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Debate: Should parents have a say in picking their child’s teacher?



Should parents have a say in picking their child’s teacher?



YES

I believe there are times when parents should have the right to request certain teachers under certain circumstances. I teach at a school district where the American Indian student population is approximately 8 percent, yet American Indian teachers represent only about 1 percent. I feel that American Indian students have a right to choose to attend the classes of American Indian teachers. If not, a large number of these students won’t have an opportunity to be taught by demographically representative educational role models. Such modeling has proved to raise both academic testing outcomes and grades, as well as improving student quality of life.

While I believe that students should have the opportunity to achieve educational and intellectual multiculturalism, and that students need to interact with teachers of all demographic backgrounds, I believe parents should be able to request that their children have at least one teacher who represents their cultural or ethnic background. One of the best practices in teaching American Indian students is using native language and culture to promote success, which is often best achieved when at least one teacher shares the student’s background.

Clyde Hodge teaches eighth-grade English in Stockton, California, is chair of the SUSD Title VII/Johnson O’Malley Indian Education parent/student advisory committee, and is a member of both NEA’s and CTA’s American Indian/Alaska Native Caucuses.

NO

It’s natural for parents to want to have input into who educates their child. Children are a parent’s most prized possession, and every parent wants what’s best for their child. That basic and understandable parental instinct is precisely the reason why parents should not have a say in who will be their child’s teacher.

Teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and other educators see the larger picture. These professionals don’t see what is best for one student without also seeing how it would impact the rest of the school community. Teachers who know the students and have experience creating successful classes in previous years work very hard to make sure each student in the school is in an optimal learning environment.

To ensure the decisions being made in a school are made to benefit all students, there cannot be special interest voices for a particular student or group of students. Placing a student in the requested teacher’s class in some cases, but not in others, leaves a school open to criticism by disenfranchised parents. Parental involvement should begin when the family receives notification of the student’s teacher for the year—not before.

Daniel Fonder teaches fifth grade at Hillside Intermediate School in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Other Voices

Here’s what other educators are saying.

I think the administrator needs to listen to the parent and consider the reason. However, the decision should be that of the administrator based on the previous history of the student and what is best for him or her.

Lisa Tucker, Barksdale Elementary, Clarksville, Tennessee

Since becoming a teacher, I have been requested, mostly from parents who have had me for their previous children. They know me and feel comfortable with me.

At our school, we allow 10 requests per teacher. It’s first come, first served. That usually allows us room to balance our classes. However, sometimes we have problems because many teachers get very competitive for the request.

Cherie Ward, Shasta Meadows Elementary, Redding, California

There are pros and cons to allowing parents to choose their child’s teacher. Sometimes it’s a personality issue, and all personalities do not lend themselves to everyone. I would rather a child be with the teacher they feel most comfortable with. Otherwise it could be a long year for the student and the teacher.

Veronica Green, Bakersfield School District, Bakersfield, California