Are we asking too much of schools when we expect them to transcend indifferent parents?

I am a longtime fan of journalist Joe Nocera’s writings. A business writer for many years, Nocera now has a column in the New York Times and was inspired to write about a 13-year-old student featured in a larger New York Times magazine story about a dedicated middle school principal.

Nocera tackles a problem that we often discuss here: Can schools overcome family backgrounds and parental indifference?

We all agree that family is not destiny. A child should not be written off because of sorry parents. But family is an important factor and sometimes it can be the deciding one. There are inspiring stories of students overcoming their backgrounds, and schools have to recognize that all students have potential, even those whose parents never attend conferences or see to it that their children go to school.

Through a truancy project, a friend volunteered to work with a young mother whose 9-year-old had missed nearly a third of the school year and was facing retention. My friend learned that there was nothing wrong with the child, no chronic health issues that kept her out of school. The mother allowed the girl to stay up until 1 in the morning watching TV, and both mother and daughter then slept until at least 10 a.m..  The mom did not have a car so the child would miss the entire day.

So, my friend bought them alarm clocks, took the mom to the school to talk to the principal and teachers and called the apartment in the mornings to wake them. As much as my friend tried, the mother never changed and eventually moved to a different apartment and school district. That was eight years ago. I would bet that 9-year-old is now a high school dropout. Short of taking that child away from her mother, I am not sure what could have changed that trajectory.

Here are the relevant passages from the Nocera column, although I encourage you to read the entire piece and the magazine story.

Saquan lands at M.S. 223 because his family has been placed in a nearby homeless shelter. (His mother fled Brooklyn out of fear that another son was in danger of being killed.) At first, he is so disruptive that a teacher, Emily Dodd, thinks he might have a mental disability. But working with him one on one, Dodd discovers that Saquan is, to the contrary, unusually intelligent — “brilliant” even.

From that point on, Dodd does everything a school reformer could hope for. She sends him text messages in the mornings, urging him to come to school. She gives him special help. She encourages him at every turn. For awhile, it seems to take.

Meanwhile, other forces are pushing him in another direction. His mother, who works nights and barely has time to see her son, comes across as indifferent to his schooling. Though she manages to move the family back to Brooklyn, the move means that Saquan has an hour-and-a-half commute to M.S. 223. As his grades and attendance slip, Dodd offers to tutor him. To no avail: He finally decides it isn’t worth the effort, and transfers to a school in Brooklyn.

The point is obvious, or at least it should be: Good teaching alone can’t overcome the many obstacles Saquan faces when he is not in school. Nor is he unusual. Mahler recounts how M.S. 223 gives away goodie bags to lure parents to parent association meetings, yet barely a dozen show up. He reports that during the summer, some students fall back a full year in reading comprehension — because they don’t read at home.

Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

Yet the reformers act as if a student’s home life is irrelevant. “There is no question that family engagement can matter,” said Klein when I spoke to him. “But they seem to be saying that poverty is destiny, so let’s go home. We don’t yet know how much education can overcome poverty,” he insisted — notwithstanding the voluminous studies that have been done on the subject. “To let us off the hook prematurely seems, to me, to play into the hands of the other side.”

That last sentence strikes me as the key to the reformers’ resistance: To admit the importance of a student’s background, they fear, is to give ammo to the enemy — which to them are their social-scientist critics and the teachers’ unions. But that shouldn’t be the case. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily. Without question, school reform has already achieved some real, though moderate, progress.

What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

66 comments Add your comment

HS Public Teacher

April 26th, 2011
9:32 am

Maureen – FINALLY, this hits the nail on the head.

Education has become a catch all for society. Actually, it is PUBLIC schools that have been given this task. This is a MAJOR difference between public schools and “other”.

And, as with EVERYTHING in public schools, the burden always falls on the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher has become the parent for too many of these kids simply because the parents do not want to do their job. Too many parents think that all they have to do is have sex, produce a kid, feed them, clothe them, and give them a place to sleep – then their job is done.

Why does society feel the need to or even want to fund schools to parent kids? As a high school teacher, I am not trained for this nor is this in my job description!


April 26th, 2011
9:41 am

The home has been the problem all along..after all of the money spent on testing, Rhee’s ranting, all of that Max Thompsom nonsense they shoved down our throats a few years ago and all ofthe other flavors of the month they come up with the problem is the HOME.


