Letters to the Editor

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EDUCATION: How about merit pay for parents?

Letter by Joe Axel Hallberg, Tacoma on April 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm with 34 Comments »
April 1, 2011 1:47 pm

In public school discussions, we hear the arguments on teacher pay and evaluation. Is there a better way than seniority to judge a teacher’s performance?

I propose a partial solution. Evaluate parents. Judge their merits as successful caregivers. Those in the top range could get credits as rewards for being effective parents. Those parents in the less successful categories would not receive tax credits.

I’m giving much credit to “power parents.” They would receive rewards of having mastered
the elusive and heretofore undercompensated skills of parenting. Schools, classrooms and by extension teachers would all be beneficiaries of the students of these merit parents. Student scores would rise.

As a retired teacher, I say you could have lowered my pay and increased my class size. just assist teachers with the discipline problems. Real education would flourish. The power students would become more powerful. All would benefit. The real secret in the educational process is parents.

Power parents usually have power children who are assets to classrooms. They facilitate classroom learning and directly and indirectly create a desirable learning atmosphere
where everyone benefits.

Give me a school principal who supports this model, and the school will work.

Leave a comment Comments → 34
  1. hortonpeak says:


  2. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    When you look at the BEST public schools in the state you find out they are ALL in areas with good two parent families like Gig Harbor. It’s parental involvement that make the difference.

    This letter from Mr. Hallberg gets the best letter of the week award for “telling the truth”.

  3. hortonpeak says:

    Taxedenough, please support your statement with data. ALL, Two Parent, Gig Harbor. I agree with the letter to the editor. I do not agree with your rational for supporting the letter. I do have to give you credit for the “leap of faith” award for this week.

  4. We had five children, and there is no way I would have allowed some academics monitor mine or my wife’s parenting skills. But I do have two solutions that would mostly solve the crisis in our public schools. First of all,
    allow the voucher system to be placed in effect throughout Washington state.
    Secondly, teachers, on a periodic basis, would be required to go on temporary
    duty (TDY) to Europe, particularly Germany. Although in the short term, it would require a good deal of resources, but the outcome would have a most positive effect on the children in America. the European teachers could instruct the American’s in the proper method of teaching. The European teachers produce excellent, educated citizens, and mostly on a bare-bones budget. They have a “no nonsense” policy when it comes to educating their children.

  5. hortonpeak says:

    Uscha, great ideas. However, “vouchers” – think not. Secondly, how about sending the parents to Europe. Is it the teachers or the parents who need to be educated? Having spent a lot of years teaching I would submit that the parents are a bigger part of the problem. They simply need to get out of the valley. This is not a carte blanche defense of teachers but in my experience when I demand excellence from a student and flunk their lazy ass I then have to deal with parents who … oh never mind.

  6. Your comments seem to be honest and sincere; however, my comments still
    stand. In German schools, when the students do not perform properly, the
    parents are immediately called. Once the parents arrive at the school, the teachers lay it on the line without taking any guff from parents. If the parents become unruly, the police are then called to intervene. The German teachers inform the parents if their child continues in a manner consistent with
    lack of discipline, they will automatically be held back a grade. If at the end of
    another year in the same grade, and the misconduct continues, they will be sent
    to a school for slow students. As for vouchers, I would have preferred to send my children to a school of my choice. You see Hortonpeak, I don’t have that confidence in American teachers as you do.

  7. whatIdid says:

    I agree with portions of your idea Mr. Hallberg, BUT, it sounds alot like a “community organizer’s” left bent approach to yet another scheme of “spreading it around” (redistributing if you prefer)…

  8. hortonpeak says:

    Uscha, you missed my point completely. As an educator I would love to have the support and authority to tell parents – should they show up – to tell them to get their and their kid’s act together. However, we seem to have this thing called local control in which school boards are elected by the good old boys of the community. In a nutshell, education is given a lot of lip service in this country but it is not respected. Think about it. As for vouchers, in a perfect world they would be great but in our education system the only thing that comes to mind is – scam. Actually we are on the same page.

