Monday, March 08, 2010

School’s Shake-Up Is Embraced by the President

The fight in RI over Central Falls High School has become a huge national issue and was the subject of a big story in today's NYT.  Overall it's a well-done article, but in the opening sentence it makes the same mistake nearly every article makes: "A Rhode Island school board's decision to fire the entire faculty of a poorly performing school…"  This gives the reader two misleading impressions: 1) that only the teachers are being targeted; not true: EVERY ADULT in the school is affected; and 2) that everyone has lost their job, even the good teachers; also not true: as many as HALF of the people laid off can be rehired, so the good teachers will obviously be rehired.  When only 7% of the school's 11th graders are at grade level in math, it's open to question how many really good teachers there are at the school, but of course there are some and they will have a job next year.  Thus, a more accurate opening line would have been: "A Rhode Island school board's decision to require every adult at a poorly performing school to reapply for their jobs…"


Three cheers for Obama for standing strong here (and some great quotes from Mike Petrilli and Alex Johnston):

The decision by school authorities in Central Falls to fire the 93 teachers and staff members has assumed special significance because hundreds of other school districts across the nation could face similarly hard choices in coming weeks, as a $3.5 billion federal school turnaround program kicks into gear.

While there is fierce disagreement over whether the firings were good or bad, there is widespread agreement that the decision would have lasting ripples on the nation's education debate — especially because Mr. Obama seized on the move to show his eagerness to take bold action to improve failing schools filled with poor students.

"This is the first example of tough love under the Obama regime, and that's what makes it significant," said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, an educational research and advocacy organization.

"I think it's going to give some cover to other school boards and school superintendents around the country that want to do something similar," Mr. Petrilli said. "They can say the president of the United States, Barack Obama, someone the teachers voted for, supports us here to take some radical actions to shake up our schools."

…But neither the president nor Education Secretary Arne Duncan backed off his support for tough action, including dismissing teachers en masse, to improve learning conditions in chronically failing schools. At the high school in Central Falls, a poor community with a large immigrant population, only 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests last fall. And if the administration's posture was undermining its support among teachers, it was earning unusual praise from conservatives, as well as from supporters of an overhaul of the nation's schools.

"The administration is putting down a real marker here," said Alex Johnston, chief executive of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, a business-backed education advocacy group.


School's Shake-Up Is Embraced by the President

Published: March 6, 2010

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