April 26th, 2011
9:41 am

And it’s one thing if you have one Saquan, quite another if 4/5 of your students are Saquan.


April 26th, 2011
9:49 am

@catlady- and not many will be as brilliant as Saquan apparently was…which makes the job even harder.


April 26th, 2011
10:09 am

We simply must find a way to intercede in the fast decline happening in our society. Schools seem like the logical place to get the work done that is necessary to instill a sense of morals, values and self-worth that will turn our society around. But the classroom teacher cannot do it alone. We need to make an enormous investment in social workers, counselors, support teachers and small class sizes in order to make big changes. If we don’t, I shudder to think of the kind of society we will no doubt become. The first few lines give the best description of that future — more and more people will have to live like this:

“Saquan lands at M.S. 223 because his family has been placed in a nearby homeless shelter. (His mother fled Brooklyn out of fear that another son was in danger of being killed.) ”

And the rest will spend an enormous amount of money and energy trying to separate themselves from the underlings.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

April 26th, 2011
10:22 am

Parental indifference, like enrollee indifference, lies at the core of our student underperformance problem. And both are problems too big for classroom teachers to solve.

Might I suggest that Eli Broad, Bill Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists finance relentless efforts to sell to vast reaches of the American public the ideas that parents share responsibility with their children for the latter’s educations and that children’s earning educations is the best bet for their successes in life.


April 26th, 2011
10:23 am

Are we asking too much of schools? Well, that depends on what one thinks the purpose of American schooling is in the first place. I agree with Cere, that it’s going to take a team, not just teachers alone. I worked for a full service school in New York City which provided dental care, medical care, after school services, and mental health services. Still, everyday was a struggle. Our country, and our schools, teachers, leaders, everyone, must take responsibility, especially considering it’s those very parents our schools most likely failed. Until there is a team effort, asset-based thinking (instead of deficit-based blame the parent thinking), and real authentic support for families (i.e. pay teachers more and have them make make home visits to establish TRUSTING relationships with parents), the cycle of poverty won’t be broken, not even by the best teachers.


April 26th, 2011
10:28 am

A powerful message and one that seems to be largely ignored by those who beat the test score drum…It is very hard to trump what happens at home, the quality, the attitudes, and the care. I do not understand why people think this can be overcome by good teaching. This is also what burns out the teachers in urban areas who deal with this everyday. It is truly overwhelming and to then get kicked in the teeth by those who worship test scores and think it is possible to have them reading Shakesspeare in first grade.


April 26th, 2011
10:32 am

If the school system is expected to intervene in almost every aspect of a childs life, as is often the case, then the child should be taken from the indifferent parent, parent jailed, and all welfare, foodstamps, free lunch programs etc given to the school providing welfare for said child.

These sorry parents need to be made to understand and for most negative reinforcement is the ONLY teacher. Not that they care anyway but getting these bums off the streets, govt dole etc and jail where they belong is the best solution.


April 26th, 2011
10:32 am

Maureen: however, i do disagree with you re: taking the kid away. At some point, we *do* need to do that.
The schools are the very first place in society that our society can intervene. Yes, there are very many people out there who encourage their children to go to school, to better themselves, etc.
But then there are so many stories like the ones you show above.
What was saquan’s mom doing all day that they were up all night and sleeping all day? hmmm….maybe that’s part of the problem…
So the schools *do* need to do something – unless they want all these kids to grow up and be dropouts and homeless and going to prison, etc.
Why did we do away with the schools that take care of these problems? If the kid isn’t going to school…then the school needs to deal with it – why aren’t we doing that? why *aren’t* we talking about taking the kids away?
at MES they *do* call from DFCS if your kids stay away from school for too long. In our district…well…um…many of these kind of absences are due to parents taking the kids to disney for a week or skiing or whatever. But we all get those calls.
Why don’t we require the parents to send their kids to school? I mean, we talk about it, we have laws about it, but we don’t really *do* anything about it. I suspect saquan’s mom was on welfare. what if her benefits were held back if her kid couldn’t get to school? hmmm? why don’t we do stuff like that? the only other solution is ANOTHER generation of kids on welfare who don’t even know how to get a job in the first place.
Why did we get away of the schools to handle the worst of disrupters? why not get back to military style schools for kids who need it?

just watching

April 26th, 2011
10:37 am

Parental involvement or lack thereof needs to be considered in any formula for figuring teacher pay for performance.


