On Thursday Fall River teachers reversed an earlier decision and voted in favor of participating in the Race to the Top initiative.
They were right the first time.
The Race to the Top initiative could potentially pump $750,000 into the Fall River School Department and schools identified as low-achieving will have to adopt 1 of 4 models. This is particularly troubling to Fall River teachers as 3 of the models would probably result in the loss of teacher's jobs. In fact one model would allow the superintendent to replace 50% of the staff and the principal, another would allow for the closure of the school and the relocation of students and yet another the closure of a school to have it reopen as a charter school. The 4th would lengthen the school day and focus on community oriented model.
Think about this, let's say you worked in a textile mill and the textile industry was failing (big stretch there!) and the federal government offered a stimulus package of $750k, sounds pretty good right? But let's say that to get this money the factory had to adopt one of 4 models and 3 might endanger YOUR job. Would you vote for that? Of course you wouldn't.
The reality is the Race to the Top program is a lousy initiative that seems designed to pit unions against school leadership and communities.
Just look a what happened here in Fall River. Fall River teachers reject a proposal that too broadly places the blame and the hopes for turnaround on getting rid of existing teachers. Of course the headlines are that selfish teachers turn down needed money. Low and behold a special meeting is called and the teachers reverse their decision just to have WSAR run probably the most vile editorial imaginable slamming teachers at every turn.
Let's clear up a few things here. First, $750,000 is not going to turnaround Fall River schools. I hate to break anyone's heart here but this money is not going to solve all our problems and make all of our kids college bound. Sorry. Also getting rid of 50% of your teachers, or closing a school or even converting them to Charter schools is not going to address the biggest problems in our school system. Again sorry. The biggest problem in our schools? Well it's probably not politically correct to say it and I'm probably going to piss some people off, but the biggest problem in our schools is the kids.
Have you been in a school lately or talked to a teacher recently? Have you heard the nightmares about kids who swear like sailors, don't listen, have no respect, and disrupt the classroom?
OK it's not just the kids, it turns out some of the parents are just as bad because little johnny is a perfect angel but mom and dad can turn the room purple with the words coming out of their mouth.
Honestly most kids are pretty good kids, and several more will be good with the right influence but with classroom sizes approaching 30 all you need is a few of these kids to completely derail the educational process for the rest. And even if you removed the worst of the distractions you still have to deal with the fact that many more of our children walk in the door unprepared to learn and with a boat load of issues that keep them for excelling.
Now let me not lay all the blame on the kids and the parents, because our school department has failed to take some of these issues into consideration and provide the resources needed to overcome them. Some blame has to go to "government", state, federal, and local too for cutting educational funding. Oh and let's not forget that there IS fat that can cut from out schools and there are teachers and principals that really just need to go (just not as many as WSAR would have you believe).
If the Race to the Top really wanted to have an impact the funding would have targeted ways to decrease classroom sizes and would have funded initiatives to increase parental involvement and engage students.
I personally applaud teachers for reversing their vote because it clearly shows they are thinking of OUR children and are willing to work with the administration. I hope that the Mayor and the Superintendent honor that goodwill and that trust. The longer school day model is one that I think has the best potential to give our children the tools they need to succeed and deserves serious consideration.
As for Bernie Sullivan and the "management at WSAR" if you really feel that we should open more charter schools so that our children may be kept from the "current crop of teachers" I urge you to act on your words but in doing so make sure that this Utopian school includes not just our best and brightest but also those students most troubled and most in need. And then we will see if you are able to achieve the successes that have eluded our teachers and for which you ridicule them for not obtaining.