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If we needed any more proof that the Obama Administration is going to be just as clueless as the Bush Administration was when it comes to improving our nation’s schools, we received the topper this week from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
When Duncan praised the school board of the Central Falls, R. I. School District for firing all of its high school teachers, he was putting the stamp of approval on a feel-good, no-nonsense solution that not only will not help Central Falls High School, but will steer the children on a direct path toward failure
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The board members were “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids,” Duncan said, apparently without taking a close examination of just what that action means for those same kids he thinks the board is helping.

Of course, Duncan has to take that stance since it is the administration’s policy that pushed the school board into that decision.

“In order to remain eligible for a portion of financial aid,” a CBS News article on the firings says, “the Central Falls district had to either come up with a strategy to improve with its existing teaching staff or start from scratch.”
After early negotiations with union officials failed, the board took the easy way out, fired everyone, and started anew with a blank slate.

What a fine message to send to our young people, and to the country as a whole, as we continue to struggle through a recession- if we don’t get our way, everybody goes and we have to hire a completely new staff- with absolutely no guarantees that the new staff will be any better equipped than the old staff to handle the problems at Central Falls High School. Meanwhile, qualified teachers, and there can be absolutely no doubt that the axe fell on many qualified teachers, are pounding the pavement looking for work.

When the Obama Administration and school officials embrace an all-or-nothing strategy, they are following the same bankrupt thinking that so-called educational reformers like Michelle Rhee in Washington, D. C.- closing schools and firing teachers, without rhyme nor much of a reason, does not necessarily translate into a better education for our children.

Much of the problem has been brought about by the refusal of educational unions to cleanse their ranks of incompetent and immoral teachers.

When unions allow teachers to languish in so-called “rubber rooms” in our largest cities, when they have been accused of having sex with students or when they have been proven to be totally incompetent in the classroom, or when they allow these same teachers to be passed from one school to another, they provide the ammunition for public school enemies like former 20/20 anchor and now Fox Business News reporter John Stossel, who hammers public education at every turn.

Allowing just one of these teachers to remain in a classroom, or for that matter to remain on the taxpayers’ dole, is enough to give Stossel, All Children Matter, and the rest of the educational voucher contingent free rein to indict every public school in the United States. It is wrong, but when we don’t take strong action to police our own ranks, we are handing those who want to destroy public education a loaded weapon.
Teachers who have room for improvement and who are willing to work to better themselves need encouragement and mentoring. Teachers who are thoroughly incompetent or morally bankrupt need to be shown the door and not given another year to damage impressionable children.

That being said, a policy that encourages school boards to fire everyone or lose federal funding is as lazy and incompetent as any of the teachers John Stossell and the voucher supporters trumpet (with nearly slanderous abandon) as indicative of all public school teachers.

When you sweep out all teachers, including the ones who have given their all and who have succeeded with countless children, you are not improving schools, you are hastening the destruction of public education.

Originally posted to rturner229 on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 05:38 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I Want To Be Careful Here (5+ / 0-)

    I feel like my liberal leanings are pretty strong. But one topic where I tend to maybe differ is related to how teachers are handled in public schools. Of course I realize it is a complex topic. I mean a teacher can only do so much. They can't force a child to attend school, pay attention, do their homework. I am also not a fan of standardized tests.

    However, with that said teachers may be one of the only professions I am aware of where performance and meeting the goals and objectives of management isn't how pay and job security is determined.

    So I do think many teachers need to be fired if they can't perform, while others that do needs raises. I just can't believe there isn't one teacher in that RI school that wasn't doing a good job. To just fire them all is stupid. Makes no sense. Not even sure how it could be legal.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 05:46:30 AM PST

    •  Not all Central Falls teachers were incompetent (5+ / 0-)

      You hit it right on the head. There was no way that every teacher in that district is incompetent. Get rid of the bad teachers, but don't fire the good ones and then claim you have improved the school.

      •  Overall I have to agree (3+ / 0-)

        We've chosen to homeschool our kids to give them a progressive education.  We move around a lot and we live near military bases and, often, very conservative areas with conservative schools.

        But I've always told my kids that there is no such thing as a bad school.  There are bad teachers and good teachers.  And both can teach you something; the lesson may not be what the school wants you to learn, but the lessons are there.

        It's crazy to fire an entire school.  

        Glenn Beck wants to Restore Your Honor... do something.

        by angelajean on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 05:56:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I Don't Even Know How It Is Legal (3+ / 0-)

        I mean doesn't there have to be a reason for termination? How do they justify firing the PE teacher cause their math scores or low? The French teacher (which I saw interviewed the other day) cause science scores are lacking?

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

        by webranding on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 05:57:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  A question (0+ / 0-)

        Is this your school district are you a RI resident? Do you actually know how the school was performing before the firings?

        Do you know what discussions were had with the union? Was there some attempt to do some evaluation so that all would not be fired and the union said no? The teachers union while necessary can sometimes dig it heels in when it should be pushing.