April 26th, 2011
10:50 am

“Parental involvement or lack thereof needs to be considered in any formula for figuring teacher pay for performance.”

Not a bad idea if was possible. As every parent is overly involved with their children, their dress, homework, this that and the other. Just ask them…


April 26th, 2011
11:02 am

Our public schools cannot continue to be everything to everybody and we cannot continue to try to appease every culture and nationality that enters our schools. Also, we are ignoring the core students whose parents pay the bulk of the taxes that funds our schools. These key parents have been let down thus their increasing expectaions they place on our teachers – they have been taught the entitlement mentality.

Students from different cultures have parents that cling to the way things were done in their homeland. No other country in the World has to do what we in the US are attempting (and failing) to do. Why can’t people seem to grasp that concept? Is it because it is not politically correct? C’mon folks, wake up!

Veteran teacher, 2

April 26th, 2011
11:12 am

How many times have I gotten clothes for students, encouraged them, provided for other needs, stayed around to help, given support in every way except to take the student home with me, and have seen the student not follow through because they got a better offer from the hood, or it was “too much work” to follow through. Or, the parent has expected me to do even more and has reacted with anger when I didn’t give the kid what they thought the kid was entitled to.

Many “reformers” would be stunned at the number of kids that go to bed after midnight, or text and talk on their cellphones all night. Yes, most of the kids even without school supplies have the latest cellphone! Anybody beside teachers ever try to talk with a sleep-deprived teenager, much less try to teach them all about quadratic equations. And, I am not just talking about “disadvantaged” kids here!

I teach, I encourage, I counsel, I talk individual, I encourage, I re-direct, I apply consequences, I help students work through the consequences of their actions, I work with parents, I teach, I encourage, on and on, but everyone has got to accept that the student has to do more than show up.

I have no magic wands in my pockets, and I am not superman. I am supposed to be a teacher. Please let me teach!


April 26th, 2011
11:32 am

Agreed counterpoint. The US has gotten too complex, there are those that demand too much attention and the rest have just given up because they continue to be ignored. Our country is not a melting pot. We don’t even try to co-exist and become mainstream.

Ole Guy

April 26th, 2011
11:42 am

Once again, here goes the voice of ole school tactics which no one seems willing to acknowledge as the ONLY tried and proven way. If parents choose to be parents, fine…support them in every way. When parents fail in their responsibilities, hold them accountable to the fullest extent of law. Why do we continue to crap around, wringing our hands and fretting over the same ole same ole? We have become a Country tightly wraped in rights and freedoms with absolutely no provision for enforcement of responsibilities. While the freedom lovers out there hail this as the American way, they fail to see the dangerous proximity to total and complete anarchy which this “brand of freedom” fosters.

If mom, as the story goes, allows the kid to stay up all night and sleep till noon, we have a case of child abuse. So mom’s life is an unflushed toilet, so this and so that…”Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”! Let’s stop rubbing the fannys of kids AND adults, inquiring with pc-driven concern, “Where does it hurt”?

Stories such as this clearly demonstrate that we, as a society, are not fully capable of exercising those rights and freedoms in a responsible manner. We like to think we are, but we’re not. If we were, this entire education blog series would be one big wonderful story, would it not?


April 26th, 2011
11:58 am

@Dr. No Thank you. Your comment was straightforward no assumptions/broad statements.

I would liek to know the locations of the schools that do EVERYTHING? They sure as heck are not in Gwinnett, as we have NO after-school enrichment programs, only CRCT test-prep for those in ‘danger’ of failing the test or a subject area. Hmmmm. Parents are willing to pay something, but expecting them to pay $75/per kid during the school year and $90+ per kid during the summer is a bit much for kids who are eligible for FREE/REDUCED lunch. If anyone can provide me with the name of a district/school that does everything, I would greatly appreciate it because I am looking to make a move. Thanks!


April 26th, 2011
11:58 am

I’ve been out of the classroom for seven years but returned today to administer the CRCT for a teacher who is out sick. Overall, the kids were pretty good, but one little boy could not stay still or keep his mouth shut. I had dealt with him in the library in the past, but this, of course, was different. His mother refuses to take him to a doctor to find out if he has ADHD or some other disorder, so his teachers and classmates put up with his crap every day. They do not deserve it. Those of you who remain in the classroom are true heroes and should be treated like superstars.

