Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dangerous Legislation in Tennesssee

I think everyone should be alerted to the fact that the state of Tennessee passed legislation calling for the grading of parents by teachers on a "voluntary" basis. It is a dangerous precedent, and I am concerned that other states may follow its lead.  First of all, how voluntary can that truly be. If you are a parent, what do you do when you receive this contract with the packet of materials given out at the beginning of the school year? Stand out as the one who won't be graded?

The concept arose following research that showed an association between parent involvement and educational success. I don't doubt this is true, but that research is on behavior that is voluntary. I don't believe the researchers set up a double blind study putting parents in the participation group and others in the non-participation group. I don't think anyone studied the effects of coerced participation on education. I don't think anyone can tell if correlation means causation or if there are numbers of other factors that contribute to the student's education that are also associated by parents who actively participate. I don't think we've considered that there are many students who thrive having parents who choose to take a backseat on their children's education.

The point is that parental participation is good, and it is probably best when it occurs with parents and teachers relating on equal footing. This legislation alters the equal footing concept by putting the teacher in the position of grading the parent, and hence making that teacher an authority over the parent.

One of the key concepts in my model, The Homework Trap, is that homework distorts the hierarchical relationships between family and school. Children need to have their teachers in charge of their classrooms and their parents in charge of their homes. That's why homework does not cause problems when it does not cause problems. As long as the parents feel good about the homework their children are getting, there's no problem. It's when homework supplants the decision-making of the parent and when the parent feels helpless to make a different decision -- no homework tonight or you've done enough and you can stop, just as that parent may say, pizza night, or movie night, or let's go visit grandma tonight -- that homework becomes highly problematic.

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