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OPINION: Evaluate Parents, Not Just Teachers

June 25, 2012, 11:45 AM HST
* Updated June 25, 11:47 AM
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You work with what you’ve got. Or in some cases, with what you’re given.

Most of Hawai‘i’s teachers devote their entire professional lives to helping their students. They spend much of their personal time grading papers, and often sacrifice their own financial resources to better their classrooms.

Unfortunately, an overly-muscular teachers union has crafted rules that allow a few grumpy, inept creatures to spend an entire career showing Hawai`i’s youth just how unpleasant learning can be.

Image courtesy Hawai`i State Teachers Association.

Taxpayer frustration over an inability to expel bad educators is providing some of the political fuel pushing a flawed teacher evaluation plan through the Department of Education.

The goofy checklists are meant to be part of a new performance-focused school system. Unfortunately, apart from being a laughable waste of paper, they also fail to measure the biggest factor in student performance.

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Parents. There are some awful ones out there.

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For even the most experienced teachers, giving a child enough support to overcome personal hardship or neglect at home is a difficult task. In a classroom of 30 students, it becomes near-impossible.

Teachers need to be graded based on their skill level. But let’s give them a sliding scale that adjusts expectations based on what the typical home environment for their students is like.

For example, let’s introduce the “Bad Parenting Index,” or “BPI” for short. Using a few simple ratios, we can give a clearer picture of what educators are up against.

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Ratio 1: PBS vs. UFC

If the martial arts reality show “Ultimate Fighter” is tearing the very comfortable-looking socks off “Mr. Rogers,” in terms of children’s TV habits, we may have a problem. There’s nothing wrong with kids learning self-defense, but if it’s all beat downs and no bedtime stories, one of those arm-bars may show up in the classroom.

Ratio 2: PHDs vs. GEDs

It doesn’t take a college degree to be successful. But having a parent that knows calculus is definitely going to give you an advantage in the classroom. Whatever a child chooses to do with their life in adulthood, their school career will be that much easier if mom and/or dad are the primary tutors.

Ratio 3: LDS vs. T.R.O.s

Members of the Church of Latter Day Saints make great neighbors. They’re also pretty involved parents, as anyone who has witnessed a “family home evening” in a Mormon household can attest. You don’t have to be religious to be a great mom or dad, but the more highly devout worshipers you have in a community, the less temporary restraining orders tend to be issued.

Outdoor activities can teach children patience and discipline. Image courtesy of Temple University.

Ratio 4: Soccer Moms vs. Custom Bongs

Whether its youth baseball leagues or the boy scouts, the more positive activities children are enrolled in, the more likely they are to learn patience and discipline. On the flip side, when surrounded by drug use, their grades start to plummet. Even marijuana isn’t innocent here. It’s tough to study with a contact high.

The Matronly Multiplier

You don’t have to have both a mom and a dad present for a child to succeed. Many hard working single parents do an incredible job, and some rely on the help of their own mothers or fathers to provide their kids a nurturing environment.

Even when neither parent is present, a well-meaning relative can be the necessary guiding hand. In fact, one able-bodied Tutu can sometimes provide the disciplinary power of three normal adults.

The “BPI” of course will never happen, but amidst its whimsical math there is a very serious point to be made.

When evaluating teachers, make sure their students are getting the support they need at home. No amount of checklists or testing will fix a broken living environment. If child neglect is causing bad academic performance, society needs to redirect its glare outside of the classroom.

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