this piece suggests. If teachers are to be fired based on test results, what do we do about parents who can't get their kids to school? Should they be fined? Should their names appear in the NY Post so their neighbors can shun them and they can fear leaving their homes?
Probably not. Who knows why kids do what they do? They don't, in fact, come with guarantees. I know some great parents who wind up with extremely problematic kids. Of course, there is such a thing as negligence, and we ought not to accept that from parents, teachers, or anyone. In NY, parents who won't come to school to discuss their kids are negligent.
Teachers who won't help those kids are negligent too. But all the help in the world won't help a kid who, for whatever reason, is not prepared to learn. As an ESL teacher, I see kids who've been dragged from their countries and cultures and really don't want to be here. Kids like that cling to their cultures and refuse to learn English. When kids come from homes characterized by poverty and despair, teachers can't push a button and get them up to speed.
Parents have more influence over their own kids. But kids, despite our best efforts, have minds of their own. If parents do their jobs, they'll try very hard to steer kids in the right direction. They will not always succeed. If teachers to our jobs, we'll try to make kids understand and excel. But we won't always succeed either.
It's not a coincidence that so-called failing schools invariably contain high concentrations of ESL and special education students. It turns out, remarkably, that kids who don't know English have a tougher time passing tests. Furthermore, kids with learning disabilities often take longer to pass said tests. "Reformers" shout "no excuses," but these are not excuses. They are facts.
Of course parents should be accountable for responsible parenting. And of course teachers should be accountable for responsible teaching. But no one should be asked to perform miracles. I don't, for example, expect politicians to magically erase poverty. But it's absolutely unacceptable they ignore it and lay its consequences on working teachers, unions, parents, or anyone.
Pogo (pictured above) was right. We're all responsible for our society, and if we're going to change it for the better, we'll have to do more than simply point fingers at one another.