Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reading and math logs

Just a short rant here. Do any of you with school aged children have to suffer with these odious things? I hate, hate, hate them. And I fought the battle against them last year. It chaps my ass that I have to do it again this year (and probably every year from here on out until T. gets out of elementary school). Can anyone tell me anything good about them? In the meantime, enjoy reading my latest teacher communication and then be grateful you don't have to deal with me as a parent. Yes, I suspect my children's teachers hate me. For your reading pleasure:

Ms. T.,

I mentioned in my note on T.'s log, I have a few thoughts I want to share with you about the reading/math log.

I am abrogating the responsibility for filling this out now that the first quarter is finished. Going forward, if this is part of his homework grade, then T. can fill it out himself. I will cheerfully enforce the reading and math facts practice but it will be his responsibility to write it down, not mine. I feel this is important for several reasons. This is not my homework. I no longer do homeowrk. It is his and therefore he should be the one doing it. If the point of the log is to teach responsibility and accountability, it is better served by making the child, who is more than capable ability-wise, fill it out and learn those lessons himself. If I do not fill out the log, there is no correseponding consequence for me. There is only a consequence for him. Rather unfair, don't you think? If it is his responsibility and he doesn't fill out the log two days in a row, he will not get a sticker on his calendar chart leading to the potential of not earning a homework pass. Logical consequence given to the actual culprit. Much fairer.

He filled out his own log last year for Ms. M. and it worked out fine. She told me that it is school policy for each child to have a reading log. I disagree heartily with the policy (I'll elaborate a bit below) but hope that you are willing to allow him to do this chore himself as she was given the reality of the policy. I'm certain that my stance is unpopular and as I understand it, he was the only child in first grade to have to complete his own reading log, but I think all of the children who are capable should be doing it themselves so if he's the only second grader doing as such as well, I am fine with that.

Quite honestly, I don't understand the whole reading/math log thing in general. I know that it is designed to ensure that children are doing their requisite amount of reading and math outside of school but in practice it doesn't actually measure this in any legitimate way. For starters, this method of tracking was originally designed for at risk student populations, clearly not the school dynamic at M.R. E. S. Even in the designated situations, it hasn't been successful. Human nature being what it is, parents sign off on logs whether their child has done the intended work or not.

My conversations with friends here, in other states, and even friends who are teachers themselves, while merely anecdotal and not statistically significant, has revealed that every last one of them has filled out the forms even when their children haven't done the work. And my small sampling consists of highly educated, driven people who quite value education. Not very promising with regards to the efficacy of measuring reading and math practice via logs. Quite honestly, I signed off on T.'s on Monday night despite the fact that he came home from school and fell asleep immediately, waking briefly to take Tylenol for his migraine before going back to sleep for the night. Now, I doubled his practice and reading time last night as a result but many nights that wouldn't be an option and honestly, as an overall trend, he gets more than enough. So should I have not signed the log and let him take the fall for not doing the work? How would that solution have benefitted anyone? Obviously this is just one example of how the logs fail and one of a million reasons why parents sign the log when the work hasn't been completed but it is instructive in the failures inherent in the logging process and requirement.

Perhaps as important as the trend towards fudging, I have also never met a parent who likes having to sign off on the daily logs. I am certainly among those who find it an annoyance. And it makes me curious, given the almost universal dislike of logs and its questionable efficacy why it continues to be such a focus in elementary school here. Out of the four elementary schools my children have attended over the years, this is the only one that uses this outmoded teaching tool.

I'll stop now but as you can tell, I loathe logs and question the use of them. I am all for parental involvement in children's education but not in this pointless and ultimately non-meaningful way. I am only there to help guide my children along the road to responsibility and accountability, not to take over these aspects of their education. I am always available to help with questions on homework but I certainly don't do even a portion of it for them. In this spirit, the log is now officially T.'s so expect his handwriting on it and no initialing on my part. I will make certain his work is completed (incidentally, I think his homework from last night is in his backpack, not in his folder, if my perusal of the folder this morning is anything by which to go) but he can take over the responsibility of letting you or the mom helpers know that it was indeed completed.


K., the offical parental pain in the ass

OK, so I didn't sign it this way but this *is* the letter I sent. If his folder already doesn't note that "Mom is difficult" I suspect this will have cemented that opinion and made it into the official record of note to be passed along with him forever and ever until the end of time, amen. As long as this teacher doesn't try to give me a lecture on the importance of reading (just in case I wasn't aware!), I think I can now rub along fine for the rest of the year, she says hopefully.


  1. If needed, I'll be copying this letter to the teacher. And since my student is a 6th grader, it's even MORE appropriate that he be the one who fills out the form! If by some chance it comes to sending a letter like this, I may be branded "difficult" but since I'm single-handedly in charge of the 6th grade fundraisers for Science Camp, I'm guessing I'll (and my student by extension) be given an "exemption". And if not, heck, 6th grade grades don't count for anything anyway so who cares.

