Leading Source

Failing R.I. high school backing away from axing its entire staff

stockvault_7682_20070524We’ve spent a lot of cyber-pages here at the Leading Source debating the impact of good and bad teachers, layoffs, and getting rid of ineffective teachers and school leaders. Of course, one of the most recent episodes that piqued our interest was the mass firing of all teachers and staff at the troubled Central Falls High School in Rhode Island.

The case gained national attention after President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and many others praised the move, although some of us here questioned whether removing all the teachers was the best strategy—given that a complete upheaval would undoubtedly remove some good teachers who had ties to the transitional and predominantly immigrant community.

And while dozens of people from across the country had applied to replace those teachers, we questioned whether outsiders would stay long enough to get the school back on track. I’m sure there were many, many other conversations about this move and what it foreshadowed for the future of education.

Well, nevermind. This weekend we learned that all the Central Falls High teachers will keep their jobs, after a deal with the local teacher’s union.

They will get a new principal, though, and there will be some structural changes—longer school day, after-school tutoring, new teacher evaluations, to name a few.

It sounds like a decent plan. While now I feel like arguing that a few teachers probably should have been fired (and we don’t know how many will actually return), these strategies have proven to be effective in other schools.

What should be watched here is whether the school can improve its academic achievement and graduation rate without reconstituting the entire staff. NSBA has been concerned that a proposal in President Obama’s blueprint for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization insists on one of four turnaround strategies for the lowest five percent of schools in a state, even if those schools are already making progress using a locally initiated strategy.   

Already, the teachers union should have learned that they must be willing to embrace reforms such as a longer school day, even without pay. The school board, which is appointed by the state, must listen to the community. But perhaps the biggest lesson is for the Obama officials: Don’t be so quick to judge a situation and jump on the “bad teachers” bandwagon.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Naomi Dillon|May 17th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

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