When reform efforts frustrate themselves

March 20, 2011

Sometimes, state and administrative pressure to change school culture is counterproductive, sometimes destructive enough to derail reform efforts.  How?

When the teachers are made scapegoats.

Dana Goldstein, Lady Wonk, followed up on the reform efforts at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, from last year:

Despite their clear pleasure in working with the students, Kulla and Cherko said teacher morale throughout the building remains low, in part because of last year’s termination crisis and the resulting high-turnover among staff, and in part because student discipline remains a major problem.

“The kids, when they’re here, need to know this is a place of learning,” Kulla said. “Right now they don’t.” Cherko added that the layoff crisis was interpreted by many students as a sign that their teachers were incompentent. “I’m not sure they realize how nationally-driven what happened last year was,” he said. “They say, ‘The teachers got fired because they’re bad at their jobs.'”

The Central Falls administration certainly seems hard at work attempting to improve discipline and attendence; the fact that the numbers remain problematic show just how difficult it is to revitalize a school’s culture. The termination crisis, unfortunately, probably worsenend the problem by sending students and their parents the message that CFHS teachers are not respected professionals.

Goldstein discusses other issues, and it’s worth a read.

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