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Race to the Top? Or bottom?

March 4, 2010

What do you do when you’re fired along with each of your co-workers on the same day? How do you react when learning President Obama supports the decision to fire all of you?

Those are the questions facing every teacher on the Central Falls High School staff this week after the school district’s Board of Trustees voted 5-2 in favor of firing 93 people, including all 74 teachers as Central Falls High.

It’s immoral they say; illegal even. And a large number of people within the community support the teachers’ side of the issue. But was the firing really such a terrible decision?

To say Central Falls High School is in bad shape would be putting it nicely. A better way of describing its situation would be this: it’s one of the nation’s worst high schools. Just take a look at the numbers.

Out of 808 students at the school, 96 percent are in poverty. Less than one out of every two students graduates. Only 55 percent are proficient in reading. And a staggeringly low 7 percent of Central Falls students are proficient in math. That’s right seven.

Simple math tells us that only 56 of Central Falls’ 808 students fall under the category of being proficient in math. The other 752 likely couldn’t even come up with that statistic.

When a school is that bad, certainly students and families must shoulder a significant portion of the blame. But there’s no reason to believe the teachers are not primarily at fault. Even if they were not, firing all 74 of them serves a great purpose as a warning to both the teachers and the students.

Under the current plan the school can hire back only 50 percent of those fired last week. So, the highly controversial decision has the potential to motivate the entire faculty to improve their performance in the classroom. If they want to keep/regain their jobs, that is.

On the other hand, it could certainly discourage both the teachers and students, but based on the current statistics, they could not do much worse.

Obama hit it on the head saying schools that fail their students should take responsibility. Because if the teachers are not held accountable for their actions, how could you expect the students to be responsible?

The timing of the firings coincided with Obama’s speech, which focused on a proposed $900 million in grants for struggling states and schools districts. There’s one catch though.

They have to drastically change or shut down their worst performing schools.

It looks like that’s one race in which Central Falls appears to have gotten a head start.

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