Like many teachers, for the past week I have been thinking about the Rhode Island high school that fired all of its teachers because the school repeatedly failed to reach NCLB standards. I don’t know much about the school, but I suspect I can guess what kind of school it is. I suspect it’s in a lower socio-economic level neighborhood and probably has a high transient rate for students and probably teachers and administrators also. I guess that few of the parents attended college, and I would imagine that some of the students who graduate from the school will be the first in their family to do so. Isn’t this the scenario of most schools that fail to meet NCLB?
Regardless of the students’ background, however, most Americans expect students in schools like this to score as high on standardized tests as students in suburban, upper middle-class areas. How absurd! Yes, students in impoverished areas can indeed meet the same standards as suburban kids, but it would require an extraordinary faculty and student body.
As I read about the firing of the Rhode Island teachers, I thought of my own high school in suburban Atlanta. We have a beautiful campus, and the facilities are only ten years old. Students have access to about 30 AP courses and scores and scores of extra-curricular activities and sports. The faculty is well trained and usually enthusiastic. Students perform well about the national average on standardized tests, and among the 2500 students, the only students we have to worry about are several hundred students who are not as economically advantaged as most of our students, the very type of student who probably makes up the majority of studens in the Rhode Island high school.
People who visit our school always compliment us on our facilities, the energy, compassion, and academic performance of our students, and the diligence, enthusiasm, and devotion of our teachers.
We are a wonderful school!
I wonder, however, what would happen if the couple of hundred of students who struggle academically were the majority of the student body instead of the minority?
What would people then say about our school?
Would someone step in to fire all of our teachers?
Would Arne Duncan, the United States Education Secretary, step in to applaud the firing of the entire faculty?