Parents of failing and truant schoolchildren, beware: the superintendent is after you.
Under a new plan drafted by school administrators and a Yale child psychiatry expert, parents will be forced to share responsibility for their kids’ performance in the classroom and historically important student test scores will take a back seat to how parents score with teachers.
The New Haven plan, still in its infant form as a committee report, is a radical departure from the educational accountability schemes in place at virtually every other school in the country.
“Most accountability plans in the country have a punitive approach, based on test scores alone,” said Yale psychiatry professor James Comer, who helped to draft the report with schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo. “We based ours on the entire system. It’s designed to be helpful, and it’s designed to make people perform. We’re going to try and develop measures that help us determine whether young people will be successful in school and life in ways other than academic achievement.”
Pencils and bubble sheets might have worked for the well-off districts of suburban Fairfield County, but New Haven — a largely poor urban school system — demanded a different approach.
Once implemented, the Elm City plan will hold parents responsible for student attendance and will evaluate parents’ presence at parent-teacher conferences and extracurricular activities.
According to a draft of the plan dated last June, parents would be required to make sure their children have attendance records of 95 percent or better.
Thomas Murphy, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said school administrators could enforce the attendance requirement through any legal means at their disposal — including referring offending parents to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
In drafting the plan, Murphy said New Haven is one of the first cities to address what has long been a fundamental of educational psychology.
“It’s the first such policy that addresses the notion that there are several components of the community that are responsible for the success of students,” he said. “This policy identifies that parents have a responsibility. It’s always been known that resources and expectation in the home greatly affect education.”
Murphy made clear the plan will not be successful without flexibility.
“Every situation is different,” he said. “Some parents work days; others work nights. Schools need to be flexible, and businesses need to show flexibility to let parents get involved in schools when they can.”
New Haven’s revolutionary plan, however, remains unarticulated. The Board of Education approved the basic committee report just this month, and it will be at least a few months until the effects of Comer’s brainchild make their way into the daily educational process, said New Haven schools spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo.
The district has received approval to establish a new Office of Accountability — which will be responsible for translating the plan into action — but the department is not yet staffed, nor will it have any independent authority.
The Board of Education must approve any major policy changes made as a result of the new plan, DeCarlo said.