Thursday, February 18, 2010

School accountability in Rhode Island

– Maybe with a message for Kentucky, too

In an action likely to garner lots of national attention, Frances Gallo, school superintendent of the Central Falls school system, is firing every one of the teachers at the Central Falls High School because the teachers’ union refused to accept a school reform plan for this, the worst performing high school in Rhode Island.

Apparently, the $3,400 salary increase that was offered to each teacher still wasn’t sweet enough to induce these teachers to do things that could improve a school where only seven percent of the students test proficient on state math assessments and the dropout rate is 52 percent.

There might be a message here for Kentucky’s Race to the Top plans, as well.

The Central Falls High School reform plan the union rejected includes adding:

“25 minutes to the school day, providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, eating lunch with students once a week, submitting to more rigorous evaluations, attending weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participating in two weeks of training in the summer.”

The union says it is going to fight, claiming the superintendent doesn’t have the authority to fire the teachers.

Apparently, teachers already started that fight – using their classrooms as bully pulpits to harangue students.

Students from other Rhode Island schools from a group called “Young Voices” rallied in Providence, Rhode Island, in support of Superintendent Gallo’s actions. The Young Voices group said that no students from Central Falls High were invited to the rally “because Young Voices was worried about the possibility of reprisals from the Central Falls' teachers.”

Will there really be firings?

Despite the union’s resistance, Rhode Island State Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist already designated the school as one of the state’s worst, in need of closure or a complete overhaul. Both Commissioner Gist and Superintendent Gallo say that state law and federal regulations allow the firings.

As an interesting note, those Race to the Top (RTTT) promises Kentucky just made to the federal government sound remarkably similar to what they have in Rhode Island now. It will be interesting to see what we really have to do as the story of RTTT-driven reform of persistently low-achieving schools plays out across the country.

In Rhode Island, it looks like they are already several chapters further along in that story. While we’re just talking – maybe not very seriously – they are taking action.

Hat tip to Kentucky School News and Commentary for finding the first (but not the rest) of the news articles.

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