Maureen, thanks for this article.

Business as usual

April 26th, 2011
12:07 pm

Agree with comment that welfare benefits should depend on child’s attendance and school performance (doing the homework, taking the tests, improvement, not grades). If mom wants the benefits badly enough, she’ll insure that child attends school. Insure that kids are in a central database so when mom skips over to the neighboring school district or another state, the records follow and mom is again held accountable. This is the most direct way to tell mom “you are responsible for your kid.”

another time

April 26th, 2011
12:17 pm

When I was a kid 50 years ago, low income people had LESS than people of middle or high income. Now what I see are “low income” kids still getting free lunches, but with cell phones, expensive shoes, hair and nails professionally done, getting into expensive cars/SUVs. Also in my day, the low income kids worked hard at school because their moms believed education was the way out. Now, in probably the third generation on welfare, there is a whole culture built up to support single teen moms, get your SNAP, your WIC, your housing vouchers or public housing, your public health care in the neighborhood clinic, your “auntie” or boyfriend to take care of your kids while you are partying. It is the low income version of the Peter Pan syndrome – the child who never has to grow up and be responsible for herself or himself. Why would anyone be surprised that these parents don’t care about school or education for themselves or their children?


April 26th, 2011
12:17 pm

To the parent or parents that keep their children out of school because of their indifference, need to realize the law of the land says children are required to attended school from the ages of 6-16. We need to enforce that. What these parents are doing is a form of mental child abuse. This country cannot afford the veils of illiteracy any longer. Generation after generation of poorly performing students is what got schools in the horrible situations in the first place. If we are to hold teachers and others involved in the education process to a high standard, we must require these same standards for all parents. There seems to be a lot of excuses why kids who are not sick or infirmed are not in school but, I say this is the parents responsibility to get them to the classroom no flimsy should do. If a child is staying awake past midnight, that fault lays with the parent so be one! I realize there are some battles we can’t win, but if we cut out all this PC crap we can win this one….Simply put obey the law.

Business as usual

April 26th, 2011
12:22 pm

Well, it is definitely not only the low income kids whose parents are irresponsible. I overheard a mom talking to her son, who goes to a private Christian school in Athens. She said to him,”Well, if you are taking CRCTs this week, why don’t you get yourself to bed before 10:30 at night?” The young man was about 8 years old. Then she turned to some friends of hers who were present with a “what can you do with ‘em?” smile on her face.


April 26th, 2011
12:43 pm

@another time…Amen to you, no truer words have been spoken, back in the day being poor didn’t give you the right to be uneducated, lazy or live off the government. You were expected to be in bed at a decent time and be in school before the last bell rang. Our generation knew education was the way out, nothing was taken for granted. As a child my only job was to be in school, what else can you do between the ages of 6-16? The word drop-out was a phrase you heard from somebody else’s kid. Getting children to school was never the teachers’ responsiblity it was the parent but, that was a long time ago. All we have now is the blame game…..pity.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

April 26th, 2011
12:48 pm

The first step is so obvious I’m stunned nobody is talking about it. Create a Contract with Parents that gives them one free bite at the apple, but only one. You get to enroll Junior in free public school, but if he does not make academic progress OR adhere to a strict new behavior code, Junior–and you, his underachieving parents– get the boot. Then, you have to BUY your way back into the system and pay annual tuition, and poof! There goes the free daycare you really were after in the first place.

Obviously, it will be a very contentious situation, with lots of otherwise unambitious parents (who are not used to paying for the things they feel they deserve) suddenly finding plenty of energy to litigate. Ministers will go on TV and make fools of themselves serving exactly the wrong cause–as usual. They’ll be outdone only by Vincent Fort.

In our world, if you want to get someone to do something, you get them to sign a contract and then if they don’t do the thing, you have leverage. At least there’s that.

APS Parent #2

April 26th, 2011
1:04 pm

All children are not the same and one size does not fit all.

After providing the essentials – reading, writing and arithmetic – why do public schools insist on having all children prepare for college? Not all children have the ability, the funding or the initiative to make that work.

Why can’t children whose aptitude and interests indict it, be allowed to have vo-tech training? There is nothing disrespectful about any young person training for a job with his/her hands. If you haven’t had plumbing or electrical work lately, then you might not realize that these jobs pay a nice fee.

Let’s drop the political correctness and do right by the children by meeting their individual needs.


