February 22nd, 2010
07:02 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Fire Teachers for Failing School?

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

At Central Falls High School in Rhode Island less than half the students gradate, only seven percent are proficient in math and almost all live in poverty. Last week, the entire faculty of the high school received letters recommending their termination. The letter to the 74 teachers, who each earn at least $72,000, was sent by the school's superintendent, Frances Gallo. The school district's Board of Trustees votes on Gallo's recommendation tomorrow.

The superintendent says the decision came after the teacher's union balked at six options to transform the low-performing high school.

Those recommendations include:

– a longer school day of seven hours
– agree to be evaluated by a third party
– meet 90 minutes per week to discuss education matters
– have lunch with students every once in awhile
– two weeks of paid professional development during the summer

According to local media reports, the union officials wanted to be paid more.

Do you think the teachers should be fired or is the superintendent over-reacting?

Tonight we'll debate the move with the head of the union and Steve Perry, our Education Contributor.

We're also looking into Pres. Obama's health care bill. After months of debate on Capitol Hill with different plans in the House and Senate, the White House has unveiled its own plan.

The White House says its blueprint would extend coverage to 31 million Americans and cost $950 billion over 10 years.

We'll show you what it does and doesn't have tonight on the program. We're also looking at all the wheeling and dealing in Washington and how lawmakers go after goodies to get what they want. It's part of our "Broken Government" series we'll bring you all this week on 360°.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Dave Rowan

    Also, those teachers who demanded additional compensation for staying another 25 mins to tutor their students should be barred for life from any State/School district employment whatsoever.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  2. The Curts

    It's time to break the unions! They have a stranglehold on our educational system and nothing will move forward until the public, and the parents raise their voices and regain control.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  3. cindy

    Are you kidding....
    Tie money to wages and see how the students improved.
    It obvious that the students are not being supported. I do not think the community should pay one more dime...
    The teacher are not being held accountable.... how terrible.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  4. Berangere Pierre-louis

    I don't believe the UFT representative is making much sense. Public education is way below acceptable standards. Teachers should be held accountable, and so should parents. As with charter schools, public schools should take some responsiblity for the performance of their students and stop looking for excuses.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  5. Steve

    What about the parents...... and their role and accountability? Can they be fired?

    February 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  6. Scott

    Do the parents ever come to school and help the teachers? How about eating lunch with their kids? How about checking their kids homework?

    February 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  7. Trish

    I get paid in the 70s, and let me tell you, if I achieved only 50 percent of my job, I would be fired.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  8. Christopher M.

    Why is it that we, as a society, cheer when we watch movies like "Lean On Me", "Higher Learning" and "Dangerous Minds"?

    It's because we WANT teachers who challenge the status quo. We WANT creativity in schools. We desperately WANT teachers to expect more from their students, to challenge them and to push them. Tell the unions to shove it and let teachers be teachers.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  9. Greg Wilkinson

    Fire these overpaid underperformers

    February 22, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  10. Christopher M.

    Look, if Abe Lincoln can learn by candlelight on chalk tablets and grow up to become president, we can sure as heck teach a bunch of kids math and science...and do it cheaply.

    Lack of resources (books, computers, etc) does not prevent one from teaching or from being taught.

    Fire these teachers and put some real educators in their place.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  11. Scott

    I've seen that schools with high parent involvement have remarkably higher school ratings. The debate on your show tonight never touched on the family support variable in the overall equation. Schools are having to teach students basic life skills that parents are not. Bad students tend to show no respect for authority, themselves and/or others. If the teachers only had to provide education on reading, writing, and arithmetic, then maybe closing the school would make sense. It is a very complicated problem and just blaming the teachers is wrong!

