Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins: Rhode Island School Firing: Was it Justified?

Rhode Island teacher firing exposes sorry state of our schools

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University


You don't have to go to college to know that America's educational system is as embarrassing as our bloated, expensive health care system. Such wide-scale dysfunction inevitably undermines the integrity of America's competitive future. The only thing more frightening than what we see today is the realization that the products of this system will eventually control the wealthiest, most powerful country on earth.

Some would argue that only radical change will improve the problems in our schools. Apparently, Frances Gallo, Superintendent of the Central Falls Rhode Island Public School System, got the memo. In a shocking move that has received national attention, Gallo instantly fired 93 teachers and other staff from Central Falls High school, a failing school with a 48 percent graduation rate.

The move was cheered by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said that school administrators are "showing courage and doing the right thing for kids." The decision also got the militant attention of teachers unions everywhere, who some believe to be standing in the way of education reform. As expected, many union leaders thought the move was outrageous, insensitive and hurtful to the student body.

Superintendent Gallo didn't have to use the "nuclear option" on Central Falls High School. She actually had four options provided to her by the Obama administration. She could have closed the school down completely or had it taken over by a charter school. She also could have "transformed" the school, with longer days and other demands placed on faculty and staff. Instead, she went with the "turnaround" option, giving her the authority to boot teachers out at her discretion.

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