Bill Proposed to Grade Parents


Photo credit: Jessica Small

Madison Dalton, Staff Writer

Recently, legislation that would require elementary school teachers in Florida to grade parents based on how well they handle their child’s education was passed in the House.  While the Senate still must vote in order for House K-20 Competitiveness Committee bill to become law, it’s 10 to 3 passage in the House makes supporters hopeful.

“I think a lot of parents understand that [their involvement] is something that is critical.  On the other hand, you have some parents that don’t realize they are not providing the needs,” explains Kelli Stargel, author of the bill.  “We have student accountability, we have teacher accountability, and we have administrationaccountability.  This was the missing link.”

However, despite the bill’s good intentions, many educators are pessimistic about the legislation’s ultimate success.

“I think we need to be careful [and] look to potential consequences before we vote,” said Wellington High school teacher, Mrs. Rigolo. “A lot of bills such as this one have had good intentions but ultimately created a monster.”  Mrs. Rigolo proposed that a better idea would be to offer parenting classes, as this approach would avoid the potential to offend parents who received “failing grades”.  While Mrs. Rigolo feels that the intentions are good, she explains, “implementing the legislation fairly across the board would be extremely challenging.”

Cherie Christopher, a fifth grade teacher at Elbridge Gale Elementary, explains that she is not sure if she supports the bill because it could create yet more paperwork for already overburdened teachers. She also explains that the parents who would be targeted by the bill—the ones who would receive the failing grades—are the same parents who wouldn’t care anyway.

“We talk to the parents now, and the parents usually don’t care.”

Christopher also points out that Florida legislatures should see if similar bills have succeeded elsewhere in the U.S before implementation.

“For example, statistics show that merit pay won’t actually work.  If there’s not a lot of data to support this bill, then it may not be the best idea,” Christopher opined.

The equally controversial merit pay system that was pushed through Florida legislature last year has come up often in discussions regarding this new education legislation.  In fact, the Florida teacher’s union has been opposed to this bill, at least partially
because they feel that opposing teacher grading while supporting parent grading would be hypocritical.

Jennifer Jones, Instructional Specialist for Kindergarten through Fifth Grade Reading in the School District of Palm Beach County, said, “I would tend to say that I don’t think this [bill] is a very good idea because I think it’s teachers passing on to the parents some of the responsibility of testing—which I totally get because teachers are under tremendous amounts of pressure—but to grade the parents is not really a feasible thing to do.  I don’t even know how you would enforce any type of a consequence [for parents’ noncompliance].”

When questioned in regards to another bill that would ask the district to grade teachers, Jones responds, “…I think that what they have now is already really complicated and teachers are really upset about it.  The last thing teachers need right now is another thing to think about and do…so I don’t see how putting another evaluation in place is going to do anybody any good.  The feeling that I get is that teachers are incredibly overwhelmed…and they feel that every time they turn around someone else wants to tell them what to do, and they don’t have enough time to teach.”

Overall, Jones’ response to the bill seems to be in line with responses that have been given by a wide range of teachers in regards to a wide range of issues for the past few years, “I think that teachers are already very unhappy and have been for several years, but every year there’s something additional that’s being imposed upon them, and I think that it’s a good idea for the state legislature to back off a little bit right now.”