News that a former Superintendent and 34 teachers in the Atlanta public school system were indicted for cheating on the results of standardized tests sadly should not come as a total surprise.
Unfortunately, in any industry where financial rewards are tied to specific metrics, there is always a certain segment of the workforce bent on gaming the system to reap the rewards. For teachers, the No Child Left Behind legislation provided cash incentives for strong performance on standardized tests and essentially punishment for failure.
While we can examine ways to prevent the specter of teachers being dragged out of their classrooms in handcuffs in the future (which didn’t happen in Atlanta—they wisely turned themselves in), we should equally question why these individuals felt the need to cheat to begin with.
Why are so many kids failing these tests?
Teachers often get the blame for this problem, but I think it is just as much or more so the fault of parents.
When it comes to education, many parents simply check out. In fact, they not only demonstrate complacency about their children’s education, they don’t even exhibit the least concern over the most mundane issues of school life.
For example, I can’t tell you the number of kids I see walking to school in the morning on a day when it’s so cold that even a little precipitation could cause blizzard conditions, and these kids are dressed in t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. You’d think it was summer vacation already and they’re off to the beach. Some of them look like a comb or brush hasn’t made contact with a hair on their head in months.
I don’t think they need to dress like they’re going to be walking the red carpet at the Oscars, but at least dressing for the weather demonstrates the minimal level of intelligence necessary for even average achievement in school. If these kids don’t realize that there is a way to combat feeling cold (by putting on additional clothes for example), no wonder they can’t pass a test.
Sadly, the only time some parents seem to care enough to get involved with their children’s education is when the teacher throws up her hands and calls the parents in because the child is failing. Nine times out of ten that’s a no win situation for the teacher because the parents inevitably find that all the fault lies not with their precious child but with the “lousy teacher” who dared drag them away from whatever they were doing in the first place.
I have a number of friends and relatives who are teachers. Some have hung in there to the bitter end, and I commend them. Some quit in frustration, and I totally understand. Their job is incredibly difficult.
For example, a good friend teaches third grade. Periodically, I ask her how the school year is going. It’s a dicey question because I hate upsetting her. It seems for the entire school year she’s dealt with two kids in her class who are so disruptive that she can’t deal with much else. She’s called their parents in, but nothing changes. From the parents, she mostly gets excuses, not any concrete ways to help the situation.
This doesn’t surprise me because parenting isn’t what it used to be.
My niece works for a major retailer, and she tells me about parents who come in with their unruly kids running around and tearing up the place. The parents just shop as though nothing unusual is going on.
Finally, she’ll politely ask one of the parents if he wouldn’t mind asking his child to quit swinging from the store fixtures because he could hurt himself. Usually, the parent will holler for the child to stop. This ceases the behavior for about two seconds. Then it begins again. The parent just keeps shopping. She even had one mother tell her after such an episode, “Oh well, I can’t get her to stop.”
This is the sort of thing that happens in the presence of the parents. Imagine what it’s like when these same kids are out of sight of their parents and in a classroom full of fellow travelers with one single adult in charge.
Let’s just say, it’s not pretty.
Granted, many parents today are struggling just to put food on the table. Helping their kids with homework is pretty much out of the question because the parents are working two jobs and never home to help. I certainly feel for these parents and their kids.
For the rest of the parents out there, if you have time to watch Modern Family or fill your Facebook page with funny things you’ve found on the Internet, you have time to get involved with your child’s education.
If you still don’t feel you have the time to make the effort, then I suggest you march right down and give your child’s teacher a big hug and a heartfelt thank you.
Better yet, write your child’s teacher a nice big check for taking on a job where many are underpaid and sadly unappreciated.