That’s one way to do it …,8599,1967814,00.html

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.

However …

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.


2 Responses to That’s one way to do it …

  1. A. Pilch says:

    “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”

    Makes sense to me. But I’d like to see some references just so your statement is supported. And of course, I’d love to read all the boring research.

    • teganx7 says:

      Since you asked …

      I thought about a listing of schools in the suburbs (I excluded the Chicago Public Schools, but feel free to look at those as you see fit). And divided them into groups that are thought were socio-economically better off, and those that were not. The only data I had easy access to was ACT scores (far from the best indicator from success, but something that is useful for relative scaling. I tried to keep both groups balanced in terms of having relatively equal numbers from the south, north, and west suburbs, and relatively equal number of big and medium sized schools (there really are no small suburban high schools). Keep in mind that in Illinois, 20.6 is the average ACT score.

      Highland Park (25.3)
      Maine West (21.6)
      Fremd (25.1)
      Lake Park (22.3)
      Glenbard South (24.0)
      Wheaton North (23.9)
      Glenview North (25.6)
      Lake Forest HS (25.6)
      York (23.1)
      Homewood-Flossmoor (21.5)
      Lincoln Way-Central (22.3)
      Lockport (22.0)
      Lemont (22.4)
      Jacobs (21.5)

      Many of the above schools have substantial minority populations. Homewood-Flossmoor is only about 33% white (as one example).

      Compared to:

      Hillcrest (17.4)
      Tinley Park (20.1)
      Thornton (16.3)
      Proviso West (16.5)
      Evanston (23.5)
      Shepard (19.8)
      Bradley-Bourbonnais (20.6)
      Crete-Monee (18.0)
      T.F. South (18.7)
      Waukegan (17.0)
      Thornwood (16.7)
      Joliet West (19.4)
      Round Lake (18.5)
      Morton East (16.7)

      I admit that this is limited data, however I strongly suspect that I could continue this to include the more rural areas of Illinois and the other urban centers (like Peoria, Rockford, and East St. Louis), and would see a pattern continuing to emerge. Certainly, correlation does not imply causality, as there are many other factors that compare/contrast these schools.

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