February 23, 2010

The Cause of the Firings

Justin Katz

Every working Rhode Islander, and all of those looking for work, can see the disconnection of Central Falls union rhetoric:

"We still hold that this termination of the entire faculty is a violation of the contract and contrary to state law and federal law as well," [teachers union President Jane] Sessums said. "This is a termination of the entire faculty without cause, we believe."

You want cause?

  • Only 4% of students proficient in math in 2008-2009, up from 3% the year before, with 75% "substantially below proficient."
  • Only 45% proficient in reading.
  • Only 29% proficient in writing.
  • Only 17% proficient in science.
  • A 48% graduation rate.
  • A 50% failure rate for the current school year.

As a body — and it is the teachers' decision to be handled as a collective union — the teachers are failing. Every year, every day, students are deprived of a successful educational experience. That must change, and since the union's been blocking the avenue for change that doesn't entail a mass firing, a drastic step must be taken.

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As per usual, you blame the teachers for failure in a district that also happens to have one of the lowest parent education rates in the state, as well as one of the lowest median household incomes.

But again, it MUST be all the teachers' fault, right? I mean it's their job to educate students, and if the students come to school without having had dinner or breakfast, or have their parents working 20 hour shifts at minimum wage just to make ends meet, again... must be the teachers.

Perhaps we should be more closely considering Dr. Gallo's performance on the job, eh?

Posted by: jparis at February 23, 2010 2:00 PM

Then the answer is to redirect funds away from expensive teacher salaries to those areas of deficit that you list (adult education, employment assistance, food assistance, etc.).

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 23, 2010 2:22 PM

Lets make sure we fire all of the teachers and the bosses responsible if this turn around model should fail to raise the test scores at least double of what they have already gone up.

Hopefully Gist and Gallo will be able to come to town to dine with the students for twenty minutes a week.that should make all the difference.

JUSTIN does it ever strike you as weak and sad that you only sit on here or the radio and make critical claims against the people who are actively engaged in trying to better the children. You use you term like unionist and socialist to try an paint a black and white picture of situations which are very deep and complex. No solutions no alternatives just get rid of the unions aqnd the problem will solve themselves. Please run for staewide office so we can see what solutions you have to offer.

Fianlly how can Gallo justify the firing of an entire staff that has no bad evaluations and is slowly but surely making strides in the toughest district in the state.

Posted by: dimwiited blogger at February 23, 2010 2:36 PM

The union whores are getting exactly what they deserve.
Say what you will, but this can only be a good thing for the kids.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at February 23, 2010 5:39 PM

Yeah Mike, Maybe you can go into the lovely city of Central Falls and teach the youth everything that they need to know in todays world.Teach them how the evil union fruitcakes have destroyed the city. Be sure to teach the them the divine power with which you and the Republicans will keep this country on the right track. The kids who may not speak much english, who may have little support at home, who 93% of live in poverty should benefit from your teaching and massive level of intelligence.

Posted by: cike mappeli [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest] at February 23, 2010 7:07 PM

This would be the perfect time for you, Justin, to step up ( so to speak) and volunteer to take over the teaching jobs in Central Falls. You could volunteer your services, and make a definitive statement about policy you advocate that to this point you only talk about. The new teachers could include your cohort bloggers and some of your pet commenters, such as mikeinri, and bobn, Dan, and… joe bern… no I quess not

Posted by: David S at February 23, 2010 7:29 PM

I would most definitely take another look at teaching in public schools if it weren't for the crucible of additional coursework and the albatross of union membership. As for volunteering for the job, I already make less than the average public school teacher, and my family must be supported somehow.

But your comment wasn't an actual suggestion, was it?

I'd note, by the by, that my father took, as a second career, a teaching job at the NJ school made famous by the movie Lean on Me. He wasn't in it for the money, and I would not be either.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 23, 2010 7:35 PM

The only part that was facetious was for joe bernt. By all means attempt to implement your agenda. Attempt it and deal with the fall out. Good luck. David

Posted by: David S at February 23, 2010 7:49 PM

I want to add - good for your father and good for the school district that allowed him to do that. Too often the volunteers in school are little more than petty advocates for their children. What they volunteer is negated by their complete self interest.
In regards to you and my suggestion- I meant you volunteer to go and be paid and be responsible and be the object of scorn that you so readily heap on others. And, I wonder, would you as an ideologue be able to truly be humble if your fervently held positions proved inadequate.

Posted by: David S at February 23, 2010 8:31 PM

"Posted by jparis at February 23, 2010 2:00 PM"

Gotta love how one of the people majorly responsible for this whole mess comes on here and lobs bombs.

$30 an hour for additional training isn't enough for your people? A great many people would love to work for $30 an hour, and it seems that very soon, some of them will be able to.

I guess I missed it where the original proposal from the superintendent was actually voted on by the members.

Posted by: Patrick at February 23, 2010 8:34 PM

Alright, my numbers might be a -little- off, since I'm calling them up from memory, but it's the core of my stance on this issue...

Since 1980, the average American's productivity is up about 270%. Our inflation-adjusted pay is up only 38%. We've made concessions on health and retirement benefits along the way, too.

If teachers were held to the same standard, they'd be expected to teach classes of 68 for $23,000 a year.

Obviously, that's not possible, and teaching is something of a sacred profession. $22K is not enough, and 70 students is far too many, but keep those numbers in mind. If teachers aren't willing to be -very- flexible with administration about their compensation, performance, and hours, they're in the wrong, they're already getting a -far- better deal than the rest of us.

