Grades for Parents

Report cards aren't going just to the youngsters who've always gotten them. In Chicago, some parents are getting them. And a few states require that schools themselves be formally graded.

This is largely an effort to spread accountability around. Chicago's parental report cards started as Superintendent Paul Vallas's idea to get parents more involved with schools.

The superintendent reasoned, soundly, that the schools couldn't do everything by themselves. They needed parents' help with basics like getting kids to school on time, making sure homework was done, and attending meetings at school.

So why not a report to grade parents on these and other things?

Good concept, perhaps, but not so easy to implement. Some parents' groups called the report cards harassment of parents. Teachers and principals were leery of the reaction they'd get if they graded parents.

The superintendent backed off a bit, making the cards voluntary and more like lists of what parents should be doing - eliminating bad marks for what they weren't doing.

But one Chicago elementary school, acting on its own initiative, has been grading parents since 1993. The principal there finds it a good way to build parental interest in the school, and says she's never had a complaint about the report cards. Maybe it's all in the way it's done.

And schools? The governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, had been gung-ho to issue yearly letter grades - A through F - to his state's public schools. He thought it'd give parents a better idea how their kids' schools were doing. But school officials and teachers were aghast at the possibility of getting an indelible "scarlet F." Many protests later, the governor retreated to "word" grades - "excellent" through "unsatisfactory" - instead. Florida and Georgia are the only states giving schools traditional letter grades.

This spreading out of grades makes the point that education of children is a community effort. But let no student doubt that the grades that count most will still be theirs.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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