Firing of entire school staff approved. Ed secretary Duncan calls action courageous.

A Rhode Island school board has upheld a controversial recommendation to fire the entire staff of a failing high school and start fresh. The vote by the Central Falls school board Tuesday won the support of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

I understand the shock value of such a sweeping action, but I wonder if such housecleaning doesn’t set back a school. It takes years to learn a community and a school, and there has to be a period of rough transition after something of this magnitude.  The new managers at the high school can hire back some of the employees — up to 50 percent — and I assume that will happen, but the loss of so many employees requires lots of rebuilding.

According to the Providence Journal-Bulletin:

Signaling the national significance of the situation in Central Falls, the American Federation of Teachers sent representative Mark Bostic with a message of support from the union’s 1.4 million members.

“We are behind Central Falls teachers, and we will be here as long as it takes to get justice,” said Bostic.

Meanwhile, state and local education officials received some high-powered support of their own, when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in, saying he “applauded” them for “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids.”

“I think the real goal is to bust the unions,” said Julie Boyle, an English teacher at Coventry High School. “Sometimes a teacher is the only touchstone in a student’s life. I’m sad for the students who will lose their touchstones.”

Just an hour after the rally, the Central Falls school Board of Trustees, in a brief but intense meeting, voted 5-2 to fire every teacher at the school. In all, 93 names were read aloud in the high school auditorium — 74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists, guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the school psychologist, the principal and three assistant principals.

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.

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.

43 comments Add your comment

Student Advocate

February 24th, 2010
12:03 pm

I wholeheartedly support the firing of those teachers. For some reason teachers, read this blog, blame everyone else for the problems in education. I think that a long hard look in the mirror is needed. For too long educators, yes I’m including administrators also, have simply failed our most precious asset; our children. I have heard and read every single excuse in the book on why teaching is so hard blah, blah, blah and so forth. I asked one teacher I knew if the job is so hard why does she continue at it. Her reply? The time off. I suspect that a lot of her colleges have the same mindset. I’m also getting sick and tired of hearing/reading that teaching minority kids is hopeless. This is a bigoted statement. If you don’t want to teach black kids just come out and say so instead of making up a lie for your prejudice. Once again job well done on getting rid of the incompetent teachers. Hopefully we can start to do the same in Georgia because lord knows we need it!

Nature Dude

February 24th, 2010
12:08 pm

Courageous??? People have we forgotten the implied powers in the Constitution? The federal government has no jurisdiction over education, unless we the states give it to them. This comes down to money…PERIOD!!! Districts want federal money, and so they’ll jump through federal hoops! The money is minimal when costs of meeting expectations are considered, we should tell them where they can stick their money and do the work ourselves…after all look at how well the Feds spend your money…

Larry M

February 24th, 2010
12:10 pm

“On the other side, teachers unions say such efforts undermine hard-won protections in their contracts.”

This pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? The unions could care less about student performance. They are more concerned with the fact that the firings undermine the support they have obtained from their members.

I appreciate the idea that a mass firing such as this will, maybe in the short run, set the school back. But let’s face it – when a school like this is already at rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. So start fresh and see where it goes.

V for Vendetta

February 24th, 2010
12:12 pm

Maureen,

Just read an article online about a teacher who stopped a gunman in Littleton, CO. Maybe we need a feel-good post this afternoon. Whatcha think?

:-)

Sick&Tired

February 24th, 2010
12:21 pm

There are instances where mass firing should take place. I’m not familiar with this school district; but from what I’m hearing it’s been at the bottom for a while. It’s hard to get the best teachers into a school that is constantly failing, so I’m sure you had a lot of complacent teachers and administrators at this school. It turns into the school where you go when you have no where else to go or you don’t care.

It’s the basement job, with no windows.

high school teacher

February 24th, 2010
12:27 pm

The only problem with firing the staff of the lowest 5 percent of schools is that there will always be a lowest 5 percent. Does Duncan suggest mass firings every year? How about criteria reference instead of norm reference?

