Tough on teachers

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GregMathisbox

The recent firing of all the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island by the district superintendent was applauded by both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Both thought this was the right thing for the students being failed by the teachers and the school. But is it all the teacher’s fault? Should the principals also be held responsible? What about the parents? After all, it does take a village.

The Center on Education Policy conducted a study last December and found that replacing staff helped improve many schools. But the fact is that some schools didn’t improve much. One of the conclusions from this study was that hiring teachers en masse for a school district allowed little time to plan for the school year. Experts conclude that the new school restructuring policy supported by the president need to be supported by research before they are introduced.

Acting out of anger or desperation and firing an entire school’s worth of teachers may not be the best solution and may, in fact, do more harm in the long run. There is enough research to indicate what works and what doesn’t when it comes to replacing teachers and principals. All must work together to find the best solutions.

Indeed, poorly prepared and untrained teachers have a huge impact on student performance. It is up to the schools that hire them to verify their credentials, to provide training when necessary and to ensure teacher skills are up to date. If schools and the districts don’t invest in teachers, students will never succeed…no matter who is leading.

All of those who hold a stake in student’s education should work closely together to ensure student’s get what they need. Any steps taken to improve student performance should be a collaborative one, based on factual information and best practices. Our student’s deserve our best efforts, and we should work to give it to them.

(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of RainbowPUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)

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