Is Vitti’s parent academy the wrong thing to do?

Don’t get me wrong. I support the superintendent’s initiative to get more parents involved. I believe our schools would be a lot better if we had more constructive parental involvement. The thing is, schools should first control what they can control.

As a schoolteacher I have no control over whether a parent is involved or not. If they read to their child or take an interest in them or not or if they do the bare minimum of things they should do to be called a parent or not. Once a child leaves my classroom and then leaves the school my and the districts control effectively comes to an end.

So yes, where I support Vitti’s plan for a parent academy I think we need to deal with the issues in our school first, the things we can control. We can address student accountability and curriculum issues and I think those are the areas where we should concentrate on first.

First our schools must be disciplined. We ignore discipline at our own peril and if you want evidence of this just read the paper or listen to the news because you can’t go more than a day or so without reading about some horrific act committed by a young person. Furthermore this is an area where we can nudge parents to get more involved.

I think we can do so by having a multiple offender rule. If a student gets three referrals they should be suspended indefinitely until the parent comes in has a conference to discuss their behavior. Now the caveat is the parents could come in the same day for the conference and the kid might not have to miss any school at all, but at three referrals a student’s behavior really needs to be addressed by all concerned parties. Then for every subsequent referral they are likewise suspended indefinitely but could come back the very next day without missing any time as well but now only if the parent shadows them for the whole day. That’s go to class with them, walk the halls with them, eat lunch with them etc. I imagine that for many households that would only have to happen once.

So if a kid does end up missing school well that’s on the parent not the school because they only miss time if the parent doesn’t follow through. Friends discipline is hard but when we run for it or ignore it we it makes things worse not better. Discipline is something schools can control and discipline one of the most important lessons a student can learn. Sadly for some kids if they don’t learn it at school then there is nowhere they will learn it.

The next most important lesson students need to lean is a work ethic and like discipline for some only at school will this lesson be taught. That’s why when we destroy student accountability and push kids along without the skills and knowledge they need we are doing them a lifetime of disservice.

We must change grade recovery and stop forcing teachers to push kids along whether they have the skills they need or not. Grade recovery should only be for the truly deserving, not for the kids that don’t come, make an effort or acts up when you do.  Right now many don’t think it matters how they act or what they do because they know we will give them another bite of the apple through grade recovery. Then teachers should no longer be told to watch their Ds and Fs because if teachers are cajoled into passing kids that don’t deserve it then what we have taught them a work ethic doesn’t matter.

Like I said friends if they don’t learn this lesson at school many will never learn it and quite frankly a work ethic is probably the lesson they need to learn the most. Superintendent Vitti should say no longer will teachers be told what grades to give and instead students should get the grades they deserve. Yes this will lead to more students failing so we must supplement this with more summer school opportunities but once again we will be nudging parents to be parents by saying if they don’t go they will be retained. I don’t like the prospect of kids failing a grade but what I like even less is the prospect of kids going through life without the skills they need and a work ethic.

Finally schools can control curriculum. Not every child is going to go to college but we must still prepare them to be successful citizens and this is why we must have multiple pathways to graduation. We cannot continue to shove all our children into a one size fits all curriculum regardless of their ability and aptitude and then scratch our heads when some may fall through the cracks. We need a college ready curriculum and every student needs to be taught the basics but we must also have arts, skills, and trade and technology curriculums too. We need to meet the students where they are and engage their strengths and that will make many more interested in school and it more relevant to them too.

Schools can control these things and we should. This is where we should start, not with a parent academy as good as an idea as it sounds on paper.

So yes, where I do support the superintendent’s parent academy I think it is like sprinkles on ice cream. Sure it’s nice but what enhancement is it really going to create. What parent that has abdicated their responsibility is suddenly gong to go you know what I can take this class on a random Thursday night and turn it around. My guess is not many.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try but it should mean we take care of the things we can take care of first.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

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