House passes parent grading bill for schools

Published 1:11 am Friday, March 18, 2016

NATCHEZ — If the Mississippi House of Representatives has its way, students may be bringing home grades for their parents this fall.

House Bill 4, the Parent Involvement and Accountability Act, recently passed 75-43, The goal of the bill is to encourage parents to take more responsibility for their child’s education. And if a teacher doesn’t think the grade is adequate, he or she can issue a grade for the parent on the child’s report card.

In Natchez, Earline Kinnie, the PTA president at McLaurin Elementary School, said getting parents to be involved at the school could be challenging.

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“We have an enrollment of around 750, and we have about eight PTA members, including our four officers,” she said. “So we do have a issue with parental involvement it’s terrible.

“I don’t know if this is the answer, but something needs to be done to get parents more involved.”

District 97 Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, voted nay, while District 96 Rep. Angela Cockerham, D-Magnolia, and District 94 Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, voted for the legislation. The bill would allow teachers in districts rated C or lower to grade parents.

“Lots of parents believe the school is totally responsible for teaching their children,” Mims said. “I believe educating a child takes a good superintendent, it takes a good principal and it takes a good teacher. But it also takes a good parent to make sure their child is at school ready to learn and doing the homework.”

While he agrees parental involvement is a problem, Mims said grading parents isn’t a good solution. Teachers already have a lot of responsibility.

“I believe our teachers in the state of Mississippi are doing a good job, and we have some excellent teachers in Southwest Mississippi,” he said. “I think adding another step for teachers, to have them grading parents, to me, is the wrong type of reform for what we are looking at solving.”

Mississippi PTA President Cynthia Wallace said flatly that this bill needs more thought. She, like Mims, didn’t understand how teachers could do more than they are already doing without either additional resources in the classroom or more pay.

Her other concerns are logistical.

“I do think parents should be more involved, but you are mandating it,” Wallace said. “What are the repercussions if a parent doesn’t get involved? What happens if the teacher is the problem and not the parent? How are you going to address a special situation where a parent is working two to three jobs and he or she can’t get to all of these mandated events?

“I think they need to get with educators in the school districts and come up with a better bill.”

District 76 Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazlehurst, who authored and introduced the legislation, said he agrees that an additional workload should not be put on teachers.

To him, the language introduced in an approved amendment by District 80 Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, causes this overloading of teachers.

The language as amended by Scott, goes beyond grades for parents into highlights such as requiring teachers to assign daily homework assignments, including weekend cursive and manuscript projects reinforced at every grade level.

Children must also be assigned a minimum of one book per subject each month and are required to write a short report.

The bill also has requirements for what teachers should wear. HB4 does not allow denim or T-shirts unless specifically approved by the school district.

“Teachers have enough work — they don’t need any more,” he said. “If you ask me, that amendment has to be removed, it only takes away from the original focus of the bill.”

Holloway said the main intent was simply to encourage more interaction between teachers and parents. And for teachers to have a tool for holding mom and dad accountable by grading them: satisfactory, unsatisfactory or need for improvement.

“This was a way to encourage teachers and parents to share information,” Holloway said. “We want parents to be held accountable for kids misbehaving and accountable for their kids failure.

“Right now, everyone involved in the process except the parents are held accountable in some way.”

Holloway said that fortunately a reverse repealer was put in the bill by District 28 Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, and it will be coming back to the house for work before it moves on.

“We just need to clean up the language before it goes to the governor,” Holloway said.

Should the bill pass through the senate and be signed by the governor, an addition was added that will bring it back to the house for observation in 2019.

“In three years, it’ll come back to us,” Holloway said. “We’ll revisit it and see how well it is working in the schools.”

The bill is currently in the senate education committee.

Wallace said parents need to speak their mind on this issue.

“You need to call your representative or senator, and voice your support or voice your discontent with the bill,” she said. “In the end, that will make the difference.”