A small, impoverished town north of Providence, Rhode Island has a high school that is underperforming. About half of the students graduate.
Solution: Fire all of the teachers. The union is looking at their legal options. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced approval of the action.
I am not a union teacher, and I have never had a problem with teachers who are really not doing their jobs being replaced.
1. Who are they going to get to replace these teachers?
Let’s start with the assumption (and I think it is faulty) that the problem is the teachers, or mostly the teachers. The school’s administration chose this group of teachers, and thus has proven that they either cannot make good decisions regarding who to hire, or that they are unable to attract better teachers.
In either case, there are not many teachers I know that would go running to this district. Given that the most likely candidates would be inexperienced teachers, I find it unlikely that this will create any dramatic changes.
2. Given that this is an impoverished fairly urban community, and that most public schools in impoverished urban areas are not the best, could it be that the school’s failings are more a function of the local socioeconomics, and not so much the teachers? Either that, or we assume that virtually all of the bad teachers in the nation are attracted to or hired in urban public schools (likely a bad assumption).
Education in this nation has been undergoing reforms of one kind or another for the better part of 150 years. Virtually nothing has worked, and that is largely because no one wants to discuss the real issue: the local socioeconomics and culture from which students are drawn is a far better indicator of success in school than just about anything. It is not an absolute correlation, but it is a fairly reliable one.
On the other hand … perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures.