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“We’ve done much in education to focus on promoting quality standards and high achievement. But all of those efforts are only going to be as successful (or at least enhanced) in proportion to improved parental involvement.”

So says Kelli Stargel, a Florida legislator who authored a bill advancing through the Sunshine state’s legislature that would have teachers grade the extent of parental involvement for students up to grade 5. Districts would then be required to file a summary rating of this report to the state.

Who can argue that the correlation of parental support, attention and involvement in school programs with achievement and success is very intrinsic? You can name the communities that are traditionally starred as leading schools and observe a most active parent variable. (Writer’s note: Based on a one year’s consultant position at Weston High School, I can attest to the school impact of a very proactive — even sometimes aggressive — parent voice and participation in the school’s mission.) And, conversely, observe the schools that are underperforming and are accompanied by a high dropout rate, truancy, deteriorating facilities, etc., and so often parent activity is a rare commodity.

Under the Florida proposal, a teacher would rate each parent on satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis based on a child’s attendance, proper signing and return of all required contact forms and response to requests for meetings or some communication. The report would be sent home with the child’s report card.

Admittedly, this is a rather limited evaluation and doesn’t guarantee an improved collaboration with the schools (in fact, it will probably antagonize some parents). It is more of an attention-getter and reminder and, of course, there are no real repercussions except where there may be legal implications for parents of truant children (which there should be). But it’s a start!

Teachers, most often as they voice objection to efforts to more closely tie teacher pay and evaluation to student performance and achievement, cite the all-important parent-responsibility factor in school success, a factor which is beyond their control.

“It is not just the teacher’s job,” they say. And it is a statement with which we can agree.

But, if that is the case, why can’t education professionals step up and “walk the walk” not just “talk the talk,” as the saying goes? But it’s not the case in Florida, as the state’s largest teachers’ union opposes the Stargel bill. Why can’t they be part of the solution?

While on the subject, as difficult as it may be, there should be support for at least two mandatory parent-teacher-student conferences per year with wiggle room for hardship circumstances or students living on their own or homeless. Is anything more important than the educational and social growth of your child? Rather than simply reading a number or letter grade on a report card, these two required conferences would be the only way to receive a performance rating for their child for that particular grading term. Objecting that it can’t be accomplished is to suggest it’s not important to do!

On another note, a few weeks back we reported the increased priority that college admissions is giving to the student application essay for acceptance. With that as a fact, is it any surprise that plagiarism is on the rise?

The detection of such cheating has been discovered due to the use of a program called Turniton for Admissions, an anti-plagiarism database that compares student essays to an immense archive of other writings. For example, an admission essay submitted by a prospective Boston University MBA applicant in 2003 was recently copied word for word by a student applying to UCLA School of Management.

The use of the Turniton database by college admission offices is increasing rapidly as they search for authenticity at a time when the almighty Internet offers huge amounts of free material, private coaches selling admission advice and online companies selling prewritten essays.

The favored Common Application, the online and convenient service used by 456 college admissions offices, is about to add the detection database to its systems of checks and balances.

We suggest to parents that they observe evidence of originality in your son’s or daughter’s admission essay. Colleges are not negotiating rejections based on cheating.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not act but a habit.” — Aristotle