April 26th, 2011
1:18 pm

@APS Parent#2 you’re absolutely right. even the highly educated need blue-collar workers. We had those choices when I was in high-school, as a matter of fact counselors often time direct say student to vo-tech training institution. Industrial Arts and work study programs were in full existence back in the 70’s when I graduated high-school. When you want a plumber or a mechanic you don’t go to doctor or an accountant.


April 26th, 2011
1:37 pm


“Are we asking too much of schools? Well, that depends on what one thinks the purpose of American schooling is in the first place. I agree with Cere, that it’s going to take a team, not just teachers alone. I worked for a full service school in New York City which provided dental care, medical care, after school services, and mental health services. Still, everyday was a struggle. Our country, and our schools, teachers, leaders, everyone, must take responsibility, especially considering it’s those very parents our schools most likely failed.”

Funny, the more you gave, the more you did, the more your parents needed. Almost at though your program, which was generous and compassionate at first glance, was actually counterproductive.

Here’s an idea. If there’s a problem that you are trying to solve, when you choose an effective solution, it SHOULD MAKE THE PROBLEM GET BETTER.

Implicit in the help that you “gave” to your parents was the assumption that they would not be able to do these things for themselves. Not surprising that your “help” begat more dependency and helplessness.

Habitat for Humanity is on the right track when they require that the families that they are helping also work to help themselves.

Asked Do it All

April 26th, 2011
1:51 pm

“We need to make an enormous investment in social workers, counselors.”

“..Eli Broad, Bill Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists [rich people] finance relentless efforts to [do everything low income groups will no longer do for themselves].”

It seems we have already done that, but to no avail. I have a question, My father grew up in rural AL, poor as a churchmouse. He and two siblings are all very successful now. When I asked him what he thought the key to their success was, he said “I knew my parents/government/anybody couldn’t help me if I got into trouble. There was no safety net. It was do or die and I chose to do.” The same could be said of most individuals in the poorest countries now, like India and Brazil, none of which have health and welfare systems like we have here in the US.

At what point do we say to the benefeciaries of all these services, hey, we expect you to do for yourself? There are consequences for your choices and you will have to pay for them? I hate to see kids suffer, but until we say to families, “You just can’t have kids until you are financially and emotionally ready to care for them,” we will never end this cycle.


April 26th, 2011
2:12 pm

Having kids and being selfish does not go together. Getting pregnant and having kids you can ill afford is a choice. I believe in giving someone a helping hand and putting them on the right path , but the government keeps picking them up after the first, the second , the third and the fourth child and perhaps many more babies for their offspring. Believe me I understand the anger and judgemental rhetoric. Should teacher be responsible for this reckless behavior? I think not.


April 26th, 2011
2:16 pm

At most, I see a child for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 18 weeks — IF s/he shows up everyday. As a high school teacher, I cannot undo the damage wrought by parents who provide bad role models and no stucture or stability.

I can provide a positive role, I can provide encouragement and support. But let’s be honest– a lot of kids spend more time with reality TV and facebook than they do with me.


April 26th, 2011
3:17 pm

Asked Do it All : so true. if all you see is a parent who goes to the mail box to pick up a check, well, then, you think that’s all there is to life.

Realistically we need to change all these programs – make them not so pleasant. then it might actually force some people to do for themselves. of course, our govt is pretty darn happy to have people on the dole.

Jordan Kohanim

April 26th, 2011
3:48 pm

HS Public teacher said it best:
“Maureen – FINALLY, this hits the nail on the head.

Education has become a catch all for society. Actually, it is PUBLIC schools that have been given this task. This is a MAJOR difference between public schools and ‘other’.”

So very, very true!

Middle Grades Math Teacher

April 26th, 2011
4:51 pm

Public schools are a REFLECTION of what is happening in our society. Public schools are NOT the cause of what is happening in our society.


April 26th, 2011
4:56 pm

I taught in the system for 12 years, all in title 1 schools. I put my time and money (lots of it like many teachers) where my mouth was. I gave the best I had to the children who were sent to me. I tried to work with every parent as an equal team member. Retired, I am still teaching reading to children and plan on working with adults. The job of education is never over, not for me, not for you, not for the parents. The day women went to work because they needed to help provide for their families was the day things began to fall apart. Values are taught by daycare now instead of parents. Parents have abdicated their primary role as parents. The school can never be a substitute for that. All we can do is put a bandaid on an artery wound. But every good teacher out there will tell you the same thing. They stay in because the kids are their focus.


