The Battle Of Central Falls

I’ve read the settlement agreement in Central Falls and my first reaction is WTF?

The teachers are getting their jobs back and the district is getting the reforms it wanted (which were pretty modest to begin with).  Good on both.  So can someone explain why it took months, why the President of the United States got involved, why we needed statements from the U.S. Secretary of Education, etc…to reach this point?  Good for Deb Gist for seeing this through but wow.  If this is going to be the norm for every personnel agreement involving a low-performing school we’d better lower our expectations…

22 thoughts on “The Battle Of Central Falls

  1. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    What President Obama, Arne Duncan and Deborah Gist learned from this experience is the fact that the American people will not stand for shabby treatment of its schoolteachers. Hopefully they also learned that nothing can be accomplished without the involvement and cooperation of the major stakeholders in any endeavor.

  2. Terpteacher

    I think what the American people have learned is that teachers (or teachers’ unions) are reluctant to change “business as usual” to support children’s learning unless their livelihoods are at stake. The mass firing came about because the union would not relent on modest, common sense reforms related to improving student outcomes despite the school’s abysmal performance. RI called their bluff. And we see who folded…

  3. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Yes, we DO see who folded. As I stated, it was politically impossible to go forward with the mass firings, despite the large number of people who applied for the jobs. Oh, how I would have loved to be a fly on the wall! From what I hear the president was bombarded with emails, letters and calls from every corner of the United States. And of course, our friends in other countries were having another big laugh at our expense. (Want to improve a school? Fire all the teachers!)

    “I think what the American people have learned is that teachers (or teachers’ unions) are reluctant to change ‘business as usual’ to support children’s learning unless their livelihoods are at stake.”

    This belief, shared by many (not most) citizens is, in my opinion, the reason why our schools are less than stellar. All countries with enviable school systems (South Korea, Japan, Finland) treat their teachers with the utmost gratitude and respect, bordering on reverance. Our educational problems are cultural and they run deep.

    Do you want to do your part to improve education? Say something nice about a teacher in front of your son, daughter, neighbor, friend, student. Who knows, he or she might want to become one.

  4. edlharris

    Let’s hear from students and a parent, ya know, the ones with a real stake in the school as it is their life, and not some intellectual venture:

    Senior Valerie Florez, who is set to graduate next month, said rehiring the teachers was a good idea.

    “It’s not the teachers’ fault that students don’t want to learn,” she said.

    Florez said she used to be one of those students who didn’t want to learn, skipping class and failing to do assignments, but her teachers helped her turn around.

    Jonathan Beltran, a 19-year-old freshman at Roger Williams University who graduated Central Falls High School last year, had helped organize rallies and protests in support of the teachers. Beltran, who hopes one day to return to Central Falls as a math teacher, said he was happy about the agreement.

    “I love the teachers at Central Falls,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. I want to work side by side with them.”

    Antony Restrepo, who has two stepdaughters at the school, said he wanted to see improvements if all the teachers are to be rehired. But he said he wasn’t sure that the problems were entirely the staff’s fault.

    “They just want to be in the streets,” he said of some students.

    (Amen to the Captcha code.
    The spam was becoming ridiculous, even when it was more on target than some comments.)

  5. edlharris

    Central Falls High School teachers negotiated their contract using collective bargaining. It was supposed to last from September 1, 2008 to August 31, 2011 when a new contract would be negotiated. It was in this environment that Superintendent Frances Gallo made her demands of the Central Falls teachers:

    Adding 25 minutes to the school day (unpaid)
    Eating lunch with the students once a week (This is lunchroom supervision. Policing a couple hundred high school students eating lunch is actually a difficult job)
    Having a formalized before and after school tutoring schedule (According to the students, the teachers are already doing this.)
    Attending weekly after school data management meetings with other teachers for 90 minutes(unpaid unless Gallo can “find” some money)
    Two weeks of training in the summer (Paid at $30 per hour)
    A new evaluation procedure, which would be more rigorous, but which was unspecified.
    An unwritten 7th demand is that Gallo wanted to be able to fire 1/5 of the teachers, “If I could change 20 percent of the teacher population, I believed I could make a significant change in the culture of the high school.”

  6. edlharris

    show Central Falls failing she doesn’t point out, on the 2009 NECAP reading scores (teaching year), Central Falls is right in the middle of the state’s large urban high schools. At 56% proficiency they are behind the lower-poverty ones (Tolman, 64%; Shea, 62%; Woonsocket, 60%), tied with The MET and Providence Academy for International Studies, and ahead of Central (51%), Hope Leadership (49%), Hope IT (47%), and Alvarez (44%) in Providence.

    The Hope schools are of particular note since they went through a “fire the teachers” restructuring process a few years ago.

  7. edlharris

    More data:
    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

  8. Terpteacher

    NO one thinks firing all teachers en mass is a good idea. But the status quo is a untenable. The fact that other schools in the region or nation are just a poorly performing or worse is not the point, either. The district got what it wanted – the contract.

    And please don’t tell me every teacher in that school is wonderful. There is variability in every school. Poor teachers matter. If they aren’t willing to engage in professional development and improve, they should be gone.

