President Obama Delivers A Compromise?

At last some context on Central Falls, courtesy of  a bold move by Jay Mathews.   The amount of misinformation floating around about the situation up there is amazing, you’d think it would be inversely related instead it’s proportionate.  

I’m surprised the unions want to turn this into Little Big Horn.   The facts are not very sympathetic in this instance.  Or overall for that matter:  This is a state where the teachers union recently took a public stand that five consecutive years of lousy evaluations, not three, was a fair standard for losing a license to teach.   

It’s too soon to say for sure, but it is starting to look like the teachers unions had a golden opportunity to update their act by moving on a few issues and being rightly praised for doing so but instead are in the process of squandering that window.  That President Obama made a point of Central Falls is a good gauge of where elite opinion and the public mood is on this. 

But while the President may have trouble getting factions in DC to compromise, he may be having that effect in Rhode Island: The local union is signaling willingness to move on some of the issues.

8 Replies to “President Obama Delivers A Compromise?”

  1. The facts are not very sympathetic in this instance.

    The facts:
    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

    So, proficient and proficient with distinction both went up substantially from 7th grade to 11th grade (same cohort of students, but certainly some moved in and out). Yet, somehow ALL the teachers are doing something wrong.

    2009 NECAP reading scores (teaching year),
    lower-poverty ones (Tolman, 64%; Shea, 62%; Woonsocket, 60%),
    Central Falls 56% -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.

    Why are the chem teachers being fired?
    How about social studies?
    Special Education?

    If my memory is correct, Deborah Gist conducted an investigation into the excessive erasures at DCPS.
    The testing company found erasures at several schools.
    Nothing came of that.

    The paucity of logical ideas from the “education reform” establishment is astounding.

  2. The superintendent of Central Falls had this to say, “I am pleased to reassure the union their place in the planning process.”

    Do you think she got a call from someone special?

  3. Andy,

    Looking at this through a union perspective, the perceptual politics you describe have to compete with the legal standing of a union to bargain collectively and what happens when there is no agreement. I don’t know about Rhode Island’s laws, but generally each state with public-employee bargaining has an orderly procedure to resolve impasse (and I think the general procedure for teachers in RI is at — I don’t know about economic issues, but noneconomic issues at impasse go through binding arbitration). My first reaction to the news in this case was, “Huh? You can trump a statutory impasse procedure by firing everyone?”

    I don’t know the Central Falls negotiations in detail, and I think we should be wary of taking at face value statements by either side about closed-door bargaining. But even if the local in Central Falls took a tack I thought was foolish, they have a right to have impasse go through the legal mechanism, not a supralegal circumvention.

  4. According to the providence Journal, 1 in 6 employees in RI are state or municipal workers.

  5. The AP reports that “The school board voted last week to fire 93 teachers and staff members from the city’s high school at the end of the school year. Under federal rules, no more than half the staff could be rehired.” (Source:

    I’m curious: what “federal rule” is this? Another news site ( says that the 50% rule was one made by Gallo and approved by Gist, but doesn’t mention anything on the federal books.

  6. Eduwonk,

    Should districts fire all teachers in a school regardless of performance?


  7. Looking purely at the assessment data from an attainment point of view is a dangerous way to analyze this data. The attainment data posted by EdHarris does look pretty darned bad, but without some kind of value added look, you may have teachers who actually get tremendous growth out of these kids but their poverty/language/demographic issues are working against them getting to the higher achievement levels. The thing is, without the longitudinal look … you just don’t know. These teachers may in fact be terrible, or it could be they are getting growth out of kids.

    While I’m certainly no fan of lifetime guarantees for employment for terrible performers, I’m an even worse fan of using assessment data in an unsophisticated and probably inappropriate way and then hammering people with it.

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