Maureen Downey

February 24th, 2010
12:38 pm

V for Vendetta, Sure.
I would feel a lot better if they would upgrade that one little boy who took a blast to his chest from critical to stable, but the teacher is clearly a hero and deserves a ticker tape parade and more.
Maureen

Ole Guy

February 24th, 2010
12:41 pm

As all this drama unfolds, both Nationaly and state-by-state, has anyone bothered to monitor teacher ed programs at colleges and universities throughout the land? I would imagine, as would-be teachers read (yes, one assumes they read) of these tugs-of-war in every possible nook and cranny of the ed circus, many may see wisdom in steering clear of this fiasco until the return of adult leadership. Consequently, with both the retirements of current teachers as well as “low time” teachers who decide to pursue “calmer seas” in the job market, here could conceivably come a time in the not-too-distant future when 50-plus kids in a classroom will be considered the norm.

V for Vendetta

February 24th, 2010
12:46 pm

Maureen,

Agreed. I hope he is OK. I feel terrible for the Littleton community. I can’t fathom how it must feel to have something like this happen again.

Joy in Teaching

February 24th, 2010
12:59 pm

I think its marvelous that the school board upheld this mass firing but it didn’t go far enough.

Those students didn’t just wake up one day in the 11th grade unable to do math. They were socially promoted through the system without having a solid foundation in mathematics and then hit the wall in the 11th grade.

I bet if you looked back far enough in each of those student’s academic records, you’d find large gaps where their achievement was ignored and they were passed on anyways. THOSE are the teachers and schools who shoud be taken to task.

(By the way, my students are watching a film on the life of Shakespeare. Just saying…in case anyone wonders why I’m blogging at this time.)

Joy in Teaching

February 24th, 2010
1:04 pm

@ V and Maureen

I’ve been in a deep and abiding funk since I heard about that school shooting last night. It’s always troubling when I hear of any of our kids getting harmed in a school, but it is ten times worse when it is by a maniac with a gun. I’ve been praying for those two children all day and my heart is with their families at this time.

By the way…that teacher hero totally rocks. I do so hope that good things come his way and that karma is good to him. Also, he has instantly become a hero in the eyes of every single kid in that building. How awesome is that?

Tonya T

February 24th, 2010
1:10 pm

Ole Guy:

Your statement hit the nail on the head. but people can’t see the forest for the trees. No one I know would even consider steering their kids into teaching now or in the future. But Americans love to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Elizabeth

February 24th, 2010
1:40 pm

If the administration REALLY believes that the tachers are at fault, then there is a simple solution. My contract states that I can be transfered to any othe school in the system at the will of the BOE. Just transfer all the teachers from the highest performing school in the district to that school and transfer the ones at the low performing school to the highest. By your logic, the teachers at the high performing school will be able to turn all those students around in one year, while the ones at the high performing school will drop in scores drastically. And if you believe that this is what will happen then I have some swamp land in the desert that I will sell you.

There is more to this than teacher nonperformance. Kids and parents have a part, as do administrators who insist on socially promoting kids who are not performing on grade level.

Furthermore, Teachers already work overtime for no pay. No one seems to think that we have lives and families also.

bray

February 24th, 2010
1:43 pm

Isn’t this the same Duncan who said Hurricane Katrina was the “best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”?

Dr. John Trotter

February 24th, 2010
1:50 pm

Didn’t I tell y’all that Arne Duncan is a 14 carat nut?

Public School Parent

February 24th, 2010
1:57 pm

I think such extreme measures may be necessary on a case-by-case basis. In the metro area we have schools that have perpetually failed to make progress for many, many years. Multiple academic programs have been tried and millions spent on the educational theory du jour but little progress resulted. Maybe a fresh start is needed. Although I agree with the poster who said the problems probably began long before the high school level. Maybe “restructuring” should be limited to elementary and middle schools?