    February 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  12. Yvon

    WIth respect to every one, I am amazed to see how stupid are those people who stood to blame the failure on an entire school on teachers. I have no pretention to be an expert in education nor do I pretend to be among those stupid people who think only teachers need to be held accountable for student performance. Acountabiliy is to be measured accross the board because, It would be unfair to base the failure of a system on just one group. Accountability need to be measured at all level from the superintendent to the child's legal guardian for they are all part of the process that lead to a child success. I don't know for Steve Perry who seems to present himself as master or expert in educationand no respect to educators as professional, I would not be surprised to see people like him fail those ATSW, LAST, CST tests withouh which you cannot become a teacher in my state. Ome people bypass those requirements by moving to other statement where tey are not mandatory. Please, teachers need respect.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  13. syndi

    What stupidity, "Fire Them ALL!" Are you kidding me? When your job is dependent on the performance of others, who by the way do not want to be there in the first place, then you can compare your job to a teacher's job! When are PARENTS going to be held responsible? Where is the triad in this relationship, parent, teacher, student? It takes all parties involved to help a student succeed and it talkes all parties involved to help a student fail. So step up parent and student, do the work it takes to help a child to be successful. Do your homework students, and have consequences at home when they do not parents!

    February 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  14. David, Indiana

    I'd think teachers under contract could be asked to come early to school and stay another 25 minutes, if that is the question.

    Firing all the teachers? that seems like a pr move. I tend to think teachers who don't want to be in classroom tend to find other jobs. I'm not convinced that it need to be easier to dismiss a teacher.

    Lots of teachers are not making 70K a year.

    Did Joe Klein just say this Health Care bill was the Republican proposal in 1994? I disagree with his point about people not understanding the issue. This is legislation that touches everyone My question is why is the public discussion so disjointed? At this point I feel people can put it together, assemble the different pieces and talk about it. We've been going through the preliminaries for a long time, what about direct conversation? Can anyone help me with this?

    God there are so many bands not on that list. It's sort of impossible. No Sgt Pepper? Boston? Tom Petty? Hendix? Stones? It's like a whole galaxy or universe.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  15. Mark Spencer

    The blame should be placed on the students? For what? Being poor, having bad parents?

    That is the stupidest thing I have ever read on any blog.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  16. Mark Spencer

    Fire every teacher? Everyone of them is bad?

    How about first firing the idiot that thought that one up. I have never worked at any company where every employee was bad and if that is the case you better start by replacing the idiot that could hire an entire school full of teachers and not get one decent one.

    Bring in a proven principal, give him free reign to hire and fire as he pleases. Tell each teacher that to retain their jobs they must accept this condition and then start fixing the school.

    And anyone that blames poverty should be first to be fired. Plenty of schools teach poor kids with great results and teachers that work many more hours for less pay.

    But I cannot imagine that each and every teacher is incompetent and if that is true it is a MUST to bring in someone that can replace them with good teachers.

    Have you ever seen a company fire every employee and retain the leadership? That is what they seem to be proposing here. It won't work by simply firing the teachers.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  17. Regina Shujaa

    I have worked in and been involved in all kinds of schools for many years – public (charter and regular), nonpublic, and private schools. I have seen bad schools and good schools in all categories.

    However, whenever there's a problem in a regular public school the first people to be attacked are the teachers and the unions. It amazes me that even otherwise intelligent people believe that all you have to do is fire all the senior teachers and hire new people and the school will magically turn around. This has been the downfall of some ill conceived charter and nonpublic schools.
    People actually believe that the unions and the teachers are against the kids. I truly don't get this. The majority of public school teachers work their butts off everyday with no thanks from anyone.
    I have seen poor teachers fired. I have also seen good teachers fired. Seldom have I seen poor Principals and other administrators fired.

    Stop putting yourself up on a pedestal and pointing fingers and join with us to help our children. We all have a role to play in educating our children.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  18. Irma

    I don't think what the district is asking the teachers is outrageous. I am surprised that the district did not get involved sooner. FIve principles in the last six years isn't good either. The school district should have never let it get this bad. Now they're being reactive in a way that is harsh. I blame the whole system and not just the teachers. The fact that the school is not performing is caused by the entire school district, the community in which these children live and by the teachers who have not been held accountable before. AND as for your consultant, I'd like to know how well he would do as the principal of a public school with more than a couple of hundred kids. Charter schools are different. I'm glad he's successful but you can't compare his liberties to those of the rest of us!!

