As the state prepares to use standardized test scores to help evaluate teachers, Assemblyman John Burzichelli thinks there ought to be another metric factored into those assessments - parental involvement.
Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, has introduced a bill that would require the commissioner of education to come up with ways to measure how active parents are in their children's learning. That information would be used as a mitigating factor when looking at student achievement, one of the things teachers will be evaluated on beginning next year.
Burzichelli is certainly right that parents have a huge role in a child's education, and including some measure of parental involvement would only add to the fairness of teacher evaluations. Whether or not his idea is workable is another question.
He suggests quantifying things such as the completion rate for homework, participation in parent-teacher conferences and how responsive parents are when teachers reach out to them or when they are asked to sign papers.
"If there's not a partnership in the education of the child, there's a disadvantage to the teacher," Burzichelli told The Star-Ledger.
"There's a clear case that where homes are struggling, schools are struggling. If we don't talk about what happens outside the school, we're never going to get where we want to get."
True enough. The most successful New Jersey schools tend to have very involved parents who make sure that education is a priority and who share in that responsibility with their children's teachers.
This is not an indictment of busy working parents who cannot help children with homework every night. It is simply a recognition that students come to school from a variety of home environments, and some of those environments are more likely to help students achieve than others. Shouldn't that difference be acknowledged when we're assessing the job teachers are doing?
The details of this proposal are bedeviling. As Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, who heads the Assembly Education Committee, said, "The concept of involving parents is a worthy goal, but how in the world would you accomplish it?"
We don't have the answer to that, but trying to figure it out is a conversation worth having.