Photo Credit: iVillage
Monica Ballenilla is a single mom raising three children, a sixth, tenth and twelfth grader, in Washington Heights, a low income area of New York City. When I asked her if parents should be held accountable for their kids’ performance in school, she didn’t miss a beat – oh yes they should. “Trust me, I’ve seen cases (where) parents don’t get involved in anything with their kids and I think that’s totally wrong,” she told me. “That’s a wrong call.”
A majority of parents in an exclusive iVillage survey agree, with 73% saying parents need to be held accountable for their child’s academic achievement. 57% said parents should be fined if their child repeatedly cuts class like they are in Alaska. Nearly a third think parents should get grades based on how involved they are in their children’s education, a proposal that is currently being floated in Florida. On the flipside, more than half (57%) do not agree that parents should be graded on their child's academic achievement. The survey was done in connection with NBC News’ “Education Nation,” an annual dialogue with policymakers, thought-leaders, educators, parents and the public about ways to provide the best education to every child in the United States. This year's event takes place September 23-25, 2012 in New York City.
“Parents should be a little more involved,” said Ballenilla. “It’s (not) only for their benefit and the children’s but also for the school staff so they can know how they could help the student because that’s what we’re really focusing on, the students.”
Watch more about our poll and a school with 100% parent attendance here!
Many parents would like to get more involved, but can’t, with 58% in the iVillage survey saying their work hours and schedule were the primary barriers. 41% of parents said that employers should allow parents paid leave to attend parent/teacher conferences while more than one in four parents (26%) don't think moms and dads should be given paid leave to attend parent/teacher sessions.
To encourage more parents to be as involved as Monica Ballenilla, her children’s school, WHEELS, the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, which was created five years ago, got rid of traditional parent/teacher conferences in favor of letting the student be in charge. The kids are the ones doing the presenting to their teachers and parents three times a year.
“Parent/teacher conferences, as they typically exist, are very much a crapshoot,” said Brett Kimmel, principal of WHEELS. “Schools are thankful sometimes when they have 50 or 60 percent parent participation, and for us, we felt like that’s not acceptable. We want to engage our entire family population.”
The results speak for themselves, with WHEELS boasting a 100 percent attendance rate for student-led conferences, a level of parental involvement that other schools around the country can only dream about.
11th grade teacher Justine Thomas said student-led conferences are “more meaningful” than the traditional approach. “(The parents) are actually getting something real from it," said Thomas. "When you just look at a report card and see a bunch of numbers, you have no idea what the numbers mean.”
In a sign of how times have definitely changed, 82% of parents in the iVillage survey prefer email to communicate with their children’s teachers over phone calls (42%) and face-to-face meetings (65%). But while Facebook may be dominating so many parts of our lives today, it isn't when it comes to connecting with teachers. 54% of parents in the iVillage survey don’t think the social network is an appropriate way of communicating with teachers.
As for Ballenilla’s children, all three say they feel really lucky to have a very involved mom.
“It’s important to me because when I do something wrong, she’s always there to say, ‘It’s okay, nobody's perfect but just keep on going,” said Gabriela, who is in her first year at WHEELS.
“(A) parent’s job is to make sure their kids are doing good in school and if you don’t have that support from your parents, it’s tough,” said Raphael, a senior.
“You see many students dropping out, (their) parents not being involved,” said Rafael (pictured above). “I feel way more secure knowing my mom (is) back there,” he said, keeping an eye on him 24/7.
That’s the plan, Ballenilla says, until they go to college. Her eldest Raphael is applying to schools this fall.
Plus: Is your parenting GPS working when it comes to your child's education? Take this quiz to find out.
For more about the summit, visit educationnation.com.