    February 22, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  19. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    I don't think firing the teachers is the right idea.

    I think looking at a school that is doing well and trying to model the plan off of that is best.

    If poverty is the reason...boost them up.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  20. 32-year Illinois Master Teacher

    Steven Perry is wrong again. In Illinois, as in most states, even tenured teachers can be terminated immediately for serious violations and in no longer than 90 days - if school administrators (not the union) make that determination. The issue in Rhode Island is that the Superintendent is violating the existing contact and failing to bargain new working conditions and pay in good faith–the basis of all contract law. Teachers already put in hundreds of hours without pay every year in virtually every school. What Steve Perry wants is dictatorial rule by the administrator and to blame everything on teachers and their unions. With six principals in five years–the Superintendent obviously has a more serious management problem.
    Many high poverty schools working with unions - can and do succeed, but it takes collaborative leadership, something missing in Rhode Island and something ignored by Steve Perry, again.
    Studies at the Univ. of Illinois showed a direct correlation between poverty and low achievement–no matter the other conditions. If you fire those teachers and find in a few years that the new system has failed, you owe the fired teachers back pay with interest and an apology.
    Meanwhile, the students suffer from the lack of a real partnership among the adults at the school and a failure of the state to put the resources in place to make a difference.
    It sounds like Perry doesn't understand collaboration among professionals–I wonder how he runs his school?

    February 22, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  21. A Former Student

    I have graduated from Central Falls HIgh School and now I am attending an Ivy League University. Every teacher I had at the high school helped get to where I am now. People can look at statistics all they want, but in reality they mean very little. Every teacher at Central Falls High school contributes to the development of the students and strives to help them succeed. From personal experience I know that they are more than happy to stay after school and help any student who needs help with anything. They are there to talk to not only about school matters, but also about personal problems. These teachers are more than educators, they are our family and no one has the right to take them away from our community.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  22. Annie Kate

    Teachers here in the south don't make that kind of money and do all those things the RI teachers are being asked to do. I'd fire them and restructure job requirements so that teachers are paid fair but are to include in their normal activities the things being asked plus more so the students receive a chance to get a good education.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  23. Kristen Y.

    To those who simply say, "fire them," and especially Max, there are some things that those in the public sector must understand. The pure fact that your attitude is that if you aren't working to standard, you'd be fired, shows that you do not understand public education. Many, many times, our students and parents are not working to standard, either, but we cannot fire them. We have the task fo turning it around without any support. It is not a teacher's fault if a student is chronically late or absent. There is no consequence for students or parents who do not care enough to make sure their child is at school.

    I have never known a teacher who does not come in early and/or stay late. I think that there are bad teachers out there, but they get far more press, and they are far fewer than the good teachers. I also think principals should be evaluated just as harshly as teachers. I think that teachers should have the chance to review a principa. They are largely responsible for morale, and supporting teachers so they have what the need to help students succeed.

    It takes a whole community to make a student successful. The blame should not be placed on teachers when something in that community breaks down.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  24. Ambrose

    I see a lot of people saying "fire them". What happens when the next crop comes in and the same thing happens? At what point do you start to ask the parents for their help in the home?

    I agree, many jobs have bench marks, but in education it's not just one area that you have total control over. What would you do in this situation: I had a parent conference and told the mother that her child was falling behind. I offered to give him extra help after school (on my time) in an after school program we run for at risk students. The mother told me that her son didn't have time for that, she said that her son was going to "collect a check" like she did when he grows up, so extra time in school wouldn't help. What would you do in that case? Now what would you do if your livelyhood was affected by students with parents like this.

    Can you see how schools will go through an endless amout of teachers without addressing the real problem?

