The controversy over the mass firings of the entire teaching staff at the lowest performing high school in Rhode Island, in Central Falls, has reached a new level with President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorsing the action by the superintendent.
The fact that the teachers union was demanding more pay for extra time and commitment led to this action by the top administrator of the school district. And certainly, the scholastic performance of the students is atrocious, with half the students failing every class, and only seven percent on the normal grade level in math!
But realize that a vast percentage of the students in the school and district are immigrant children who have a language barrier adding to their problems in performing well in school.
No one is saying that it is acceptable for students to do this poorly, and for no one to have accountability. But did it ever cross the President’s mind and that of the Education Secretary that there is also accountability on the part of students and parents?
Immigrants through many generations have had to deal with poverty and difficult times, but have achieved and accomplished through their own strength of character. To blame teachers en masse is unjustified and scapegoats them for the failures of students to commit themselves to learning, and also the importance of family involvement!
Certainly, it can be argued that teachers unions tend to protect inferior teachers, and that besmirches the many good and dedicated educators. There is an argument for periodic reassessment of teacher performances, but it should not be based solely on student performance, but rather on how teachers relate to students on a personal level. That is, are the teachers putting out efforts to educate, and are they sympathetic and caring in their personal approaches to their students?
If it is shown that a teacher is refusing to provide help to their students, and are antagonistic toward them and fail to fulfill the expectations we have of professionals in the classroom, then there are grounds for their removal, and tenure alone should not protect such inferior, incompetent teachers. But let’s not go ahead and endorse the mass firing of teachers in Rhode Island or elsewhere based on a power play by the superintendent, or the desire of conservatives to go after unions as an anti labor strategy!
Oh, and by the way, IF we truly want the best people in the classrooms all over the country, it is time to stop blaming them for societal ills and start compensating the “best and the brightest” so that we gain the best minds committed to the education of our future generations!
If we continue to go down this road of scapegoating and mass firings, it will only lead to more teachers leaving the profession, and therefore, furthering the decline in our educational system!
Treat teachers with dignity and respect, and insist on excellence and maximum effort, and you will gain much more than by using them as a political football, whether on the part of the Obama Administration or the conservative enemies of our education system!