        In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

        by jsfox on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 06:15:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Again from the ProJo (3+ / 0-)

          Duncan is requiring states, for the first time, to identify their lowest 5 percent of schools...and fix them using one of four methods: school closure; takeover by a charter or school-management organization; transformation which requires a longer school day, among other changes; and "turnaround" which requires the entire teaching staff be fired and no more than 50 percent rehired in the fall....

          Gallo and the teachers initially agreed they wanted the transformation model, which would protect the teachers’ jobs....

          Gallo wanted teachers to agree to a set of six conditions she said were crucial to improving the school. Teachers would have to spend more time with students in and out of the classroom and commit to training sessions after school with other teachers.

          But Gallo said she could pay teachers for only some of the extra duties. Union leaders said they wanted teachers to be paid for more of the additional work and at a higher pay rate — $90 per hour rather than the $30 per hour offered by Gallo.

          After negotiations broke down, Gallo said she no longer had confidence the high school could be transformed and instead recommended the turnaround model.

        •  Again, all of them are not incompetent (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron

          I am far away from Rhode Island, but in the middle of America, we don't fire every person in a subpar institution. We weed out the bad ones and start the rebuilding process with the good ones.

          •  Did I say they were? (0+ / 0-)

            I tend not to hit the outrage button before I know all the facts.

            And to Burrow Owl thanks for the additional info. Now the question is was this a ploy to circumvent the union (like that has never happened before) and many of the fired teachers will be hired right back.

            In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

            by jsfox on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 06:36:14 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  We have our PEMAS- Evaluations. There (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron

      is a shortage. There is a lot of continuity (same teachers sticking around at some schools), but in inner city schools teachers leave left and right.

      It's better if teachers get established at schools. They become more effective. Of course, if they are bad teachers, they should continue with all of our professional development training (we get tons of that). And if they are simply unfit, then they should be let go.

      In this case, barring evidence of being unfit, teachers should be returning.

  •  Until you've actually been in the classroom, you (8+ / 0-)

    really can't understand the almost impossible task teachers face today.  Not only are they mandated to skew all their instuction twards improving standardized test scores, they are placed in the position of having to create "individualized instruction" for students in their class who have diagnosed learning disabilities ranging from ADHD to autism to impulse and anger control issues, because their parrents insist they be mainstreamed.  So the teacher ends up spending 50% or more of their instructional time on classroom control.  The kids who are their to learn get short shrift.  The kids who need individual attention and should be in a setting where they can get it, suck up all the teachers resources - and every time little Johnny gets a C an angry parent blames the teacher for nor teaching their kid "well enough."  No matter what happens in the classroom, it's always the teacher's fault.  My heart goes out to the fired RI staff.  I know they were going above and beyond the call, and the thanks they get is being told thier not good enough.

    I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. ~Albert Einstein

    by Civil Writes Activist on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 05:55:54 AM PST

    •  mainstreamed special needs kids (6+ / 0-)

      My school district did away with resource classes (the separate special ed classrooms where they go to get that individualized attention) and pushed all kids into mainstream classes due to NCLB requirements.  For me and my son, it was a disaster.

    •  as a teacher, I echo those sentiments. One quibbl (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ccasas

      quibble:

      I know they were going above and beyond the call, and the thanks they get is being told thier not good enough.

      thier is the wrong word. It should not be their.

      Rather, it should be they are.

      For some reason, we all (ie you, me, educated people with college degrees) make so many of these mistakes, many of them having to do with phonetic spelling [thinks and things are commonly confounded when we all know the difference between the two].

      I do this myself a lot and it frustrates me. My mom was an English teacher. And I see others do this quite a bit as well.

      Since this was an educational diary and a post about education, I thought that I might mention it.

      Again, I make the same mistakes all the time.
      So, I do it too. I'm not trying to be hypercritical and if you feel I was, let me know - I will apologize.

      peace

      robert

    •  My son is mainstreamed. He does not suck up (2+ / 0-)

      50% of the teacher's resources in terms of time and energy.  In our school district, he has a part-time aide whose job it is to help his teacher.  When the teacher sees that our son's special needs are going to disrupt class time on a particular day, he gets sent to the aide, who works with him on an individual basis.  (Sometimes she has two or three kids at a time in there with her working on a so-called "individual basis," and from what I have seen, they all distract each other and sometimes don't get much individual attention.)  That woman's abilities are amazing, and she is fabulous with the kids given the limited resources the district provides her.  But it has been a team effort where all of us work together to help him get what he needs-- the teacher, the aide, the principal, and the parents.  

      From where I'm sitting, I think that mainstreaming is great for general classrooms.  The other kids in the class need to learn that there are all kinds of people in the world, and learn to accommodate them.  In my son's cohort, there is a profoundly deaf girl who from first grade has had a school district-provided interpreter in the classroom with her.  Every piece of instruction and every minute of every day this woman is in the classroom up front near the teacher or among the kids interpreting in sign language for this girl.  The teachers have had to learn to integrate this into the class day, just as they've had to learn to integrate our son's differences into the day.  And what is wrong with that?  