    February 22, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  25. Jason

    Teachers working 120 days a year and paid OVER $72,000 while not able to even reach a 50% graduation rate is absolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, not one of the recomendations issued by the Superintendent fails to make good sense and if the unions don't support those changes, plus more, then get rid of all of the teachers supporting the union and the union as well.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  26. clutch234

    As a teacher, I am tired of the unions holding teachers hostage for petty demands. Unions do not care about students, they care themselves.

    Fire the teachers!

    February 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  27. mike

    Do not fire them.

    Fire the superintendent. Fire the Administrators. Fire the principal. Fire the Vice-Principal. Fire the deans.

    It's not the teachers and it's not the union: there are layers and layers of people above them not doing their job.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  28. Pam

    I find it hard to believe that these 6 basic requirements are all that the administration wanted from its teachers. I am a teacher as well and it is never that simple. While tenure may make it difficult to "fire" teachers," it also protects them from the politics that seem to take advantage of a community of Americans that already give more than they have to in their jobs. I don't leave everyday at 3:10 and neither do a lot of my colleagues. But having lunch with the students is a bogus requirement. There are kids around me everyday. My lunch period is the only 44 minutes I have of me/adult only time. And...take note. Most other professions get a full hour.

    Shame on this school district for pretending the issue has to do only with the teachers.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  29. Chris

    Why is everyone so quick to fire teachers. Seriously? Before you comment walk a day or two in a teacher's shoes. The teacher is not the only factor in whether a child exceeds or not. Granted a teacher is a large factor, but so many more things come into play. Education right now is in big trouble because of so many "experts" blaming the teachers and the teachers only. I have watched my honors kids fill in bubbles to make pictures on state exams. They do not care about tests or the results and there is nothing I can do about it. I stay after school, come in on Saturday, spend my own money in the classroom, eat with my students, go to trainings and professional development, take work home every day etc., but some kids are just not going to succeed.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  30. Ambrose

    Teachers balked at options which included longer hours for NO extra pay. Eating lunch with students (as a teacher I can say I actually use their lunch time to grade papers and prepare). 90 minutes to meet to discuss education matters (on their own time). Estimations show that these "extra" hours could be upwards of 400 hours a year, without extra pay.

    The big story is the culture of this school. There's a reason the school is failing and it's not the teachers. Ask the parents if they will take responsibility for their childs failure and I'm sure no one will step up to the plate because we live in country where it's easier for parents to sit theeir kids in front of a TV rather than be a real parent and help them with homework and be actively involved in their life.

    Research shows that children from households where parents hold higher education degrees, score higher and receive better grades. Know why? Because the parents have high expectations for the children and they are INVOLVED. Research also shows that parental involvement is the key factor in academic success for children. Want to show your child you care? Become involved in their life!

    February 22, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  31. RICK-Y

    why should the school board negociate with the teachers when they've failed the kids that they were suposed to help become productive individual . Well, I think I have a solution, fire all of them and make sure they're not eligible for unemployment...

    February 22, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  32. Mary

    I'd be interested to know of those less than 7% that are proficient in math, how many attend school regularly?

    You are always asking more of teachers, e.g., you want their time for free, but when do you begin to ask more of the parents? When will we hold the parents equally responsible for the failure?

    February 22, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  33. dan muir

    When is the blame going to be placed on the students and not the teachers. I know that teachers put in a lot of time each day and parents are always making excusses for their kids. It's time for the kid to take responsabilitly for their own actions. The teachers are doing their job and the students are not doing their part. I am a supervisor in the private sector and if someone is not meeting standards the are given a chance to improve before being fired.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  34. Sandy

    I really would have liked to hear what the head of the teacher's union was trying to say. It appeared that she was being attacherd by the two of you and was interrupted several times. Each time, Adnerson kept silent or told the other person to go ahead and finish. It didn't feel like a 360 view tonight.


    Sandy in Arizona

    February 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  35. Cindy

    Thank you so much for talking about this issue in failing schools. I am a former high school teacher and principal who now has the opportunity to work with schools across many states. Working with schools to improve student achievement has been eye-opening, to say the least.

