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Whose to Blame When Children Fail?

This week a former principal in my community died from an apparent heart attack. Earl Pappy was 51. I met him once in 2008 when I brought actress Bern Nadette Stanis to his school to speak to the drama students. (pictured on the left of Ms. Stanis). My first and only impression of him was he was nice. But that's not what this post is about.

Mr. Pappy was forced to resign last year because of his school's continued low academic performance ranking. Of all of the high schools in the area, Hillside was dead last. The school had been on the steady decline for several years. Mr. Pappy was supposed to change all that when he moved from the same position in Richmond, VA. It didn't happen and parents complained LOUDLY.

Here's my question: If high school students can't read or perform academically on the high school level, is that the Principal's fault? If students came into the school with a behavior issue, is the principal responsible?

By the time students get to high school,they should have it pretty much together. I say try going back to grade school level--maybe an elementary teacher should've held the child back when she discovered he couldn't read, write or add. Or better yet, try going into some of the homes of these same parents who were doing all of the complaining. That's where you'll find many of the failures.

Parents want to blame teachers for their childrens shortcoming. Yes, I definitely think teachers should be held accountable, however, it's also up to parents to stay on top of things to make sure their children are getting what they need. If you wait to high school, that's way too late.

If a parent wants to blame one individual for their child's failures, maybe they should look in the mirror.


Eileen Williams said…
I so agree with you, Beverly. The defining question is: who has the most at stake with a child? Is the student's wellbeing more important to a principal who may oversee thousands of students or is it up to the individual parents? The answer seems and is obvious. If you care about your children, if you love them, you want them to do well academically and otherwise.
It seems ludicrous for high school principals to be blamed for underachieving students. By that age, they are pretty well set as to how they feel about school. It's a pity that Mr. Pappy was singled out and fired for things that were obviously NOT under his control. Thanks for shedding light on this important topic!
Debbie Barth said…
I couldn't agree with you more on this one, Beverly! I am so tired of hearing parents complain and blame everyone else for their own child's failures in school.

I don't care if it's politically polite or not, there are a huge number of parents out there that need to get off their butts, turn off the t.v., and spend the time with their child at night and on weekends, making sure that their child is keeping up with the grade level he/she is currently in. And then, get extra help if there seems to be a problem.

I know that it's difficult, but having a job and being tired at night does not give anyone a pass when it comes parenting. And being active in making sure their children are developing the skills in school in a timely fashion, based on grade level, is a big part of ....hello ...being a parent.

I honestly believe, that in the majority of cases, our teachers and staff are doing the best they can, despite some of the parents.
Beverly said…

When I was in TV, I worked the second shift (2:30p-11:30p). I made my daughter leave her homework out at night so I could check it and when she got up in the morning if she had any questions or I saw mistakes, I made her correct them. Heck no, it wasn't easy because I was dog tired but I chose to think of it as an investment in her future. And yes, I did have to call a few teachers on the carpet for things I thought they weren't doing---but I know I was doing my part as a parent interested in helping my child succeed.
Kathy said…
Hear! Hear! I agree with what everybody else has said.
Pat Montgomery said…
Amen, sisters! Preaching to the choir.
Pam Archer said…
I agree with you on most points, especially the fact that the primary responsibility of preparing and coaching our children lies with the parent/s. However, I do believe this principal should have held his teachers to a higher standard of delivering quality education. There are way to many tenured teachers who are not "called" to the position, and are satisfied to deliver mediocre teaching.

There are also grants available to schools who are working hard to stay on top of technology and the latest methodologies of teaching. My daughter has earned several of these to improve her school's library/media, due to her exemplary teaching methods and futuristic educational approach.

I feel sad for the loss of the principal's life, but it sounds like there is much that he could have done to improve the schools he was responsible for.
Heidi Caswell said…
Schools have a tough job.

My son was helping in a school's office and heard a very irate parent. Why was she irate? Because the drama teacher said her son could be a somebody one day. How dare the school to say anything like her son has talent, her son is smart, etc. The school was setting up her son for a fall. That her son would never be off government welfare, nor his kids, nor grandkids, etc.

Point is this, yes principals and teachers share responsibility with parents. Parents having the greater share. Yet we should hold educators accountable in some way.

I don't think overall test scores should mean it is the school's fault. Not all schools have families with the same kind of background.

Teaching at a school where parents are telling their children they won't make it, don't try, you'll always be a nobody have special challenges which can't be handled with test scores.

Look at the whole picture. Why are scores low? What kind of support do the kids get from their parents. What are the behavior issues?

Tough issues with no easy answers. Yet I suspect, bringing in people like Bern Nadette Stanis to speak to the students, because they are somebodies is a step towards working on the attitude issues.
Suzanne said…
well said and I totally agree!

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