EDUCATION: More than job-training

Teachers Fired at Cedar Falls

Well, it’s begun.

It was only a matter of time and it has begun in Cedar Falls, Rhode Island. Soon it will be happening all over the country.

Faced with the absolutely hopeless inefficiency of a school in which 50% of the students fail to graduate, a local administrator has taken the only course of action possible–short of true reform, that is.

Cedar Falls school superintendent Frances Gallo has decided to deal with the ineffectiveness of the local high school by firing its entire faculty and staff.

The media has been quick to jump on her bandwagon. Most of the accounts I’ve read are larded with phrasing to suggest praise for Gallo and condemnation of the teachers.

Gallo has “brought down the hammer.” Teachers “resist reforms.”  The teachers have “rejected” what appears to be nothing more than “a little extra unpaid time at school.”

The scenario playing out is “greedy, overpaid teachers versus crusading school superintendent.”

Far from being some kind of heroic act on the part of Gallo, firing the high school staff is an act of desperation. It’s a course of action universally favored by tyrants who wish to diffuse public criticism of ineffectual policies:

When all fails, find a scapegoat.

According to the accounts I’ve read, the plan rejected by the Cedar Falls teachers’ union contains these elements:

extend the school day by 25 minutes

provide extra tutoring for students

require teachers to undergo extra training during the summer

Teachers would be paid for the summer training, but not for the additional 75 hours of teaching time.  To underscore the “unreasonableness” of the teachers in refusing to accept extra unpaid duties, all news reports point out that “most” of the Cedar Falls teachers “are at the district’s top pay level, making an average $72,000 to $78,000 a year.“

Yes, the salary figures, if accurate, are enough to make an Arkansas teacher gasp. The largest salary I ever drew was about $35,000, and that was just before I retired. However, what’s at issue at Cedar Falls should not be obscured by the fact that the teachers earn above Rhode Island’s $27,777 median salary.  Teachers should be paid well. Their preparation is expensive, and the work is grueling.

The lesson to be drawn from Cedar Falls is the fact that school administrators haven’t a clue as to why 50% of a school system’s students fail to graduate. The only solution they can think of is to give students 25 minutes more a day of what’s already not working.

These are Bandaid tactics for a problem requiring major surgery. Gallo’s plan of adding 25 minutes to the school day, providing “extra” tutoring, and “extra” teacher training just won’t cut it.

The Six Fallacies Illustrated by the Cedar Falls Firing Decision

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