going to admit up front I don’t know where this is going. But
a story has been developing in Rhode Island for several weeks
(ok… actually, it’s been several months), and in recent days it
just took off as decisions were made and sides were taken. An
interesting battle continues.
I read material about the events, I couldn’t help but think about
something totally unrelated, but in a way quite revealing… at
least for me. And it got me wondering about several issues.
see where this goes…
~ ~ ~
you heard about the troubles in Rhode Island… specifically
Central Falls and the high school? (Link from The Providence
Journal, no longer active, February of 2010.)
the students at the school weren’t doing well academically. I
don’t know if it is worth looking for other ways to sum it up…
grades… testing… graduation rates… whatever. Take your pick on
the topic and the factors that may be involved. Each concept may
or may not have a different set of contributing elements. In the
end, what really matters is one thought…
involved in evaluating it agreed that drastic steps needed to
read these passages…
and the teachers initially agreed they wanted the transformation
model, which would protect the teachers’ jobs.
Gallo said she could pay teachers for only some of the extra
duties. Union leaders said they wanted teachers to be paid for
more of the additional work and at a higher pay rate — $90 per
hour rather than the $30 per hour offered by Gallo.”
years ago, I watched a
movie called Summer School. And I
think a million things from this movie apply in this particular
situation. We’re going to focus on two.
– This is the short and sweet version of it… Freddy Shoop is a
gym teacher. His career ambition consists of being a gym teacher.
Summers off to maximize time at the beach, and the hardest tests
to grade generally involve a game of dodgeball. On the last day
of the regular school year, a teacher scheduled to run a remedial
summer class quits. Hilarity ensues… Freddy has to give up his
vacation to teach an English class.
number one – The qualified (or unqualified) teachers
theory – Would I be spoiling the movie to say that in this
fish out of water comedy, eventually Freddy succeeds?
is a gym teacher placed in a class with failing students and asked
to cover English. At its foundation, the audience is being presented
this scenario as a recipe for disaster. Freddy is unqualified…
the students unable or unwilling. Ultimately, Freddy not only
has to get a handle on the material for himself, and then he has
to find a way of connecting with the students.
let’s ask this… and keep Central Falls in mind… where does responsibility
come in to play? In other words… is it the fault of a good teacher
when a bad student doesn’t learn? …is part of being a good teacher
connecting with the students regardless of circumstances? …do
the abilities and efforts of the students play any role in this
we go with this basic idea is simple… are the results because
of poor teaching, poor students, or a combination?
number two – The you want more from us, we want more
from you theory – Freddy bribes the students. He begins offering
them things in exchange for their attention and effort. The class
goes on field trips. He gives driving lessons. At one point, he
winds up in court.
with the exam approaching he needs the group to work just a bit
harder. And the kids attempt to renegotiate the deal. They’ve
set a fire in his house and had him arrested, and the students
believe they deserve more.
again… a nod to Central Falls as something to think about… everyone
agrees there is a problem. And everyone agrees to work to solve
that problem. It’s just that some feel a little extra… let’s think
of a good word for it… a little extra motivation might help out
resolution – Well… here’s the kicker.
are magical… and supply happy endings. Especially in a no-thought-required,
harmless comedy. So at the end of this movie, the kids show improvement,
Freddy gets rewarded, and the audience is satisfied.
see… here we don’t know what the resolution should be from the
view of determining responsibility. What we have here is low results
and a need for improvement. What I don’t see is a clear side to
be taken in this issue. Remember…
can’t tell you the teachers are the problem… the school department
seemed willing to keep them in place until it was going to cost
schools are electing to move on without firing the staff, and
that was actually considered here.
teachers in other schools are not being asked to invest more
time and work.
can’t tell you the students are the problem.
there are lots of additional items to consider. For instance…
let’s play for a second here. I just want to toss something out
teachers get fired. A new group is brought in. Standards are changed…
curriculum altered… a new dawn has arrived. And in the 2010 –
2011 school year, the students don’t show any improvement.
perhaps that’s just the first year. You can’t turn some things
around by snapping your fingers.
umm… what if 2011 – 2012 is filled with disappointing results?
how about these teachers? They’re out there looking for work.
They move on to new school systems. Suppose results in these new
schools start to decline? Will someone put the pieces together?
my questions fall into the area of responsibility. I haven’t seen
yet where it has been clearly established as to why the students
are doing so poorly. Is it the teachers? Is it the students? Is
it the school board?
change the students.
board isn’t likely to admit fault.
so we change the teachers.
a bit like firing the manager of a baseball team.
it is the manager… maybe it’s not… but we’ve all decided there
must be a change.
the sake of the kids… whatever is done… I hope it works.