Shar

February 24th, 2010
2:29 pm

It’s like Reagan’s PATCO decision. As much as I am concerned about the potential for dislocation for the students I cannot support the teachers and administrators who, although admitting the hideous academic pit their students had fallen into, refused to try the new methods put before them by the new principal. Choosing to accept failure for their students rather than meet new requirements themselves is more than reason for termination. Hopefully other teachers at failing schools in Rhode Island – and maybe even Georgia! – will take a long look at the consequences of sublimating students’ interests to their own and agree to promising changes.

Make it better

February 24th, 2010
2:47 pm

It is hard when the football coaches that run Cobb County’s school system are screaming for artificial turf while they are cutting stuff that actually affects the students’ chances for sucess. Teachers aren’t the only thing that count- but they count more than anything else. A good teacher in a safe class room can work miracles. I wish the Coach Sanderson would keep his eye on the only ball that matter (student achievment) and take his eyes off the football.

A concerned teacher

February 24th, 2010
2:57 pm

As CRCT practice tests are being administered and failed by students because they were passed to the next grade by the administration without listening to the teacher or the parents, I am highly stressed. Just today being told a student in my class who has passed nothing this year is going to go on proves this problem. I think the focus should be on preparing these students to succeed rather than firing the teachers once they have continually failed but been passed anyway.

moose123

February 24th, 2010
3:11 pm

Fire the teachers???? How about firing the parents????

john konop

February 24th, 2010
3:13 pm

The No Child Left Behind/Kathy Cox, one size fit all gang are quick to hold everybody accountable other than the FAILED plan!

HB

February 24th, 2010
3:21 pm

Elizabeth, I don’t think there is another high school in that district. Rhode Island school districts are by township, not county, but I’m pretty sure that all areas of the state are covered by cities/townships, so they are sort of like small counties. I think there are 35-40 districts in the state. To give you an idea of how that breaks down, the population of RI is about a million, so that’s 35 or systems for a population smaller than the combined population of Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, and covering a geographic area only 50% larger than those two counties.

I think I’ve been through Central Falls and it’s a tiny, impoverished town sandwiched between Lincoln and Pawtucket (I would have guessed it was actually a town within Pawtucket township). The district would probably be far better off being absorbed into one of those, but given its troubles, I doubt either wants it. Fire teachers, don’t fire them — probably won’t be what makes a difference. The Board is clearly desperate (for good reason). Very sad.

Booklover

February 24th, 2010
3:26 pm

@Student Advocate

You need to talk to some other teachers…someone other than the teacher who says she teaches for the time off.

Nearly all the teachers I know (And I know MANY in MANY states and countries…don’t get in a p*ssing match about that with me, because you won’t win) say they teach for the following reasons:
1. Love kids (Esp. elementary school teachers; although as a high school teacher, I’ll happily tell you that I like high schoolers because they are funny and “real”)
2. Love their subject matter (esp. high school teachers, and art, music, etc.)
3. Love “teaching”: imparting knowledge…how cool is that? Seriously, I love opening the door to new worlds for my students.

Yeah, somewhere down the line is the “time off.” Lots of parents like the schedule because they can leave school when their kids do…and grade papers after the kids have gone to bed, or are doing their own homework. Lesson planning can be done at home on the weekends. During the weeks we are in school, the vast majority of teachers put in 55-65 hours. When I was working in the corporate world for the same salary as a new teacher, I “worked” 40 hours in an office and never took work home. By “worked,” I mean, worked about 4 hours, spent 1 hour in meetings, and spent the rest of the time socializing and trying to look busy.

As for teachers having the summer off, we still do lesson planning and research over those two months (not three; two months!). Many of us continue to get advanced degrees. I like the teaching calendar because it gives me time to travel across the country to see my parents at Christmas and in the summer, and because my boyfriend, who is deployed in Iraq, can take his leave during the summer, and we can have 2 weeks undisturbed time together. Wow, am I supposed to apologize for putting my family first?

I love my job and work hard, and I want my students to suceed, but my family comes first. Priorities, people.

