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Who's judging whom? Parent report card proposal stirs debate

There's a movement afoot for teachers to start issuing report cards... on parents! How would you feel about being graded by your child's teacher? One Florida state lawmaker is proposing just that. NBC Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis reported the story for TODAY, and it got her thinking about her own parental participation.By Rehema Ellis, NBC correspondentAs I researched this story, it made
NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis
NBC News Correspondent Rehema EllisToday

There's a movement afoot for teachers to start issuing report cards... on parents! How would you feel about being graded by your child's teacher? One Florida state lawmaker is proposing just that. NBC Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis reported the story for TODAY, and it got her thinking about her own parental participation.

NBC News Correspondent Rehema EllisToday

By Rehema Ellis, NBC correspondent

As I researched this story, it made me think about my own family. I asked myself, would I mind being graded as a parent?

All my son's life -- he's 8 years old now and in the second grade -- I've embraced the notion that my school days are starting anew.  Of course, the big difference now is that I'm in the teacher/tutor role. I make him breakfast every morning and sit down with him.I read all the school notices and frequently communicate with his teachers and the school. There's a big payoff:  I know how he's doing in school and his report card has never been a surprise. (And I should add, he's doing really well in school.)  

So, based on my involvement in my son's school life, I think I'd get a pretty good parent report card.Still, I got to thinking: What kind of grade would I get if I missed a few school notices or didn't check all of his homework?It could happen, because as we all know parenting isn't easy.Parents, especially those who work outside of the home, have long days on the job, often exhausting commutes, and frequent challenges to keep the house in order AND keep an eye on what's happening in their child's school. 

Susan Rayburn, the principal at Lincoln Elementary School in Plant City, Fla., told me that grading could jump-start involvement from parents who are not actively engaged in their child's education. But she also cautioned that if not handled properly, the parent report card could be a turnoff. Some parents could feel intimidated, she said. If the bill passes in the Florida legislature, Rayburn said she hopes teachers use the parent report card "as a tool for partnership versus a 'gotcha.' " 

She makes a great point. After all, the ultimate goal is to help children do better in school. If the parent report card is used, as she says, to "showcase what parents are doing and then help bridge that gap for what they are not doing,"  everyone's grades would improve ... kids AND parents.

As an NBC News correspondent, Rehema Ellis has reported on Hurricane Katrina, the 9-11 attacks, Obama's election and the Haiti earthquake, among many other stories. She lives in New York with her son.