Fire the teachers? When schools fail, it may work

Ray Henry
AP/Washington Examiner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — When all the teachers were fired from Central Falls High School last week in a sweeping effort at school reform, their superintendent gave them a taste of the accountability President Barack Obama says is necessary.

It is a strategy that has been used elsewhere, such as in Chicago and Los Angeles. But while there have been some improvements in test scores, schools where most teachers have been replaced still grapple with problems of poverty and discipline. Even advocates of the approach say firing a teaching staff is just one of several crucial steps that must be taken to turn around a school.

Central Falls teachers have appealed the firings and both they and the administration are now indicating a willingness to go back to the table to avoid mass firings. Teachers say wholesale firings unfairly target instructors who work with impoverished children who have been neglected for years.

“We believe the teachers have been scapegoated here,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said of the Central Falls firings this week.

In Rhode Island, the state education commissioner earlier ordered Central Falls authorities to make radical improvements in a city where more children live in poverty than anywhere else in the state. Eleventh graders tested at the school in the fall had a 7 percent passing rate in math. Fewer than half of the school’s students graduate in four years.

Obama referred to the Central Falls firings as an example of accountability during an education speech Monday in Washington.

The article continues at the Examiner.

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