On the other side of the same coin, if it's not the teachers' responsibility because 'the kids don't want to learn' or 'the parents aren't involved' or 'the kids don't speak English', then it makes sense to bus the 20% of students who -are- interested in learning to a better school, and get very inexpensive teachers to handle the rest. I see no reason to pay top-dollar to apply highly-skilled labor to students who do not engage.

Understand that Central Falls teachers were offered a very reasonable compromise, which they shot-down. I would gladly keep my job and work an extra hour a day if offered an ultimatum by my employer, and I already work at a discount.

The next logical step is this model. If we never try it, we'll never know if it works. At this point we have nothing to lose. If it doesn't work, we'll try other stuff. If it does work, we'll start applying it to other failing schools. This state is all about being a 'lively experiment', and this is going to be a very lively one, indeed.

Posted by: mangeek at February 23, 2010 8:35 PM


We've been taking some strides this week towards advancing the understanding of test results beyond "high scores mean teachers are good, low scores mean teachers are bad" (although in the next thread on the blog, commenter "Cike Mappelli" says that trying to understand results in this way is for eggheads. Maybe you'd like to talk to him about that.)

Short version, specific to Central Falls: Between the 8th and 11th grades, the number of Central Falls students proficient at reading increased by about 9% of the number of 8th-grade students who were not proficient. Objectively 9% may seem like a very low number; however, when compared to other Rhode Island districts, it's not all that bad.

In Math, on the other hand, the number of students who were proficient fell by about 75% between 8th and 11th grade (measured as a percentage of students who were proficient in the 8th grade). Math results everywhere in RI seem to be in free fall, but this was one of the worst.

Ultimately, given both the absolute numbers and the rates of change, the question becomes whether CF has to accept the attitude of "it's Central Falls, we shouldn't expect the results there to be any better" that some Rhode Islanders seem overly content with.

Posted by: Andrew at February 23, 2010 8:49 PM

So what are we going to replace these fired teachers with?
Are the cream of the crop of young teachers coming into the profession today dying to work in an environment where they can fired after one year at a superintendent's whim and be attacked?
Thank God Linc Chafee is showing some leadership here. I'm not seeing much leadership from either side of this dispute, frankly.

Posted by: rhody at February 24, 2010 12:13 AM

"The new teachers could include your cohort bloggers and some of your pet commenters, such as mikeinri, and bobn, Dan, and… joe bern… no I quess not"

Hehe, be careful what you wish for, David. I substitute taught in the public school system while getting my law degree. Joining a public union that I find morally reprehensible would have been the hardest part if I decided to go down that route, as much as I liked helping kids learn. I would feel more sympathy for the CF teachers, but ultimately people have to take responsibility for the organizations with which they willingly associate. If you take the money when your union shakes down the taxpayers for salary increases through strong-arm tactics, you also have to take your licking when your union throws a temper tantrum demanding $90/hr for training and the negotiations blow up in their face, resulting in layoffs. You deal with the devil, eventually you are going to get burned.

Posted by: Dan at February 24, 2010 12:44 AM

I was leaning against the teachers (30 bucks an hour for a MASTERS is good?) until I saw that Obammy sent his chief education "policy" hoodie down here to step on their knuckles. Now I wonder. BTW why fire the Phys Ed teachers and guidance people over math and english scores except that it pleases a vindictive little job jumping dwarf.

Posted by: Dick Tuck at February 24, 2010 8:31 PM

Davis S-??I haven't exactly been dumping on teachers,so why the smartass suggestion?
My wife taught for a nymber of years in both public schools as a sub and in a charter high school as a permanent part timer.
She's bilingual from childhood so she had an easy enough time communicating.
The charter school she taught in drew on the same population(Central Falls/Pawtucket)as this troubled high school.Better results.
My daughter taught bilingual special ed and was a literacy coach and teacher trainer in the Providence schools for about nine years.She had parents who wouldn't even show up to review their childs IEP.
My mom taught adult ed for 40 some odd years in NYC(and guess what-no pension because the teachers union didn't take adult ed teachers in)and that was different because the students wanted to be there.
So I'm hardly anti-teacher.
I do have a real problem with people like Pat Crowley,as he is a union thug who is willing to jeopardize the jobs of his members to make one of his "progressive" points.
I know the NEA doesn't represent the CF teachers,but Crowley is already insinuating himself into the situation.Just read what he puts out on RIF.
This is a time when a lot of people have to take a little hit.
As a federal retiree I'm not getting any COLA this year and probably next year.Nor on my veterans' disability payment.Okay-and no Social Scurity COLAS for anyone.Reason:No inflation.
Somebody oughta tell the utility companies and the cable companies prices are now stable.
And the local taxing authorities.
I can't sympathize with the teachers not being willing to take $30 an hour for summer work-trying to hold out for $90 is extortionate.
The last thing this situation needs is a dolt like Linc Chafee sticking his nose in.
All said,I think Gallo's solution of firing everyone was like throwing out the baby with the bath water.Each employee should have been evaluated on merit and either retained or fired.

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 26, 2010 3:56 AM

These federal education options are pretty cut and dry. There is/was no option for Dr. Gallo to modify specific elements of the four choices. In this case - with the union's de facto choice of the turn-around model - the baby DID have to be thrown out with the bathwater. Dr. Gallo could not pick and choose which teachers to keep and which to fire.

Nor is this a collective bargaining issue. But try to tell that to the unionists, who believe everything is negotiable - and doable - for a price.

THIS JUST IN: I just heard Obama on the radio citing the Central Falls example by name. Ummm... he SUPPORTS Dr. Gallo's action. (How does that set with unionists?)

Posted by: elemare at March 1, 2010 12:12 PM
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