It's About The Kids, Or Something

Just read:
Why not fire all the teachers?

Finally, a school system has decided to fire all of the educators at an ailing school.

Why didn’t we think about this sooner?

Firing some of them hasn’t really proven effective in turning around schools, has it? So why not get rid of all of them and start over?

That’s why the school committee in Central Falls, Rhode Island’s smallest and poorest city, voted to fire every educator at Central Falls High School at the end of the school year. They did this because about half of the school’s students graduate, and only 7 percent of 11th-graders were proficient in math in 2009.

At the committee meeting Tuesday night, 93 names were called for firing --74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists, guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the school psychologist, the principal and three assistant principals, according to the Providence Journal. Not one of them was good enough to stay.

Some of the teachers at the only high school in the city cried, but the committee held firm.

It’s no wonder that Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the move, saying the committee members were “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids.”

Courage, indeed.

Now, all they have to do is find 93 excellent professionals to take their places. Recruiting the best educators should be easy, especially when you can offer them life in a very poor town and a job with no security.

And, of course, the powers that be will have to ignore all the other influences on high school students because their poor performance was all about the adults at the high school.

Their elementary and middle school education -- or lack thereof? Not a problem.

Their sometimes difficult home lives? Naw. That doesn’t affect how a kid does at school.

No Child Left Behind, a federal education law that has driven schools to drastically narrow curriculum and use rudimentary standardized tests to measure how well kids are doing? Nope. Not an issue, nor is the fact that Duncan is largely continuing the NCLB practices that have been shown to be a failure.

Firing all the educators may sound bold to some, but it sounds sad and desperate -- not to mention ineffective -- to me.

There is no evidence that wholesale changes at schools makes a difference at schools, though it has been tried repeatedly in districts around the country -- even in Duncan’s Chicago public schools, which he ran for years before becoming education secretary.

As my colleague Nick Anderson noted in a Post story Duncan tried a lot of things during his more than seven years as Chicago chief: shutting down schools, hiring experts in turning around schools, and firing a lot of people. There results? To put it nicely, there was no Chicago miracle. Some schools improved, others didn’t.

That’s because grand gestures don’t work in improving schools. It would be nice if they did, but time and time again, we’ve learned they don’t. Making schools work is a hard, hard job. There is no one thing that you can blame; there is no single remedy that works for every school and school district.

Instead of trying to figure out where real changes could be made at Central Falls High, the powers that be there went ahead and did the desperate thing.

Let Duncan call them courageous. It sounds foolish to me. And the people who will most suffer? As usual, the kids.

h/t PPN

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