- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

LEBANON, Pa. (AP) Come fall, Gino Vargas and other parents of schoolchildren in this city could be getting report cards of their own. The school system's superintendent is proposing that parents be graded on how involved they are in their children's education.
Mr. Vargas said he cares deeply about his 4-year-old son and has no problem with the proposal, believed to be one of the first of its kind.
"If you take care of your kids, it'll show in the report," Mr. Vargas said recently as Dante waited in the car for the trip home from Harding Elementary. "My dad was there for me. I need to be there for my son."
Under the proposal, parents in the 4,200-student district about 80 miles west of Philadelphia would be evaluated in areas such as attendance at parent-teacher conferences, whether they return things they have to sign and whether their children come to school healthy and properly dressed. Teachers would check "yes" or "no" and send the forms home with student report cards.
Superintendent Marianne Bartley said the goal is to make sure parents are sending their children to school ready to learn and keeping on top of their academic progress.
"We know that all types of research show that it's more likely that students who have parents who are involved are more successful in school," she said. "We have a lot of parents who are involved and do a wonderful job, but we need to make sure that it's widespread."
No other Pennsylvania school district conducts parental evaluations, and it is a rare practice nationwide. The Chicago school system started a "parental checklist" program in 2000, but it was dropped a year later under a new administration.
Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools chief who now leads the Philadelphia school district, said the program was voluntary and that each of Chicago's 600 schools was given discretion to develop its own format. "They weren't report cards as much as they were parental advisories," he said.
Some parents didn't like the prospect of being judged by their children's teachers.
"It came across to parents as being very demeaning and very insulting. It's inappropriate for a government agency to be critiquing and evaluating people's parenting skills," said Julie Woestehoff, head of a parents group.

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