Monday, March 08, 2010

Teacher unions challenged in unprecedented face-off

Here's an article in the local paper about what's going on in RI and the stakes:

"No one anticipated this. I'm not sure even the Obama administration anticipated that as a result of their regulations, there would be mass firings," said Marcia Reback, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers. "I think this resonates with teachers across the country. Everyone looks at this as establishing a national precedent."

Central Falls High School is ground zero in a battle between radical education change focused on the needs of students, and the hard-won labor rights that protect the jobs and working conditions of adults.

It's a fight with an uncertain outcome. Never has the power of the state's teacher unions been so directly challenged.

The futures of 800 students hang in the balance. Nearly all of them are poor. Many speak languages other than English at home.

Only 1 in 10 can perform the math expected of them. Just 55 percent read at grade level. More than half drop out, ill-equipped for good jobs or the opportunity to better their lot.

And it's been this way for years.

Gist had students like the ones in Central Falls in mind when, in January, the Obama administration offered states a new weapon to finally fix their worst schools. Gist grabbed it.

For the first time, Secretary Duncan tied "school improvement grants" that states receive annually to a commitment that they publicly identify their persistently lowest-performing schools and adopt one of four methods to reform them.

To sweeten the deal, Duncan pumped billions more in stimulus money into the school improvement grant program — $4 billion this year up from $546 million last year.

Rhode Island is poised to receive $12.5 million, up from $1.5 million last year.


Teacher unions challenged in unprecedented face-off

01:00 AM EST on Sunday, February 28, 2010

By Jennifer D. Jordan

Journal Staff Writer

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