Kathy Fleming

February 24th, 2010
4:09 pm

Isn’t it interesting that community, administration, politial figures and parents blame the educators? What is of particular interest to me is that a block of staff members that have access to pupils 50-55 minutes/day have been targeted as the key holders to all students failures or successes. I question what influences in the community, home life and socio-economic factors play in the demise of this district’s success. Frankly, all would be hard pressed to convince me that these 3 factors don’t influence a child far more than the relatively small amount of time teachers are given to educate.

In addition, I am repeatedly hearing the average teachers salary in this community is $70,000 in a dismally poor area. What is the Super Intendants salary? Strange that she isn’t opening this up for discussion in her dialogue.

[...] RI fires entire enitre “teaching” staff (88) and Duncan applause Posted on February 24, 2010 by kilroysdelaware Firing of entire school staff approved. Ed secretary Duncan calls action courageous. 11:20 am Februa… [...]

Ole Guy

February 24th, 2010
6:17 pm

Tonya, you ever play vollyball? The bathwater was tossed out a long long time ago…the support mechanisms, the professional esteem, etc etc…it’s been tossed out the window and long-ago evaporated. The (interests of the) baby, rhetorically speaking, just keep getting volleyed among short-sighted politicians and administrators.

ScienceTeacher671

February 24th, 2010
6:52 pm

From what I read in the previous article, the math achievement at this school had nearly doubled in the previous year, even if it was still in the sewer.

The important thing is, these children didn’t just fall behind when they reached high school.

Ole Guy

February 24th, 2010
6:59 pm

Kathy, don’t let that AVERAGE $70,000 fool ya.

Back in the late 80s when Eastern Air Lines was going through political gyrations, in response to safety/experience concerns, the so-called “New Eastern” was being touted as having a pilot corps of roughly the same AVERAGE age reflecting the industry. Upon further investigation, it was found that this AVERAGE was the result of two extremes: young kids barely out of commercial flight school and oldsters pulled out of retirement. Never let any value, preceeded by the word AVERAGE, throw you.

Student Advocate

February 24th, 2010
7:28 pm

@ Booklover

“…don’t get in a p*ssing match about that with me, because you won’t win)”

Wouldn’t your time be better spent teaching your students instead of winning a “pissing contest” on the internet???

ScienceTeacher671

February 24th, 2010
7:43 pm

@Student Advocate: are you a teacher? If not, why not?

Wild Will

February 24th, 2010
8:20 pm

Three years ago the superintendant in DeKalb County “reformed” two schools and paid “combat pay” to those teachers who were retained or hired to replace those moved. I wonder what return has been made on that investment. Maureen?

Ole Guy

February 24th, 2010
8:43 pm

Advocate, are you well? Did something happen to you in your childhood which now causes you to assume such an “I dare you” attitude. Most adults, I say… MOST ADULTS…are simply presenting views on various topics of common concern. No one is trying to get into any wee wee contests, and certainly no one is trying to win anything. Perhaps you would be well-served by getting on the bus with the MATURITY sign. After you have passed that course, maybe, just maybe, you will be able to converse in writing without coming across as the bratt you seem to be.

The Booklover has taken time and mental energies to respond to your thoughts, and all you can do is retort with childish nonesense. You have chosen one helluva nom de plume, for you are no advocate of anything or anybody but your own little self. You owe the Booklover an appology for a most-inappropriate response.

Joy in Teaching

February 24th, 2010
9:04 pm

@ Student Advocate

I hate to tell you this since you know so much, but it might actually be possible for Booklover’s students to be GONE by 3:26. Students do go home eventually.

Or are you one of those who believe that teachers should be such paragons of virtue that they should eat, sleep, and breathe school with no down time ever?

Tom

February 24th, 2010
9:12 pm

In case anyone missed it, it was Arne Duncan’s plan from day one to close 5,000 schools across the nation. The R.I. school and its teachers are just another victim. He has no background in education. He would have no idea how to fix a school, so he plan is if he doesn’t like the test scores, close it. His Race to the Top program–google it, please–is nothing but a bribe, an attempt to get school districts to sign off on his incompetent education agenda.

