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February 24, 2010

School Board To High School Faculty: You're Fired. All Of You

Central Falls, Rhode Island...Hello!

The school board fired every teacher in the high school due to the school's poor performance. Not surprisingly the teacher's union is outraged. Very surprisingly, the Obama administration supports the district.

The state’s tiniest, poorest city has become the center of a national battle over dramatic school reform. On the one side, federal and state education officials say they must take painful and dramatic steps to transform the nation’s lowest-performing schools. On the other side, teachers unions say such efforts undermine hard-won protections in their contracts.

“This is hard work and these are tough decisions, but students only have one chance for an education,” Education Secretary Duncan said, “and when schools continue to struggle we have a collective obligation to take action.”

Duncan is requiring states, for the first time, to identify their lowest 5 percent of schools — those that have chronically poor performance and low graduation rates — and fix them using one of four methods: school closure; takeover by a charter or school-management organization; transformation which requires a longer school day, among other changes; and “turnaround” which requires the entire teaching staff be fired and no more than 50 percent rehired in the fall.

... (District Superintendent Frances )Gallo and the teachers initially agreed they wanted the transformation model, which would protect the teachers’ jobs.

But talks broke down when the two sides could not agree on what transformation entailed.

Gallo wanted teachers to agree to a set of six conditions she said were crucial to improving the school. Teachers would have to spend more time with students in and out of the classroom and commit to training sessions after school with other teachers.

But Gallo said she could pay teachers for only some of the extra duties. Union leaders said they wanted teachers to be paid for more of the additional work and at a higher pay rate — $90 per hour rather than the $30 per hour offered by Gallo.

It's all about the students money for the unions and their members. I don't begrudge people wanting more money for more work but when your work is producing substandard results, well, welcome to the world of accountability.

Is this fair? Probably not but there's not right to fairness. I'm sure there are good and dedicated teachers in the district but the unions don't want them singled out and risk exposing the mediocre or bad ones (see the uniform opposition of teacher unions to merit pay). Suddenly unions also don't like the idea of all teachers being treated the same, at least when it comes to facing the consequences of their work. Funny how the bottom line is always more money for teachers, no consequences.

I tend to think the decisions we make as a society about education are far too focused on resources. It seems the greatest predictor and influence on a child's academic success is the family environment and the value parents place on education. While resources are necessary to support that, no amount of money is capable of replacing a strong family foundation to any great degree.

Still, it would be nice if this action spread and put teachers and their unions on notice that accountability is a concept they need to become familiar with.


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posted by DrewM. at 02:53 PM

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