    The two common barriers at EVERY school that I work is the belief that these students can't learn at a high level (due to poverty or language) and the teacher unions who prevent principals from removing or putting pressure on ineffective teachers.

    When teachers change their mindset about the capabilities of their students, amazing things happen! I still don't have an answer for teacher unions, but would join a push to change them dramatically!

    February 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  36. It takes two to tango

    What is often missing from these education reform discussions is one critical fact: students must also take responsibility for of their own learning! Yes, teachers are essential to the process of student learning but if a student is unwilling to engage and learn then there is no teacher in the world who can help that student perform. We MUST as a society be willing to hold students accountable and not be afraid to FAIL them if they are unwilling to do their part to meet set standards. It is not appropriate to constantly blame the teachers, most of whom are highly committed to their profession (and comparatively underpaid for the societal services they provide).
    I am a college educator and I see a growing proportion of students who couldn't care less about their own learning. They are not curious, don't care about standards and just expect to earn an A for showing up to class. They need to be told more often that they must WORK HARD to succeed. Otherwise the narcissism epidemic and failing school system will never be reformed.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  37. sideways

    Give the students vouchers.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  38. Richard - FL

    It bothers me that 50% of the students are not getting the eductaion they need regardless of the poverty level of the school district . If a teacher cannot or will not educate the chilrren, then they shgould be terminated and replaced by someone who can do the job.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  39. Larin Beshears

    At what point do the students, parents of these students and the community as a whole have to take responsibility? When are you going to admit that the total lack of discipline and the lack of expectation has bred a complete lack of respnsibilty for these students. Parents now say " it's not my kid" and blame the teacher, the schoola and the curriculum for their failing children.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  40. Stan Smith

    Fire them – I am sick and tired of the excuses made by union for poor performance.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  41. Dominick Migneco

    $72,000.00 per year devided by 180 days = $400.00 per day.

    $400.00 per day devided 5 hour of class time = $80.00 per hour.

    Yes they should be fired.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  42. Jean in Seattle

    If the teachers can't cut it they should be replaced with others that can. It's shameful to collect that kind of salary and have children that haven't been taught the basics!
    This gal is making it sound like poverty equals stupid – I don't buy that!

    February 22, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  43. Rob

    Why not have some of these teachers that have retired in their 50's on full pension and health benefits (to the level which most Americans will never have) come and work with those students are willing to get extra help.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  44. Jay

    My 8th grader attends a charter school, where every teahcer stays back late to help the kids. The school is ranked the best in the county.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  45. John Lubowitz

    Many factors affect student outcomes. Teachers can control only some of the factors:
    1. Courses taught; Students have more interest in some courses than in others.
    2. Availability of textbooks and computer labs.
    3. Skill and knowledge levels that students bring to courses. Students may enter courses without the pre-requisite skills and knowledge.
    4. Do the students have situations that conflict with student performance? Students sometimes have significant issues with parents, siblings, friends, children, day care, transportation, financial situations, shelter, food, hygiene, street violence, drugs, alcohol, work schedules, etc.
    5. Some students lack the maturity and social skills to succeed in schools.
    6. In previous experiences, some students have been trained to fail. They expect to continue to fail.
    7 Systemic bureaucracy

    February 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  46. anthony

    Fire them!

    February 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  47. Kathy K.


    February 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  48. sideways

    fire them

    February 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  49. Max

    Fire them all.
    Every job I have had has a performance bench mark attach to it.
    If these teachers can do the job, step aside and let others who are more creative and competent to face the challenge of educating kids. If I fail at at my job, I'd be fired the same day.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  50. self evident

    As a teacher in another RI high school, I am concerned over the events in Central Falls.
    1. Note the socio-economic conditions of the students in Central Falls.. Compare those to that of Barrington, RI . Then look at the scores, i think you will see an odd correlation.
    2. How are the "last" teachers (high school) to blame for the accumulated failure of the community as as whole?
    3. REFORM is the call word, but in reality it's a hatchet job

    February 22, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
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