The NYTimes ran a story with this misleading headline and byline:
A Vote to Fire All Teachers at a Failing High School
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — A plan to dismiss the entire faculty and staff of the only public high school in this small city just west of the Massachusetts border was approved Tuesday night at an emotional public meeting of the school board.
When the teachers failed to adopt a ‘transformation’ plan that included a modest lengthening of the day, the superintendent shifted to Plan B, what federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) call Turnaround, which requires that at least 50% of the staff be replaced. Under Rhode Island law, teachers must be notified of the potential for nonrenewal by March 20, hence the board vote and notices. All the teachers will have the opportunity to reapply, up to half will be rehired.
The hysteria is now reverberating on CNN and papers around the country. Central Falls may be an early example but there are thousands to come. As I began reporting in October, SIG will cause widespread urban disruption. But we’ll all need to be cautious to use language carefully and differentiate between ‘firing all the teachers’ and notifying them of the requirement to reapply for their positions.
Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s speech to the Madison Rotary:
Last Wednesday, Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on “What Wisconsin’s Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late.” 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).
Zimman’s talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin’s K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).