April 26th, 2011
5:01 pm

After teaching in HS for over 30 years I am in complete with the article. Sure, some teacher are the problem, however, there are some conditions that the best teacher in the world will not and cannot overcome. Yet, the best teachers always do their best to overcome those conditions.


April 26th, 2011
5:05 pm

agree. not to beat a dead horse, but that is why the student reassignment recently completed at GCPS was so immoral and blindsided. Higher poverty students and those experiences more family mobility issues are moving from schools with vast financial resources to low wealth schools, 3 of the 4 which do not and are not likely to receive supplemental Title I funds.

Ole Guy

April 26th, 2011
5:24 pm

Batgirl, your experience highlights the sad fact that we…schools, teachers, and (gulp) admin all need to assume command/UNIFIED COMMAND of the schools. When parents refuse to take responsible action, the entire system cannot come to a screeching halt in order to accomodate the kid’s “special needs”. In the past, those “special needs” were addressed by way of “special attention” completely unfettered by the pc strictures which have strangled/are strangling/have done strangled the life out of any semblence of a real education.

Go ahead and pontificate, people, on the “fallacies” of going back to the past in terms of re-acquiring the old ways. There is simply NO OTHER WAY. Look, I’m an ole guy; my property taxes do not get wasted on what has come to be known as public education to any degree nearing what you must bear. If YOU insist on the same ole same ole, and YOU don’t mind bearing the cost…go ahead. Let these “special needs” kids run the show. Reinforce, in their minds, that any efforts at self control are not necessary. All they have to do is grow up as adults believing that the entire world revolves around their lil’ole selves. YOU’RE PAYING FOR IT…NOT ME.


April 26th, 2011
5:37 pm

I absolutely believe that it takes an extraordinary kid, and a lot of help, to overcome a neglectful or uninvolved parent. I also agree wholeheartedly that the school system – the place all these neglected kids end up – cannot and should not be asked to be accountable for all of the adult failings that have affected a child.

The Georgia Constitution says that each child must receive free appropriate education, but it doesn’t say that parents cannot be required to assist their child in this endeavor. Parents are accustomed to being able to ‘dump and run’ and many will scream that their ‘rights’ are threatened by participatory requirements, but parental neglect is destroying the public school system as surely as administrator greed is, and it is just as corrosive and actionable.

Every parent should be required to present their child at school on time, fed, healthy, rested, with their homework done and prepared to behave in such a manner that teachers can teach and other children can learn. If they will not consistently do so, their children should be reassigned to a school that ‘does everything’, as Already Sheared described above, and all public assistance to those parents and/or tax deductions for their children should cut.

Parents can do their part. Some just won’t. Those parents, students and teachers trying hard every day should not be penalized for parental failure.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

April 26th, 2011
5:42 pm



Archie@Arkham Asylum

April 26th, 2011
5:48 pm

IMHO, a teacher has enough to do trying to facilitate the process of teaching and learning and that is what a school should be about ( instead of trying to function as a full-service branch of the state welfare department). A student spends a little less than 1/3 of a 24 hour day at school. The other 2/3’s are spent elsewhere, so which is the dominant influence? A hard lesson I learned in my early years in Special Education is to let the parents (and when appropriate, the student.) take their appropriate share of the task of raising an adult who will be able to reasonably participate in American society (to the extent that their disabilities will allow). As long as you are willing to play “Florence Nightingale” and do everything, all too many parents will be willing to sit back and let you. And people wonder why the burnout rate for teachers ( particularly Special Ed.) is so high.

HS Math Teacher

April 26th, 2011
6:01 pm

Are we asking too much of schools to transcend indifferent parents? YES

Do we expect anything to be done about it? NO

Education for All

April 26th, 2011
6:16 pm

Great plans everyone, but just to make sure I am understanding: We will then remove the children from the homes when parents refuse to meet the educational requirements, right? Otherwise you are condemning the undereducated class to becoming the uneducated class, which is a recipe for third world conditions. And you know it will cost more in taxes to remove these children to state care, right? Just so we’re clear.

If you hear a sharp edge in my tone it is because I don’t think there are easy answers. Some days I think educational neglect should be grounds for removal from homes, just as neglect of other basic needs currently is. However, the system they will be removed to is not much better at ensuring adequate education. Back to orphanages? Residential schools for the poor? I just don’t know the answer here.

