Central Falls Redux

February 26, 2010 | Blog

I have to side with Rick Hess over Andy Rotherham on the question of whether the mass firing of teachers at Rhode island’s Central Falls High School is a portend of things to come. In yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor story, Hess calls the situation in Central Falls “a canary in a coal mine.” In a blog post yesterday, Rotherham calls is “a bogus trend story.”

“This will be a canary in the coal mine,” says Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Such dramatic moves are likely to multiply as “an increasing crop of no-excuses superintendents and state commissioners” take the view that “it’s essential to clean house” to improve persistently failing schools, he says.

This Rhode Island high school situation sure seems like a bogus trend story. Turnarounds may be a trend but really dramatic moves like this seem pretty anomalous. That whale in Florida killing people seems like a more common trend than schools firing all the teachers en masse. — Eduwonk

In a Tweet this morning, Alexander Russo sardonically notes that “‘mass layoff’ sounds so much worse than school ‘closing’ or school ‘turnaround’ tho they’re all the same thing.” Indeed.

This morning word comes from the Providence Journal blog that teachers will appeal their firings. No surprise there.

Related Post: Rhode Island District Fires All Of Its High School Teachers (2/25/2010)

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UPDATE: President Obama comments on Central Falls in his prepared remarks before the America’s Promise Alliance Education Event on March 1, 2010 (via TWIE, via D_Aarons).

“If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability. And that’s what happened in Rhode Island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests — 7 percent.”


3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Tom Hoffman

    February 26, 2010

    The difference is that Central Falls is a tiny, high-poverty, urban district (kind of like a township in apartheid South Africa) in a state where teacher contracts may or may not have become un-binding in the past couple years (nobody really knows yet).

    If you're teaching in that kind of situation, you have reason to worry.

  2. Reply

    Liam Goldrick

    February 26, 2010

    Good question, Alexander, particularly from a media coverage standpoint. I think, Tom, in part, answers it. RI ed commish Deborah Gist has pushed a number of reforms to traditional teacher contract issues, such as placements, tenure and transfers. I have to wonder whether some of that state policy background -- plus her aggressive stance on school turnaround -- along with demands for stronger action re: school turnarounds from Team Duncan have changed the landscape?

    Partially tipping point and partially changed political/policy context?

    More here:
    http://eduoptimists.blogspot.com/2009/12/rhode-island-targets-teacher.html

    And here: http://www.projo.com/news/content/race_to_the_top_draft_12-21-09_EFGR799_v38.3a6f447.html

  3. Reply

    Tom Hoffman

    February 27, 2010

    To be a little more specific... if a school is reconstituted in Chicago or New York or Providence, there's at least a sub job or slot in the ATR pool for everyone. In Central Falls, you're just fired. There's nowhere else to go teach in CF. And now you're going to start shopping around your resume with 15 years teaching in Central Falls.


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