Parent report cards are novel way to boost support

“What we’re hoping will happen with the parents grading themselves is that they will, at a minimum, become aware of either the good job that they’re doing in regards to children’s education, or possibly become aware of some areas where they may be able to make some improvements,” said Parkinson, adding that educators can review the report cards with the parents if they choose.

Utah recently passed legislation that creates an online survey where parents can evaluate their involvement, but the school does not assign them a grade and it’s voluntary. Louisiana is currently considering legislation to grade parent participation, according to the NCSL.

While cajoling parents through state laws is a new trend, the underlying idea is one that few would deny. A 2002 study by the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) found that no matter the income or structure of the family, when parents are involved students have higher grades, stay in school longer, and are more likely to go to college.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s likely to sign the report card legislation, but like the other proposal he wants to see how it’s implemented.

“The spirit behind it is 100-percent right,” said the Republican governor. “The question is, if folks could mandate parental involvement, other people would be doing it before.”

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan previously has praised Tennessee as a leader in education reform for other changes in state law, including toughening the curriculum and teacher evaluations.

The Michigan measure that created the parental involvement contract also set up a “Parent Engagement Tool Kit” website that provides ideas on engaging parents, said Bob Kefgen, assistant director for government relations with the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.

“That contract language was one really important piece, and we’ve gone much further than that,” he said. “It’s really about having a host of resources at your disposal, because there’s … no silver bullet.”

Nada Fouani, principal at Iris Becker Elementary School in Dearborn, Mich., said she’s noticed more parents getting involved since the measure was enacted in 2001.

“Our PTA has become larger and much stronger,” she said.

Nashville resident Christi Witherspoon favors the measures. Despite her busy schedule as a doctor, she and her husband, Roger, spend as much as three hours each night helping their two young daughters with homework.

“I think it’s of the utmost importance, because I don’t think children can be consistently successful without parental involvement,” Witherspoon said.

Her daughters appreciate the help.

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