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Does anyone know how to teach 9th grade English?

Central Falls School Superintendent Frances Gallo fired a total of 94 teachers, administrators and assistants on Feb. 22 because of poor student performance.

With a graduation rate of less than 50 percent and abysmal standardized testing scores, Gallo implemented the “turnaround” model of reform or, the removal of all staff.

The firings come after the teachers’ union rejected six conditions Gallo presented to improve the school.  Those conditions were: extending the school day by 25 minutes, requiring teachers to tutor students weekly for one hour before or after school, eating lunch with students once a week, undergoing more rigorous evaluations, meeting once a week for 90 minutes to discuss education and planning, and attending two weeks of paid professional development in the summer.

Other than the professional development, extra compensation did not accompany the proposed conditions.

“I am saddened and shaken at the core by the enormous ramifications of my responsibilities,” Gallo said. “The only solace I have is that I know I provided every opportunity possible, in fully public and transparent ways, the means to avoid this.”

Has she?  Is there no other way to remedy the situation? The superintendent was asking for about five more hours of the teachers’ week without offering any additional pay.  An agreement could have been reached had she been willing to compromise on reasonable compensation.

Teacher Shelia Lawless-Burke said it is not necessarily about the pay but about the rigid stance of the superintendent on cooperation.  “It’s all about the politics,” she said, “about making Fran Gallo look good. The issue is having the right to negotiate. Once we allow the superintendent to get her foot in the door, where will it stop?”

Of the approximated 1000 students, only 55 percent are skilled at reading and seven percent are proficient at math.  When student performance is this awful, something should be done. But is it solely the fault of teachers, as Gallo believes?

“Where are the parents?” Beatriz Rosa, parent of a 14-year-old Central Falls freshman said. “I think the parents are half responsible for what’s going on.”

Rosa said parents are just as accountable for student performance as teachers.  She also said that she frequently sees high school students wandering around downtown during the day.

It is a common misconception that teachers are solely responsible for the accomplishments, or lack thereof, of students.  A closer look at parents and the students themselves is required.  “It’s not fair,” said mother, Angela Perez. “They shouldn’t be punished because the students are lazy.” Sometimes kids just don’t want to learn.

Blame is incredibly easy to place on someone else.  Gallo demonstrates this to the highest extreme.  She has been superintendent of the district for only three years and is already making ridiculous changes.  She needs to take a good look at the consequences of her actions.  While improvement of the struggling school is important, it is likely the students will suffer.

“It’s sad,” said Jessica Lemur, a senior. “They stay when we need help. They love us. I was shocked when I heard the rumors.”

  1. Gsim says:

    A final note: When you self-identify as a liberal and have a plan to make the world better you should always ask yourself:

    “Will expanding the government actually solve this problem?” You must learn to control your innate reflex that more government is always the answer.

    Anyway, the wasted time in school is a failure of the parents and students. A motivated student can learn from a terrible teacher. I did it all term in general physics. No help from Uncle Sam at all (aside from some grants/loans).

  2. Gsim says:

    Yeah, more institutionalization of youth is definitely what America needs. The k12 education is a waste of time for the vast majority of attendees.

    I can’t image why you would want to extend the school year and school day. No matter how many hours or years you have you’ll never teach a, uninterested retard calculus. No amount of effort or money is going to teach a pig to sing.

    Other countries, such as Japan and India, already do this. All the stupid, unmotivated and poor children don’t get to go to school (sweatshops or suicide).

    FInally, there is way more to life than the three Rs. American children spend plenty of time in school buildings, the time spent there is just mostly wasted.

  3. ben says:

    I’m solidly liberal and all those proposals from the superintendent seem not only reasonable but good ideas. The problem with the education system is that the calendar is still based on olden times when kids needed to have the summers off to harvest the crops. I’m not saying eliminate the break entirely, but the school year and day can definitely be extended. Take a look at how much kids in Japan and India study and you’ll understand a big reason why the United States is becoming less competitive.

    Oh, and shitty parents are a far bigger part of the equation than bad teachers. If most parents even remotely took their role as parents seriously, we wouldn’t have such high dropout rates.

  4. Betz says:

    Its not that it was JUST one condition (ie, the evaluations) but all six of those conditions. Teachers already do an ENORMOUS amount of work for the compensation they receive, which is peanuts compared to the salaries of other master’s-degree holders.

    School administrators have always been out of touch with the reality that teacher’s face daily. More than half of my family relatives are teachers, and so I hear about their troubles that they have with administrative staff and superintendents. It very well might have been that there was simply no money to compensate the teachers for the extra work that they were being asked to provide, but firing all the teachers on an ultimatum is hardly cooperation.

  5. Megan says:

    OMFG, I want to teach 9th grade English! Two more years til I’ll have a credential though.

    …I’m really sleep-deprived and totally got excited when I saw the title. The story is sad and that supe is on a major power trip.

    But it’s not exactly true that it wouldn’t cost their time. They couldv’e taken the evaluation. Not that big a deal.

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