In an surprising move by Centrals Falls School District superintendent Frances Gallo, 74 of the teachers on staff at Viola Davis High School were fired for lackluster student performance. The news follows a 5-2 board vote last night. Administrators and other staff members were also fired. Central Falls district is one of the worst performing in the state of Rhode Island. According to the Providence Journal, a Rhode Island based publication, the school has a graduation rate of 48%. Although critics of the move have argued that student performance has improved in recent years, most dramatically in English, the district continues to point the blame on school officials who refused to work extra hours with the students to improve their academic performance. Naturally, without any sort of financial incentive, the teachers saw little enticement to work extra hours.
Whether or not the teachers in this story are to blame is debatable. On one hand, there is the issue of administrative oversight. If the teachers were not adequately fulfilling their instructional responsibilities, why were they not held accountable? If the administration shared no blame in this whole debacle, it would follow that they discovered they had recruited a ensemble of supbar instructors all at once. Further, why was the plan spearheaded by the superintendent focused on adding more instructional hours rather than improving the quality of existing instructional time? All these questions point to the fact that there was poor coordination between school administrators and teachers in planning and implementing curriculum.
The teachers share their own responsibility in this situation. It seems they failed to grasp the severity of the situation, and instead of shifting focus to improving learning outcomes, they continued to dwell on how much money they could line their pockets with. Had there been some coordination between staff members to possibly uncover a less intrusive way of improving student performance, this entire situation could have been prevented altogether. Without surprise, the media and representatives for the teachers union are painting this out to be entirely the administration’s fault, which is absolutely not the case. The problem was shoved aside until it grew out of control.
Reactions to the news are mixed. In an unexpected move, a white house official showed support for the firings, although her call for applause remains somewhat unsubstantiated. We can only wait to see what comes out of this entire mess, but we have an inkling that the teachers may be re-hired if the teacher’s union gets its way.