Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Glengarry Glen Ross theory of education

This column by Diane Ravitch has been around for a couple of weeks. I'm a little embarassed to have only gotten around to it now, because Central Falls is right in my neck of the woods. It represents a kind of one size fits all approach that needs to stop, but probably won't. I can't see any presidential or gubernatorial candidate announcing "I'm going to let standards slide" even if that's what needs to happen.

Recently, the school committee of Central Falls, Rhode Island, voted to fire all 93 members of the staff in their low-performing high school. Central Falls is the smallest and poorest city in the state, and it has only one high school. Those fired included 74 classroom teachers, plus the school psychologist, guidance counselors, reading specialists, and administrators.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan thought this was wonderful; he said the members of the school committee were "showing courage and doing the right thing for kids." The kids apparently didn't agree because many of them came to the committee meeting to defend their teachers.

Yes, and I'm sure they'll be given the attention always afforded the dumb kids produced by worthless teachers.

In my social life, I know many teachers. I know hardly any who like No Child Left Behind and other reforms from the same era. One thing that gets overlooked in most of the press is that teachers are often--not always, but often--creative and innovative people. School boards almost never are. Committee-fying classroom standards results in a uniformity of approach that serves a projected average group of students. One that doesn't really exist.

So I repeat, standards need to slip. The teachers on the front lines need to have autonomy. A blank check and minimal testing for urban schools might result in chaos, but that's better than the order we're getting.


susan said...

I just read that mediators have been called in and negotiations are going on. The whole thing really is a disaster as you say. I mean what could the school committee's plan possibly be? Go out and hire 93 good teachers? What a ludicrous mess and absolutely the worst lesson for the kids.

Ben said...

That's the other thing. Toss 93 teachers out and try to start the school year again. It's a recipe for cronyism.