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Lawmaker Wants Teachers To Grade Parents

TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) -- 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 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.

"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 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.

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 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.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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