      Look, I know it would be easier from the point of view of the teachers and from the point of view of some other kids in the room if there weren't these annoying, differently-abled kids in there.  How inconvenient that people of different abilities are put in the middle of everyone else who is perfect.  It's just such a drag when everything isn't perfect and normal and controllable.  I know I am sounding sarcastic here, but I also do partly sympathize.  However, as the parent of a disabled kid, ultimately I have to say that my patience is limited with people who expect their kids to have an optimal, perfect experience with no distractions in public school classrooms.  If that's what you want, be proactive about it with three options.  1) Move to a district where there are lots of resources and the right kind of staffing for that, and be willing to pay the taxes and fees required to make it possible for your district to put those things in place; 2) send your kid to private school; or 3) get on the school board to try to change the regulations governing how classrooms are to handle differently abled mainstreamed kids, to the extent that federal law would permit.

      •  As long as there's a different class for the (2+ / 0-)

        smarter kids, I don't have a problem w/ mainstreaming.

        •  My son is in the gifted program for language, and (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Civil Writes Activist

          so he spends an hour every day out of the classroom for language arts in the gifted center.  There is one other differently-abled kid in that gifted cohort with him.  Both of them have a part-time aide in that center whose job it is to help them deal with their social and behavioral needs, so that they might get the most out of the gifted education they need.  They are fully a part of the class, and participate fully.  It's working pretty well except that my son resents being different, and I do know that sometimes his disability slows his group down for group work.  Well, okay.  Again, that's life.  When these smart kids grow up they are going to have to learn to deal with cases of coworkers or team members who don't pull their weight at the same speed.  In the gifted classroom, the rules are firm:  if you slow your group down, you get points taken off individually. That is also like life.  I think it's a good learning experience for all the kids that he's mainstreamed in gifted, too.

        •  right - in your dreams and mine. (0+ / 0-)

          I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. ~Albert Einstein

          by Civil Writes Activist on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 08:35:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I echo that sentiment (2+ / 0-)

        I have had dozens of children mainstreamed into my classrooms and they have not been any kind of burden at all.

      •  to you points: (0+ / 0-)

        aides or additional help in the classroom are absent in many cash-strapped districts

        move to another district - may need to go hundred if not thousands of miles to find one, give up job, sell house at a loss - not feasable for most

        private school - who has the money?

        get on the school board - huge commitment of time and money tha the average person does not have to spare.

        that said - Physically disabled kids are almost never a probllem in the classroom - emotionally disabled are the time sinks/ disrupters

        I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. ~Albert Einstein

        by Civil Writes Activist on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 08:34:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  again, pardon the typos - I'm a lousy typist (0+ / 0-)

          I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. ~Albert Einstein

          by Civil Writes Activist on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 08:35:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  My child has autism. It's a social learning (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Civil Writes Activist

            disability.  The general classroom is EXACTLY where he needs to be to have any chance at all of applying the skills he learns in behavioral therapy.  He's in 4th grade now.  When he entered school in first grade, everyone cringed at the start of every day (including us).  No one knew what to expect from him.  He was erratic, often aggressive, and constantly frustrated.  He was much more difficult behaviorally than he is now, three years later, after constant exposure to what other kids do around him in school.

        •  to you points, back at ya: (0+ / 0-)

          in a cash-strapped district but long for an aide:  if your state or county has a Mental Retardation/Disability Department, you may qualify for a state/county-funded aide for your child, as a means of compensating for lack of school district funds

          move to another district-- many people have done this; it depends on the will of the parents to make a difference for their child.  And if it's not possible, then, well, it is one of those things in life (like many things) that is just not perfect

          private school-- you're right, we certainly didn't have the money to send our kid to a private school.  We live in a good school district and we pay high property taxes for that.  Given our child's disability, we would NEVER live in a cash-strapped district, because he has needs that we need to get assistance for, from a public school.  If your child isn't disabled but you seek to avoid having your kid in class with differently-abled kids, and if you don't have the money for private school, then you might have to think creatively

          Get on the school board-- you're right, the average person doesn't have time to spare that.  But if you're desiring an above-average public school classroom experience for your child, you'll probably have to commit above-average amounts of time and energy to helping your child gain such an experience

          Peace to you

  •  excellent diary. This is an area where I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, Dirtandiron

    don't see eye to eye with Obama (education). High stakes testing is my primary concern as an educator. And supporting other schools is giving up on public school. I haven't read anything good (from a teacher's point of view) about Arne Duncan [except he plays basketball well ].

    Thanks again for the diary.
    Well done!

  •  asdf (5+ / 0-)

    So,,,,,

    Logically........

    Since the state Legislature shares in the failure of the educational system..........

    they should, en masse, be fired. Immediately?

    Sign me up!!!

    I am now officially BOYCOTTING all SIEMENS products - until I am no longer forced to watch their commercials on DailyKOS!!

    by GayIthacan on Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 06:01:42 AM PST

  •  oops. Arne Duncan? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron

    Duncan seems like a clown to me. Can anybody explain to me why he was appointed Secy of Ed?

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