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Student-Parent Responsibility for Learning

I've always believed that learning is a responsibility shared by teachers, parents, and students. Apparently, I'm living in the wrong era.  It's now the sole responsibility of teachers.  The latest evidence comes from California, where the State Board of Education voted to change the way schools are rated ("California's schools will soon be on the hook for things like suspensions, attendance and graduation rates," Los Angeles Times, May 12).

Starting in the 2017-18 school year, schools in California will be rated on suspension rates, graduation rates, attendance rates, and English-language learning rates, in addition to test scores.  Nowhere does the responsibility for learning include students and their parents.  Instead, schools will be expected to become Lourdes, and teachers will be expected to become miracle workers.

That is a prescription for turning a high school diploma into a meaningless piece of paper.  I say that because schools will be forced to water down standards in order to avoid receiving a failing rating.  If they tried to hold students and parents accountable, they would be accused of making excuses.  In other words, all students have an absolute right to receive a high school diploma unless they are found guilty of the most egregious conduct. 

I foresee a series of lawsuits filed by parents who will assert that their children's rights were violated when they didn't graduate.  I realize that sometimes there are mitigating circumstances when students do not perform satisfactorily.  I saw that when I was teaching.  But they were exceptions.  Most students simply did not do the work they were assigned or behave properly.  Blaming teachers for such factors is unfair. 

Yet I expect the trend to intensify.  In the end, it will shortchange students by setting them up for failure after they graduate. When that happens, critics will blame schools for not doing their job. In short, schools will be damned if they do and damned if they don't.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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