Education Policy & Practice

Teachers and Students Lose, again.

Posted on: March 2, 2010

I was listening to my local NPR station this morning, as part of my usual routine.  The host, Steve Inskeep, talked about the controversial mass firing of educators a local high school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, effective at the end of the school year.  Apparently, only 7% of juniors scored proficient on the state math assessment.  The high school’s population is majority Hispanic, where more than 30% of students speak English as a second language.

Despite the fact that all teachers were fired, up to 50% can be rehired.  One teacher, who said she’s been at the school for more than 20 years, said that what people don’t seem to realize is that the kids come to school with significant challenges and that poverty is a major culprit – cue the violin.  A senior added that she thought canning the teachers was unfair and that the teachers care and have formed bonds with the students – then she cried.

What is the best remedy?  I don’t think a mass firing is the right thing to do, although I must admit that the impulsive side of me thinks that decision is spot on.  Certainly, whatever the “formula” is at Central Falls High School has unequivocally failed.  I am still trying to comprehend a 7% passing rate on a state math assessment.  I don’t care – really I don’t – about the composition of the student body.  Why? Because whatever the composition, I believe the adults should adjust.

So, you have a significant number of students whose first language isn’t English, then adjust your strategies to address that.  And “oh we have a lot of poor kids.”  So what?  Poor kids are learning in other places.  I am not suggesting that when the rubber meets the road everything will be magical.  But what I am suggesting, is that building level staff, district officials, public administrators, state education officials and state administrators (here and everywhere) need to do what is right for kids.  And what is not right, is allowing (or enabling) a school staff, including the principal, to continue welcoming students to a sinking ship, a burning building, or <insert any other imagery that makes sense to you>.

I think the situation in Central Falls is sad.  I don’t know the intimate details about the context of this situation, so please take my above comments more as general statements about schools in a similar position, and not as an attack or criticism of those precious souls entangled in a situation that not a single one of them created.   Perhaps some students are lazy, disengaged, or otherwise not willing to learn.  Perhaps parents are not parenting.  Maybe teachers have written some of these kids off as failures. Students still deserve a superior education and sincere effort from all those involved.  I hope you see that this is not just an education issue.  The problems we see manifesting themselves in school are only symptomatic of what ails families, communities, and our entire country.

Read more:

Projo.com

Washington Post

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1 Response to "Teachers and Students Lose, again."

So here is my issue. They aren’t telling us how long these teachers have been working at the school, nor are they telling us the average increase in test scores year to year. What if 7% passing is up from 0%? Also, what if these teachers just started to work at the school in the last year or two? Do district administrators expect changes overnight?

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