  2. I was watching my nieces for a week while their parents were on vacation once during the school year and had to deal with these stupid things. The packets, the initialing, the logs - all of it! I dread my children hitting school age. I don't remember my parents having to sign so much, though I do remember getting in trouble because my parents refused to sign a paper because they didn't agree with what it said.

    I know the teachers are sometimes trapped by school policy and feel bad when they get the brunt of it, but I really hate some of these approaches and know I won't be popular with the teachers. I won't sign papers that I don't agree with even if it means my kid has to miss the ice cream or pizza or whatever party.

    I remember when they were doing a reading competition and we had to have our parents initial for every ten pages we read. Mine were all thrown out because one of the PTA ladies didn't believe it was my parents initials. Did she call and check? Nope, I just noticed they weren't there and her daughter told me what her mom had done. I refused to participate after that.

    I was in the sixth grade.

    Why can't we trust the kids when we know the parents are usually just signing anyway because they think it's dumb or just don't care? Why can't we teach the kids responsibility? Why can't we just flat out trust the kids?

    I'm proud of you and hope this teacher will let your child submit it again!

  3. I have to agree. . .I don't understand the reading logs. My stepdaughter is supposed to do 30 minutes of reading a night (she's in fifth grade). I've watched her go from someone who likes a good book to someone who views reading as a chore. I agree that the logs are outdated and not very useful!

  4. kt - I had to do a writing competition where we were instructed to write in a journal for two weeks. When I came in with an enormous stack of notebooks in my own handwriting, the teacher made a "joke" that my parents must have done some of it for me, and it turned into a terribly negative experience for me.

    Kristen - You're awesome and your immediate jump to the word "abrogating" at the start of your letter has made my day and possibly will bend the teacher's mind. :D

  5. Now here's a big fat thanks cause I'm in Germany!

    Kristen, if that teacher (or any other teacher) thinks you need a lecture on the importance of reading, you might as well hand them a card with your blog address and leave without another word... ;-)

    Kathrin, whose future kids' future teachers will certainly consider her difficult, no matter what *eg*

  6. Well done!

    I had a conversation with my sister, who is VERY involved in her kids' homework, recently, and she asked if our mom had spent so much time on our homework. I said "No...because it was OUR homework."

    I understand that the reading/math logs come from the emphasis on "accountability" these days. That's not wrong in itself, but a lot of the ways of implementing it are misguided at best, and just dumb at worst.

    And I totally agree that if it's your child's log, HE should be the one filling it out, not you!

  7. My kids aren't in school, but I suspect I agree. I love logging my OWN books, but I preemptively refuse to do my child's homework. If he can write he can do it himself.

    The other thing that bugs me, is what about kid's who stay with a sitter in the evenings, or whose parents don't speak English, or don't have hands or whatever reason they have for not being able to sign off? Are those kids excused? Penalized?

  8. I'm with you: I'm out of school, I don't do homework anymore. Kid's responsibility. Good for you.

  9. Agree with all the comments and will add that those parents who are fudging for their children, or signing or helping or otherwise finding ways to help children get around their responsibilities are actually teaching children that it's OK to cheat, lie, or otherwise 'bend the rules'. Is that the message we want to send our kids?

    I always said (and my two grown ones are on their own and doing well thank you) that my obligation as a parent is to get them thru high school as physically, mentally, intellectually, and morally intact as possible. They had to know HOW to read, write, add, subtract, and draw reasonable, logical conclusions from facts. The rest was up to them.

    Yes teachers want parents involved, but setting the examples at home of reading, telling the truth and taking responsibilty are as important as filling out a stupid log to get a stupid gold star.

    No wonder we have to export our workforce....our kids are too busy earning stars to learn how to take part in society.

  10. Well.. even as a teacher, I am anti homework in general. The majority of homework I give is along the lines of "clean your room" "set the table" "play a game"
    etc.I believe homework is between a child and a teacher once a child can read.
    When I sent my own children's reading logs in.. I cross the entire term off and sign across it with a note saying "My child reads every night". They never say anything. Maybe because I work there and they're scared of me. Hahaha
    Things are different now and their reading homework component is now online.The teacher checks that it has been accessed. That is another whole kettle of fish. No more holding a book in your hands. No books older than 10 years. Apparently paperless is in. And I think it sucks big time.

  11. Here via Florinda at The 3 R's. You should check out and in particular, search the post "I hate reading logs."

  12. Here in TN, I am also suffering with this school policy. The only true consequence of these logs is a line of distrust; between student and teacher and between teacher and parent.

    If my straight A student has to prove that he's doing his work or studying, well...umm, isn't that what tests and grading homework are for?

  13. I came here because of your comment on my post, and then realized I'd been here before!
    It's even worse when the child is held responsible for a parent not signing the log. My daughter once was benched for recess because I hadn't signed the log. It just so happened I'd ended up spending the night in the hospital that night, and in all the chaos, forgot to tell my parents this responsibility when they took the kids.
    Like you, I'm all for parental involvement, but this just isn't the way.

  14. Genial brief and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you on your information.


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