  9. bobcat1a says:

    Horton, very true. Lip service to excellence but no tolerance for rigor (except in certain very rare cases).

  10. Right on!

    The taxpayers, and our society, can’t keep supporting the decline that this country is experiencing due to our youth’s inattention to their education that is all to often due to parent indifference.

    There are school systems in this nation that demand better parenting, or sue for parent neglect. Why not here? Weak knees by our educators and probably our Washington society’s indifference.

    Where are the adults that should be besieging school boards?

  11. MarksonofDarwin says:


    You are speaking out of both sides of your mouth here.

    On one hand you want to hold the parents solely responsible for a failing student.
    Then, on the other hand you refuse to allow parents the choice of where and who will teach their child. You want all control but no responsibility.

    In short….you want it both ways, and in your world a failing student has absolutely **nothing** to do with your teaching ability. You do realize that you ARE a part of the equation. If a student fails, then in part…you have failed.

    This letter may be a dog whistle to those who have been unfairly blamed for a failing education system in this country. It salves the wounds of teachers who really are doing the best they can…..but it’s spiteful and lopsided.
    You want the blaming to stop? I completely understand, but going on the attack against the very people who are most likely in your corner is foolish.

    You want parents to be more involved?
    Give them BACK the choice and control over their children’s education.

  12. pazzo242 says:

    Just once I would like to see someone come up with a REAL idea instead of these Wizard of Oz sort of stuff. It all sounds good on paper but it is just the guy behind the curtain and nothing more. Not being a teacher or school administrator I have no idea how to improve the system but getting parents to take action, unless they really want to, is just fantasy.

  13. uscha – I always suspected that you would be a “good German”.

  14. cclngthr says:

    The German system is not perfect either and they don’t have SPED laws that do the same thing as ours.

    I disagree with the letter writers premise. He wants a system that requires parents to act in a very specific manner and do the same thing. What he does not realize is different family cultures have different ideas how to do that. He also wants parents to attend every single event that the school has and do things for children as any white upper class person might do. Black people don’t parent this way, as Susan Goldsmith wrote in her article Rich, Black, Flunking.

    Society cannot dictate who becomes a parent. Anyone capable of producing an egg or sperm can have children. This also includes teenagers aged 11 and older. Society also cannot dictate HOW parents parent either. The Germans attempted this in the Third Reich during WWII.

  15. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Actually we do have merit pay for parents, it’s actually reverse merit pay, also known as welfare.

  16. That’s the problem with public education. The public. Not teachers. Heaven’s no. Students are just an extensions of brain dead parents.

    Teachers on the other hand are spawned from??? Well isn’t rocket scientists, more like low end insurance clerks and used car salesmen.

  17. Based on the title, I was expecting some satire, very disappointing, sir. Your letter is hysterically naive and totally illogical. You were at one point an educator of our kids? Ouch!

  18. I have the opportunity to be an observer in public elementary schools. This takes place at whole school assemblies. The difference in the learning “atmosphere” can be smelled at the front door. Neighborhoods do have an influence on student learning and behavior. After 11 such visits during the last 2 school years I give the highest marks to those schools that subscribe to the “Kids At Hope” program, where the aura reeks of positive feedback and the belief that all kids are worthy and WILL succeed. Note I said WILL, not CAN. I have also noted the upside correlation between wearing uniforms and manners and behaviour. Teacher and staff dress codes also influence the students and the building’s maintenance. Critics need to become far more involved in the recruitement and election of school board members. Too few active parent voters (and that is YOU between 21 and 40 who are not registered and refuse to participate in the process) allow incompetent political hacks to sit on your school boards year after year making the decisions that determine the failure or success of your child’s education. If you don’t want a lazy, uninvolved, unmotivated child, quit setting such a good example by failing to vote and attend school board meetings.

