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What happens to teachers from failing schools?

July 5, 2011

Well, in large school districts like Providence or Boston, those who are not rehired during school turnarounds often end up working at other city schools. The Boston Globe has an interesting piece about the effects of this process, which are not entirely clear.

Some advocates for aggressive reforms in public schools refer to this shuffling of teachers as the “dance of the lemons,” because principals quietly get rid of teachers they believe are underperforming by foisting them onto other city schools. On the other hand, some of the principals interviewed for the Globe story give high marks to teachers who they hired from struggling schools.

There is no question that strong teachers are essential to improving student performance, but it is also clear that other factors including school leadership also play a role. As districts like Providence attempt to turnaround schools through a number of measures, including asking teachers to reapply for their jobs, it will be interesting to see whether staffing changes do, in fact, bring significant achievement gains.

Of course, this also raises the question of whether turnaround schools will leave a void in other schools’ faculties that is difficult to fill. It’s the opposite of the “dance of the lemons,” perhaps one might call it the “shuffling of the peaches?” That appears to be the case when it comes to successful principals, at least according to this profile in today’s Providence Journal.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 5, 2011 5:24 pm

    This is even moreso at the high school level in Providence. Low math scores are sufficient to close or reorganize a high school, yet math is only a fraction of a high school’s program. Every Providence high school, with the possible exception of Classical, will be declared failing and turned around eventually because of NECAP math scores (unless they can survive longer than NECAP). But there is no reason to think that Providence schools will ever get their NECAP math scores up into the, say, 75% range that appears acceptable.

    So even if, say 80% of a PVD high school’s teacher are high performing, it can fail and be closed. And by appearances, there aren’t any high performing high school math programs in the city, and no prospect for finding the kind of VERY high performing high school math teachers that would be necessary to turn the scores around.

    This is just a giant mess…

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