Grade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between.
Parents and politicians alike spent plenty of time diagnosing the myriad of problems with public schools. We talk about the lack of funding, the crumbling facilities, and the difficult task of measuring effectiveness. I think all of those discussions are important. But as I was reading about a man who helped teachers cheat on their board exams, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that there’s an underlying problem wreaking havoc on schools. It’s the lack of trust that parents have in their children’s teachers.
Clarence Mumford, Sr. was a former assistance principal and guidance counselor. He ran a cheating ring in three states for over 15 years, helping prospective teachers cheat to pass their Praxis exams. That’s hundreds of potentially unqualified teachers, who were both unable to pass the necessary tests and immoral enough to cheat, now working with students. Like lots of other parents, I hear stories about people like Mumford and think, “Maybe it’s time to homeschool my kids.”
It’s not just Clarence Mumford. I hear parents say something about it being “time to homeschool” pretty frequently. We’ve said it here on our site. It’s this common refrain from parents as every news cycle brings a new story of student mistreatment, extreme bullying gone unchecked, and more inappropriate behavior than I care to remember. With all of that disturbing news, it’s easy to assume that the majority of teachers are inept, inappropriate, or just plain crazy.
Obviously, in the back of our minds, we all realize that these are just extreme circumstances. We know that only the bizarre and corrupt teachers make the news, while thousands work tirelessly to help their students without any recognition whatsoever. But that media narrative of out-of-control classrooms clouds our judgment. We start to doubt the very people we’re letting educate our children.
The mistrust parents have in their schools and educators tears away at the very basics of education. Children can sense their parents’ feelings, and they put less faith in their teachers and administrators. Wary parents don’t feel like getting involved at the school, choosing to work with their kids at home or pile up on extra curriculars to make up the difference. Instead of investing where our kids need us most, that doubt pulls parents away from teachers, when the two should be working together.
My daughter used to attend an at-home daycare with an amazing woman who had been taking care of kids for decades. To parents who wanted to drop in unexpected to check up on things or who had lists of additional rules and regulations for their children while at daycare, Annie always had the same response. “If you really don’t trust me to take care of your child, why on earth are you sending them here everyday?”