  19. ItalianSpring says:

    Having children is a lifestyle choice (at a cost of around $300,000.00 a piece). Having children is supposed to be its own reward. Parents are supposed to take great pleasure in raising their kids and enjoy making the sacrifices that come with the responsibility. Sounds great eh? So great that I don’t have any and I don’t want the responsibility of YOURS (you bad parents know who you are) either.

  20. I think that what you’re proposing is already in place in some areas.

    Parent-Teacher Co-Operative models in the public school system is an innovative, logical and successful model of learning that can be found in Lake Washington School District, Marysville School District and Edmonds School District. Until recently, Puyallup School District also had a very successful cooperative program: The Puyallup Family Cooperative. This wonderful program is being put on hiatus for the 2011-2012 school year; the hope is that the program will pick up with even more success and accessibility (larger program) for families in the Puyallup School District.

    I think it would be great to see every school district offer the option for a parent-teacher cooperative program. It would be interesting to see what effect co-op would have on test scores, teacher, parent and student satisfaction, and overall success at the school where the program is located.

  21. enotrams says:

    How about providing a real education for our children before we waste time on this BS?

    Education is more than just a score on a standarized test. We need to encourage and enable our children to become future entrepreneurs, innovators, risk takers, artists, musicians, etc.

    Yes, parents play a key role in the educational outcomes of their children, but in this country, government has no right (or qualification) to evaluate parental performance in this regard. If our children receive a proper education, then they have the tools they need for good parenting and subsequently future generations will require less government intervention/assistence.

    Real improvements can’t be made or expected until we get rid of the sterile, politically correct, test score holy grail focused bullsh#t that is being used in our schools today.

    We can’t produce exceptional graduates when we aspire to mediocre standards and evaluation practices where worth is based on some stifling test performance value.

    Remember, 1 in 4 9th grade students still fail to graduate from high school in this state. This is totally unacceptable, and there are still too many students who simply quit.

    School boards and school district administrators don’t focus on what’s best for kids. Instead, they place their focus on what’s going to keep them out of trouble with state and federal governments (NCLB requirements) and how they can keep from getting sued or losing funding.

    Again and again we see and read about local school districts that don’t perform well. Of course, they blame the evaluation criteria as flawed, but continue to do more of the same while expecting different results, and then end up cutting programs and activities from their budgets because test scores are the only thing that they are going to be held accountable to.

    Local control really should mean control at a local level where parents can affect needed change without having to wait until the next election. If 90% of the students aren’t graduating on time, then the local superintenent should be placed on probation, and an improvment plan must be required (otherwisethe superintendent is fired). These superintenents are people who make way too much in salary and don’t deserve to be paid this kind of money for the results they produce.

    Voters shouldn’t blindly return school board members to their positions when school districts are failing to produce real results (more than just test scores).

    Perhaps it’s time for some legislative reform so parents can easily remove school district directors when a school district fails to produce good results? Maybe local control means that parents have more say in the evaluation and retention of their school district superintenent?

    Real education is more than scores on a statewide test. It’s about preparing our youth to become productive, responsible adults(citizens) and providing experiences that shape young lives for the better (prepare them for a productive adulthood).

    If our schools can’t understand that turning out more Ted Bundy’s with great test scores isn’t good enough, then it really is time to start over.

  22. whitecap says:

    Camas…why do you hate teachers so much? You resort to name-calling, insults, and personal attacks. Next time, take a deep breath, put some actual thought into it, swallow your venom, and write something of substance.

  23. spotted1 says:

    I believe that this idea is outstanding. Instead of merit pay though, withhold state benefits from parents who do not cut the mustard. Increase benefits for those who are truly making a difference with additional support. Put parents in line with what is expected of school teachers. Would be interesting. Too bad no one has the guts to take on parents.

  24. whitecap says:
    APRIL 4, 2011 AT 7:46 AM
    “Camas…why do you hate teachers so much? You resort to name-calling, insults, and personal attacks. Next time, take a deep breath, put some actual thought into it, swallow your venom, and write something of substance.”

