Holding Mom, Dad Accountable

“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Ms. Jones, your son’s fourth-grade teacher, here. This is your morning wake-up call to ensure that you get Johnny dressed and to the bus stop in time.”

Ridiculous? Absolutely. It’s not the teacher’s job to get your child to school every day. It’s yours.

Too many of you aren’t taking it seriously.

In reviewing the most recent “Balanced Scorecard” evaluations, state education officials were pleased to see improvements in some aspects of student achievement in West Virginia public schools.

But school attendance statistics didn’t bring any smiles. If anything, they’re getting worse.

More than 38% of public schools in our state don’t meet the state standard for student attendance.

Schools and school systems are scored on student attendance using a somewhat complex system. Thus, a county with a relatively high overall attendance score still may have problems. Ohio County, for example, had a 94.37% attendance score — but middle and high schools only partially met the state’s goal for getting kids to class. Interestingly, Ohio County elementary schools exceeded the state target. Elementary schools in the other five Northern Panhandle counties partially met the goal.

But high schools in Brooke, Hancock, Marshall and Tyler counties failed to meet attendance standards, as did middle schools in Brooke, Hancock and Marshall counties.

It’s a statewide concern. “I’m appalled at the attendance rates. I’m absolutely appalled,” state school Superintendent Steve Paine told reporter Steven Adams.

There’s a lot of talk these days about accountability in public education. “We need school boards to step up and hold their superintendents and their principals and their teachers accountable for results,” Paine told Adams.

Of course. But what are teachers, principals, superintendents and boards to do about parents who don’t worry much about getting children to school?

Once a child hits whatever truancy limit is set, some action can be taken. But when mom and dad are careful to let the kids skate just on the safe side of truancy rules, there is little anyone in the school or justice systems can do about it.

That affects student achievement. If Billy wasn’t in class the day long division was covered, he won’t do well on math tests.

At one time, not so long ago, parents had a personal stake in how well their sons and daughters did in adulthood. Getting good educations has a lot to do with success in later life.

So, a kid who missed a lot of school was unlikely to grow up and be able to help support aged parents. That was a real concern for many centuries. It isn’t these days.

One might suppose that parents would get the kids to school just because they love them and want them to have bright futures. Apparently not, in some cases.

Clearly, there are ways (we call them paychecks) to hold educators accountable for public schools.

But how do we make mom and dad accountable? And if we can find ways, how do we convince the politicians they ought to alienate that many voters?

That — not any of the school improvement issues we’ve been talking about for years — may be the real problem with education.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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