In schools across Texas and the United States there is a standing unwritten policy that requires teachers to contact parents regarding concerns about behavior and grades in their classroom. On the surface this looks like a good philosophy, which it is for elementary and middle school students. But I’m beginning to think that it is not an appropriate policy for high school students.
When I read “School Mission” and “School Vision” statements from various schools and districts, there is a consistent theme: Students are to be college ready or prepared to enter the workforce when they graduate from high school. I am suggesting that the policy of calling a parent of a sixteen-year old that has a part-time job and other responsibilities is counterproductive.
If the student has a part-time job, then they must answer to their boss if their behavior or work is unsatisfactory. The boss does not call their mommy to get help with their performance. The boss talks to the worker and it is the worker’s responsibility to improve their performance, not mom or dad’s. If they do not improve, then they will be fired.
In a lot of high schools, the administration uses the excuse that if a teacher has not called the parent then they will not address a disciplinary issue with the student until the parent is contacted by the teacher. Also teachers are directed to contact parents before they are allowed to let a student’s failing grade stand. Both of these actions are contrary to the expectation of “college ready” and “prepared to enter the workforce”. When a student goes to college, then their parents will not be there to tell them to study or go to class. Just like when they are working, the parents cannot control their behavior and work ethic. The students will rely on a “crutch” of teachers being required to call their parent as long as they are allowed.
All parents should be contacted for students in grades PK-9 because of their age and level of maturity. Beginning the second semester of their sophomore year, then the teachers will not be “required” contact parents for every discipline or academic concern. The responsibility will be placed where it needs to be, with the students, to meet the stated goal; college and workforce ready. If the students are held more accountable then most will rise to the challenge and be successful.
It is time to adopt a new philosophy that is consistent with the mission of our schools, a philosophy that does not require teachers to call parents at every turn. This does not prohibit teachers from calling parents in certain situations, but they are not REQUIRED.
Under the current philosophies, only the teachers are being held accountable, not the students. If the students are held to a higher standard, then the majority will rise up to achieve the higher standard. The students that chose not to rise to the higher standard will be candidates for an alternative school program.
If we start treating them like school is their job, then they will be better prepared to meet the stated goal of education; to be better prepared for college and the workforce.
David R. Taylor
26 Year Teacher, Coach and Principal
NOTE: The state law still requires that parents be contacted in cases of discipline that require the removal of a student from the regular classroom setting; this can be done by an administrator as needed.