  9. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Let’s just go with the bottom line; the simplest English. Do you think the Central Falls teachers, demoralized and humiliated before the whole country (the world?) are going to do a better job in the fall? Do you think this district will attract the “best and the brightest” applicants; or do you think it will attract people who can’t get teaching jobs elsewhere? No, the citizens of RI did not “win.”

    We all seem to want better teachers. Well, here’s a tried and true method: Improve their working conditions, salaries and benefits and treat them with dignity, respect, and gratitude.

  10. Matthew Ladner

    Teacher unions are having a bad year:

    http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20100430/OPINION16/100429013/Ruben-Navarrette-Teacher-unions-are-overplaying-their-hand

    I suspect that they are going to have a worse decade. When the New Yorker runs quotes like “Randi Weingarten would fight to keep a dead body in the classroom” and Newsweek has a “We Must Fire Bad Teachers” cover story, it seems increasingly clear that there is a bipartisan consensus that we need far-reaching labor market reform in K12.

    This is why, I believe, President Obama and Secretary Duncan engaged on what otherwise would have been an insignificant local dispute: they understand how high the stakes are if we really want to improve outcomes.

  11. edlharris

    Too bad teacher unions couldn’t be abolished this very day.
    Then the US could Let a hundred flowers blossom.
    4&5s on AP
    2200~2400 SAT results
    100% proficient and advanced

  12. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Yes, let’s get rid of all those blankety-blank teachers and their unions and then we’ll finally have great schools!

    Well, if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry.

    There is one positive effect of this “consensus” though. At least we’re all getting some good insight into the cultural problems that have hampered K-12. Just reading the “get ’em” posts on this blogs explains it all.

    By the way, what is the relationship between the esteem we hold for our college professors (highest prestige of all US jobs) and the fact that our colleges and universities are among the best in the world?

  13. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    While eating lunch, I was thinking about what Ed Harris had to say about the parents, students and other ordinary citizens, and their role in the Central Falls fiasco:

    Deborah Gist, emboldened by powerful people (billionaires, the media, Arne Duncan) fired all the teachers when they refused to agree to a contract they didn’t like. Immediately President Obama indicated his approval and congratulated people for their “courage.” But then he began to hear from parents, students, teachers and their friends, relatives, neighbors. Within days (hours?) we heard the first indications of backpedaling (“Maybe some of the teachers will be rehired”). Next, there were “explanations” and “clarifications” from the president and his basketball buddy Duncan. Finally every one of the teachers is rehired! (Even I must admit that some of them must have been ineffective!) Now we’re finally talking about cooperation, collaboration and “meeting with the stakeholders.”

    With the involvement of teachers, we’ll get the improvements that we all want and we’ll get them without loss of taxpayer money. Look for significant reforms such as health care, infant monitoring, preschool, peer evaluation and support of teachers, higher standards for teachers (no “emergency” credentials), valid testing of students (no peeking!) a strong curriculum, social supports for our poorest children, public school vouchers, and other changes that we KNOW will benefit children. Ms. Gist, a former teacher with a dose of common sense, will be elevated to educational stardom because of her ability to “work with teachers” while the arrogant and obnoxious Michelle Rhee will quietly board a plane for Oakland.

    Yes, we WILL have improved education for all our children and it will be delivered by our nation’s parents and schoolteachers! It’s true that there is a “consensus” of powerful people trying to discredit our schools for personal gain, but the American people will not let that happen. That’s the lesson of Central Falls.

  14. edlharris

    Terpteacher Says:
    May 18th, 2010 at 6:59 am
    NO one thinks firing all teachers en mass is a good idea. But the status quo is a untenable.

    Do you teach at Central Falls?

    Here’s what 2 students from the school and a parent had to say:
    Senior Valerie Florez, who is set to graduate next month, said rehiring the teachers was a good idea.

    “It’s not the teachers’ fault that students don’t want to learn,” she said.

    Florez said she used to be one of those students who didn’t want to learn, skipping class and failing to do assignments, but her teachers helped her turn around.

    Jonathan Beltran, a 19-year-old freshman at Roger Williams University who graduated Central Falls High School last year, had helped organize rallies and protests in support of the teachers. Beltran, who hopes one day to return to Central Falls as a math teacher, said he was happy about the agreement.

    “I love the teachers at Central Falls,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. I want to work side by side with them.”

    Antony Restrepo, who has two stepdaughters at the school, said he wanted to see improvements if all the teachers are to be rehired. But he said he wasn’t sure that the problems were entirely the staff’s fault.

    “They just want to be in the streets,” he said of some students.

    I guess Jonathan and Valerie were so ill-served by their education at Central Falls that they don’t know what Miss Gallo knows.
    Poor kids.

  15. Jacob

    Linda your incessant revisionism is absolutely absurd. Do you ever read what you’ve written? Just saying it doesn’t make it so. Ready any account of the events, heck even read your own ‘re-telling’ from a couple months ago, and see how it matches up with your current narrative.

  16. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Jacob:

    Thank you. I can always tell when I’ve gotten my point across.

  17. J Dub

    The teachers have failed the students the administration has failed to fix the problems and get rid of the non performing teachers.

    Its time to close the school and privatize the school system.

  18. ericson

    Somewhere somehow our society will realize that it’s not up to teachers and school workers to raise our children. Teachers teach, parents raise. Without the “Raising” part, teaching isn’t possible.

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