Friday, March 19, 2010

Is Firing Teachers the Best Solution?

Over the last couple of weeks several people have asked me what I think about the firing of all the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. The truth is that I don't know what to think.

My first reaction was "how horrible." I can't even imagine being in the position of one of those teachers. I'm certain there were excellent teachers in this school. As in every organization, I'm also sure there were those that probably deserved to be fired. But this is like giving the whole class detention because three or four students caused trouble. Administrators would never let a teacher get by with that.

This is a high school where a large percentage of students are failing. Obviously something needed to be done. You can't fire the students or their parents. The only option, after talks with the union fell apart, was to fire the teachers. There are so many sides to this issue, that it's almost impossible to take sides.

I read that if these teachers reapply, they might be rehired. I thought about this. If I were one of these teachers, would I want to go back?

If I were new to the district, would I even want to apply for a position, knowing what had happened to the previous staff. I think I would prefer a little more job security.

I also read (I think these numbers are correct) that the median salary in this community is $22,000, but that the average teacher's salary is $72,000. In my district, median household income is $32,000 and average teacher's salary is about $46,000. When I retired I had a master's degree plus an additional 54 semester hours, 32 years of experience, was department chair, and made about $50,000. I think $72,000 is a little high considering the income of the Central Falls community in general. And these teachers, in their talks with the district, were asking for more compensation because they were being asked to do extra work and put in extra hours.

So what's a district to do when the students are failing? I personally think the entire educational system needs to be reformed, but reforming a system is practically impossible. Instead, we just keep trying to find quick fixes. In this case, it seems firing the entire staff was the quickest fix. Is it the best solution to the problem? Somehow I doubt it. What do you think?

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