36 years in education

April 26th, 2011
6:18 pm


April 26th, 2011
6:43 pm

Education for all:It isn’t just poor parents (financially poor).

Archie: And an appropriate share is much, much larger than what many want to acknowledge. Parents are 90% in charge of the raising of a functional adult. Teachers are a secondary source of instruction, spending only 16,000 hours with a student over their academic lives (more for sped, who can be in school till 22) Parents, on the other hand, have charge over the student for almost 152,000 hours during the same birth-12th grade time.

I DO believe in “getting tough” with negligent parents, but I watch as our juvenile court system sends kids back to these homes, even with egregious flaunting of the law. So, first we have to get judges with some n**s. And, of course, we have to have place to put these kids. You know, it would be cheaper if we addressed this before they became hoodlums, or pregnant, or dropouts, than after the fact. Many of the kids COULD be saved, but need to be removed, at an early age, from these parents.

Oh, yeah, besides taking away tax advantages and the safety net, sterilize.

Draconian? You like what we got now?

long time educator

April 26th, 2011
6:46 pm

The general public thinks the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) is more effective than it is. The DFACS I worked with only had time for real child abuse: bruises, burns, sexual molestaion, etc and their case loads were totally ridiculous. Most social workers quit after a year or two because they were too stressed knowing their case loads were too large and worrying some child would end up dead on their watch. Children exposed to meth is not unusual. This puts school tardiness, late bedtimes, and not being supportive of the school pretty far down on the list. My county does have an attendance review board that meets once a month made up of DFACS, juvenile judges, our school student services director and applicable school personnel who bring truant families to task and try to work out a plan to get the children to school. I have seen a parent put in jail for non-compliance, but mainly it is bluff. Our social structure is falling apart in some communities and expecting DFACS to solve it is a fairytale. There aren’t enough foster families to raise all these children or prisons to house all the neglectful parents. And expecting teachers to substitute for parents is also an unfair task; many of them try and many of them burn out also. These problems belong to the whole of society, not just the education system. HELP!!


April 26th, 2011
7:11 pm

I seem to recall a case back in the 70’s where a doctor was sterilizing welfare recipients. Of course, the politically correct screamed bloody murder – apparently, these parasites have a “right” to have children and the taxpayers must foot the bill.

Let’s see,
1. Government policy has helped to create a parasite underculture with their welfare, food stamps, public housing, etc, etc.

2. Government policy (NAFTA, etc) has allowed much of our manufacturing to be exported overseas – jobs, btw, that allowed the low skilled, low education worker to provide for his family.

3. Government inaction on illegal immigration has allowed the remaining low skilled, low education jobs to be taken by non-citizens.

And now, many of you say the solution is for GOVERNMENT to poke its nose into the family unit???

Give me a break….


April 26th, 2011
7:34 pm

lee: no we’re saying we need a way to STOP this reliance on government, and that would mean taking away welfare checks, taking away other entitlements unless and until a parent parents properly. clearly these skills have been lost – we need to figure out a way to be able to teach parents again how to parent. how would you suppose we do it?


April 26th, 2011
7:46 pm

What if we started putting restrictions on welfare? Welfare should be a temporary means; not a permanent one. So any thoughts on that?

long time educator

April 26th, 2011
8:19 pm

Another principal friend and I used to talk about the kids we hated to put on the bus because of the neglect and dysfunctional homelife we knew we were sending them home to. We had an empty lot next to the school and we joked about building a large dormitory of sorts where teachers would take turns spending the night and seeing that homework, supper, baths and a decent bedtime were maintained. We already fed them breakfast and lunch. Welfare benefits should follow the children, not the parent. If the mother, under supervision, wished to live in the dorm with her children, she would have to pitch in and contribute to the care of her children. No adults would be forced to stay; if they did not want to abide by the rules of the house, they could leave, but the children would stay and be cared for. All able bodied adults would be required to work or NO BENEFITS; no exceptions. There is plenty of work in a community as a whole; no one should get a free ride. Welfare should have so many strings attached that supporting oneself becomes more attractive.


April 26th, 2011
8:51 pm

Welfare: i believe there is a time limit on getting welfare already, but lots of exemptions. Like passing the CRCT to go on to the next grade…