    I don’t hate teachers. Why would I waste or invest my emotional capital on them? They certainly have earned all the hatred that people feel for them but hating them doesn’t cure the problem. Insulting them does bring short term relief from their mindless blame everybody else for the problems in schools,. But it’s temporary and as such needs to be renewed. I renew it whenever teachers or their supports spouts off about the pretend problems, instead of looking at those who control the classroom. Teachers.

    Like I said, the teacher’s perspective of the problem with public education is the public. Need another example, look at the letter from spotted 1. Another mindless blame the parent babble. News flash for you, spotted 1, and Hallberg. Nobody forces people to be teachers. It’s strictly voluntary to enter the profession. Don’t like the ways things are, quit. Please.

    The reality is that parents are the reason teachers have a job. Teachers need to be reminded of it everyday. It’s our tax money that funds the sorry excuse for an educational system that teachers have foisted on us. This country spends more on education then any on Earth. Take a good look at what the teachers are turning out and tell me things are as good as it can get.

    As an aside, don’t quit your day job because as mind reader you’ll starve.

  25. I don’t hate teachers.

    One sentence later…..

    They certainly have earned all the hatred that people feel for them

    Such intellectual honesty!

  26. firemannotfirefighter says:

    How about Merit Pay for students AND teachers?

  27. Great discussion. I work in elementary schools as a para. Most of the teachers are dedicated, hard working and care about the children they teach. The poor teachers are few. The problem is that it is easy to lump all the kids in a group and expect to educate them. EACH child is an individual. Look around your workplace. The adults who are responsible were that way as kids. The ones who are a pain were that way also. Most of the kids in Germany are German. The children in Tacoma schools come from all countries and cultures. Some of the more diverse schools are on the edges of the district for example Mckinley. It is easy to pick on a school like that rather than say, Washington which is 85% white. Wainwright, where I worked has children from the neighborhood as well as from apartments in the area and some who are homeless or in transition housing. Also an easy mark for the directors at Central who forget that they are messing with individuals, not a number on a map of school boundaries.
    The district needs to keep these small schools with diverse populations. It is not easy to teach children who slept on the floor last night, or who’s big brother was in a bad mood while Mom and Dad worked. Or try to reach a child who has been in a tug of war between parents and this school is his third or fourth in as many years.
    Address these children as individuals in the Elementary schools. The first years of a child’s life are when they learn the most. Give them the help they need to reach grade level in reading and math by 8 or 9 and we won’t have kids dropping out later because they couldn’t catch up.

    Delong Elementary is slated to enroll around 550 kids next year by current District plans. Imagine yourself in a situation like that as a child. Imagine these teachers who care about each and every one. Oh I forgot, the teachers are terrible. Blame them not the people at the top who set them up for failure.
    If a school is failing, it is the teacher’s and the principle who are at fault. If the school is a success, guess who takes the credit? Yup, the folks at Central.

  28. Right on, BeerBoy! Rather be a good German then a “lost Liberal” who serves
    no purpose other than to exist at the expense of others.

  29. You are correct, ccingthr. The German system is not perfect, but it certainly
    is better than the American system.

  30. uscha – you really should find out what “good German” references before you cheer for it.

  31. Yeah, BeerBoy. What do I know? I only lived in Germany for 40 years. Care to
    top that?

  32. Funny…..my German friends would shudder if anyone called them “good Germans” but, I guess, post-Weimar political trends are acceptable to you. Time to get your Brown Shirt out of mothballs and march in the streets with pride.

  33. BeerBoy, you have German friends? Surprising! I suspect you “think” their your friends. Why would they be with comments like yours. Obviously, you have no idea of the German culture of today. Return to the 21st century, BeerBoy! Based on your comments, it’s quite clear that the “Ugly American” is alive and well!

  34. Keep digging and you might just get out of that hole.

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