Judgment at Central Falls Part 1
I have no intention of making this blog an apologist for everything that teachers or their unions. I’ll admit that like all professions teachers have their own bad apples. However, when I see a lot of people lose their jobs and every news source in America applaud their firing, I feel obligated to dig just a tad further. Such, is the case of the mass firing of the entire 74 member faculty and administration at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island.
The facts were spelled out in a very tidy little email that was sent out to many blogs by “Jason”. Here’s his email:
As I’m sure you’re aware, Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Central Falls is one of the poorest towns in the state. It looks like the pictures everyone’s seen of Detroit or Flint. There are lots of boarded up windows, abandoned buildings, decrepit factories with broken windows, etc. It’s an absolutely depressed community. According to Wikipedia, the median income in the town is $22k.
Teacher salaries at the high school average $72-78k. Apparently 50% of the students at the school are failing all of their classes, and the graduation rate is also under 50%. In an effort to turn the school around, the superintendent requested some changes be made whereby the school day would be slightly extended, teachers would perform some extra tutoring, etc.
The union balked and refused the terms, so now she is firing the entire teaching staff of the high school and replacing them. This is yet another example of unions digging their own graves by refusing to negotiate or accept reasonable terms. Sentiment is on the side of the superintendent, at least among the folks I have discussed the issue with.
Jason was apparently very busy. His email was printed in Mike Sheldock’s Global Economic Trend Analysis which then was used by pundits in the media to bash the lazy teachers. I love the irony of a writer using a nearly anonymous email, which credits Wikipedia as a source in an attempt to decry anybody else for being lazy. Let’s face it, there are a lot of letters in http://www.google.com. At first, I had a hard time even finding the article because the first source I saw was Mark Whittington who is working very hard to put the Ass in Associated Content. While bemoaning the lazy teachers and their bloodthirsty union, he can’t even get the name of the town right. After all, as teachers they must be lazy and as union members they must be blood thirsty.
Are the teacher’s lazy? Well, to start at let’s look at the school. I dug up the NECAP results for the school. To begin with, I don’t find standardized tests to be the best indicator of teaching. Alfie Kohn and others have shown with very thorough research that other than measuring parental income, they aren’t terribly useful. However, I kept hearing about how terrible the test scores were and decided to look for myself.
In 2005-2006 the 7th grade students who fed into the high school achieved the following results on their 7th grade NECAP test for reading:
0% – Proficient with Distinction
22% – Proficient
36% – Partially Proficient
42% – Substantially Below Proficient
In 2009-2010 when many of those same 7th graders had moved to 11th grade, they achieved the following scores:
8% – Proficient with Distinction
47% – Proficient
29% – Partially Proficient
15% – Substantially Below Proficient
I didn’t cherry pick that data. I looked at reading because math is really limited to one or two classes a day, while most classes impact a student’s reading skills. I chose the years I chose because high schoolers are tested in 11th grade and that was the easiest way to track the same group of students. There are some flaws in this methodology, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming that when you go from 22% proficient students to 55% proficient students in 5 years, you’re making amazing progress.
I do put more stock in what the students and their families have to say, let’s take a look at who was quoted in the newspapers:
“They are very sweet,” said André Monteiro, 19, a senior. “They help us out and get the job done. They treat us with respect.”
“It’s not fair,” said Angela Perez, who has a daughter at the high school. “They shouldn’t be punished because the students are lazy.”
“The teachers care so much,” said Perez’s daughter, Ivannah Perez, a recent Central Falls graduate. “I’ve seen them stay after school. I’ve seen them struggle. It’s the students. They don’t want to learn.”
“It’s sad,” said Jessica Lemur, another senior. “They stay when we need help. They love us. I was shocked when I heard the rumors.”
Those quotes are from the Providence Journal, but it still doesn’t stop the majority of the comments below the article from complaining that the teachers are lazy and don’t care about their students.
“What you are doing is wrong,” said Kelyn Salazar, a junior, said. “After all they have done for us, it’s not fair. They are pushing me to reach my potential. As a freshman, I didn’t care. Now, I’m an honors student.”
“Very seldom have I heard students say how much their teacher demands of them or how hard they have to work,” she said. “When my daughter was in eighth grade, she was told that she could become a hairdresser. I asked her, ‘What about becoming a professor, an engineer, a teacher?’ They never mentioned those.”
Of course, 8th grade isn’t in high school so I have to wonder if the child is more intelligent than the parent. Even the Providence Journal pointed out that, “Perhaps the most vocal opponents of Gallo’s plan were the students, who couldn’t understand why Gallo was taking away the teachers they loved.”
So all the students were supportive of the teachers, right? Shouldn’t that count for something? Not all the students backed the teachers. A group of 20 students held a protest supporting the firing of the teachers. They were part of Providence’s Young Voices–a group that is backed by groups like drug company Merck. They’re from 5 miles away from Central Falls and though they’re not from the town in question, they’re two handlers shrewdly got them on camera. The students’ conclusion? We don’t know these teachers personally, but we’re sure they’re lazy. They will be the focus of Part 2 of this little morality play.
[Part 2 continues with a look at Young Voices]Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Firing Teachers, Teachers Unions comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.