Dear Davis Guggenheim, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President Obama and others Who Wish to Simplify the Massive Problems of Education by Blaming Teachers:
Last night was Back to School Night at the Los Angeles public school where I attempt to teach English. BSN is an annual event when teachers meet with parents and conduct five 15-minute sessions explaining the gist of their courses, their classroom and academic expectations; then we field questions.
To be honest, I have always enjoyed BSN because meeting parents gives me a fuller understanding and deeper appreciation of my students' lives. Meeting parents adds context. I see firsthand that my students do not exist in a vacuum and that some have parents who care for them, want them to succeed and are working hard to give their children more opportunities than they were afforded.
Plus, good parents ask challenging questions: Why do you put so much emphasis on oral participation? Who do you encourage students to choose books to read that are not part of the District's curriculum? Why do you emphasize personal essay writing over analytical writing?
Good parents demand good teaching just by showing up and demanding answers.
On the first day of this semester, I had 184 students under my supervision. Over the past six weeks, 16 of my students transferred, dropped out or vanished without a trace. Yesterday, two months into the year, one of my 12th graders transferred to a trade school, another to a school for pregnant teens, leaving me with 168 students.
I did the math. One hundred and sixty-eight students multiplied by two parents (I did not factor in for stepparents) and this could make for a crowded Back-to-School Night.
As things turned out, over the course of my five presentations last night, I spoke to 14 parents. Fourteen. Eight percent of my students' parents showed up to learn what is going on in their kid's classrooms.
On the first day of this semester, my second period roll sheet listed 49 seniors. As of today it's down to 41. Not one parent of those 41 teenagers who are on track to graduate in June bothered to show up to ask any questions of their kid's teachers.
I know. I know. Many of these parents are poor. They are working two jobs. They have younger children to care for. They live far away, may not own a car and the school does not provide transportation. They do not speak English so they would not know what I was talking about anyway. Or their sons and daughters assure them everything's cool and they actually believe that BS.
But 14 of 168? Is it really too much to ask of a parent to show up one night a year? For two hours. To prove to one's children that they care or at least care enough to fake interest in their kid's education.
So here's what I want from all the good people who lie awake at night haunted by the poverty that is our broken education system. I want transparency. I want you to continue to hold teachers accountable for their students' test scores. Please, go ahead and print the names of public school teachers online, in newspapers, heck, print the results on fliers and glue them to the telephone poles.
But give us teachers one thing: an asterisk (*). The way in baseball fans' minds there will always be an * next to Roger Maris's 61 home runs because he played a longer season than did Babe Ruth. The way there should be an asterisk next to Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire's names because they played the game while juicing.
Give us public school teachers an * by our test scores when a significant percentage of our students' parents don't show up, never show up, don't give a damn, are missing in action, never cared, beat their children, are on crack, in jail, in another city, county, state, or country.
Please add an * next to the names of all the kids whose parents haven't done their part in helping to repair our schools.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then let's hold all the villagers accountable and let's include those who, though professing concern, have fled our public schools.