pay taxes for? Funny society is so quick to blame a child’s failure on the school system, but ask them to have a small measure of accountability and everyone is freaking out. The bill does not propose a “big brother” legislation, it is asking parents for a reasonable level of cooperation. I think what is really pathetic is that we have to even think about a measure like this to get parents engaged in THEIR child’s life.

  16. w.ryan says:

    Not so crazy, during school hours the school has pseudo-parental control. Also, parents get the rap all of the time. I’m retired and still have a hard enough time to sit with our children doing the utmost to have them do well in school. How could these officials in Albany put levels of competency on Parents to the level of grades? Ridicules! There are countless thousands in our county that are doing their part but the negative always comes to the forefront like that is the norm. The accountability is with everyone! I also believe that education has gotten away from teaching what needs to be taught in the way that it is taught. This is not because of the teachers.

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