In a letter in the July 2 Press Herald (“Tie student achievement to educators’ salaries”), William Vaughan Jr. sought to hold teachers accountable for poor student performance in Maine’s public schools.

Teachers may be partly responsible, but as a former teacher myself I want to raise another accountability question: Where are these kids’ parents?

During the school year, students spend about 25 percent of their waking hours in school. The remaining 75 percent is the responsibility of their families.

An influential critical mass of kids regularly comes to school underfed; in ill health; stressed out by unbelievable domestic turmoil at home; exhausted by working long hours for pay during the school week; distracted by sports and hormones; intoxicated or hungover; and/or convinced by peers, popular culture and even their own families that school is a waste of time.

And it’s the fault of their teachers that they don’t excel?

It only takes a few stinkers to bring the learning process of a whole class to a halt. Teachers can do remarkable things with the few hours a week that are alotted to them, but they aren’t magicians!

In industry, the quality of the raw material has a big influence on the quality of the product. Punish the teachers all you want, but student achievement won’t improve significantly until families and communities get serious about supporting their kids individually and collectively in their careers as students.

When every Maine family and community decides to send its kids to school healthy and rested and ready to learn, day in and day out, student achievement will soar.

E.L. Clopton is a resident of Westbrook.