Arne Duncan = Rod Paige

February 24th, 2010
10:42 pm

Arne Duncan = Rod Paige

Duckman

February 24th, 2010
11:54 pm

This is surgery with a chain saw. Most critics of teachers have never spent significant time in the classroom. It is like they ride on an airliner, so now they are experts in flying one. Sure there’s bad teachers, but in the poorest of districts, there are many good (great) ones who are fighting the good fight in a society in decline.

The logic of Obama’s sidekick Arnie is flawed. So fire all the teachers. What good teacher in their right mind will seek out this school or any of the other 5% lower performing? And if we want highly qualified teachers, how do we attract the best people we can to the profession if we constantly demonize it?

Chris

February 25th, 2010
9:08 am

Please this is so dumb. Just fire everyone. Do they really believe all the teachers were bad. Why would anyone apply for those positions.

wrench

February 25th, 2010
9:14 am

While most of you are critical of teachers consider this: education begins at home in a child’s formative years. Problems teachers face are lack of respect and lazy students unwilling to learn. This is due to lack of proper parenting and until that changes don’t expect much change in the classroom. Arne Duncan should mention this fact, but then again he is just another political hack.

Alice

February 25th, 2010
11:22 am

This situation should not applauded in any way. Firing all the teachers, counselors, etc. will not fix this problem. With a 48% dropout rate, to blame the teachers for that is ridiculous. What happened before they hit high school? This is a social economical problem. Teachers are not necessarily highly paid- this is always attacked without facts. Their benefits are being attacked like everyone now because of the economy. They are continually faced with behavorial problems, lack of respect for adults, addictions, without even touching upon the security safety issues with regard to student shootings, etc. Some teachers stay late every day and work at home. Poor parenting is a big issue here and children are having children. What were the people in charge of these teachers doing while this was all going on and for how long? Administrators and Superintendents earn really high salaries – and just when does accountability come into play here. When are we finally going to make supervisors ACCOUNTABLE? And what about the cost involved to get the education to do these jobs. Colleges are increasing the cost of education every year about 6% per year. You think making $40,000 – $50,000 before taxes is going to cut it in this economy when the cost of everything is going way up. For the Federal Government to applaud this is wrong. The whole No Child Left Behind has never worked and that should be revamped. Teachers are told to teach to the test – obviously this is not working to the best interest of our youth.

Tom

February 25th, 2010
2:58 pm

It is not No Child Left Behind that needs to be revamped. NCLB is just one in a series of bad and usually overdue reauthorizations of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which really was a good idea. Its central purpose was to support, not tear down, schools for needy children. ESEA’s reauthorization is three years overdue already (five years from the 2002 President’s signing of NCLB).NCLB was overdue because Clinton didn’t want his name on it. NCLB is a clever title for a law that is the exact opposite of what it claims: It is about nothing but standards and standardized test scores and thus has nothing to do with the individual child. Let’s hope the next ESEA is better, but don’t hold your breath because Duncan’s plan is NCLB with steroids.

Philosopher

February 25th, 2010
6:27 pm

wrench: how incredibly silly! All parents are not bad parents, just as all teachers are not bad teachers. All of today’s edcuation ills cannot be placed at the feet of parents (and aren’t MOST teachers parents, too?). Yeah, it’s so easy to blame parents…until you are honest enough to realize that the MAJORITY of parents take what they are given and attempt to do what is best for their kids. They may be flawed and they may not succeed, and they may even have differing opinions about raising kids than you do, but that IS what parents are about (again, MOST parents). We need to stop the blame game, look objectively at the real issues and be willing to throw out the what doesn’t work-even if it is everything!- and start over if necessary.

Why pay Gallo?

February 25th, 2010
7:18 pm

Did Gallo fired herself for lack of leadership? No!

Gallo wanted the teachers to work 1 extra hour per day, 2 (6 hours) saturdays a month, and 2 weeks in July? The rate of pay was going to be $30.00 per hour?

Was she going to adjust her superintendent salary to $30 beyond her regualr hours as well?

[...] teachers’ union over compensation for extra duties the District demanded.  The move received an enthusiastic endorsement from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a more subdued endorsement from the President (which, [...]