Teachers don't agree to shape up, get shipped out

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The entire staff of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island is getting the boot. One hundred teachers, administrators and assistants will receive termination notices at the conclusion of the current school year.

Why? It's all because the union and the district couldn't agree on an improvement plan for the persistently failing school, which had only 7 percent of its 11th graders scoring proficient in math this year.

The firings were not Superintendent Francis Gallo's first choice of action. State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told the district to fix the failing school, one of the worst in the state with its 48 percent four-year graduation rate. Gallo sought union support for a "transformation" plan including extending the school day by 25 minutes, more rigorous teacher evaluations and weekly after-school planning sessions.

The union balked because there was no offer to compensate teachers for additional work time and responsibilities. So, Gallo turned to Plan B: fire the staff and start over. The school board gave the go-ahead, and the next step is for Gallo to submit a more detailed plan to the state.

It remains to be seen whether the majority of teachers simply reapply and get rehired, a reality of many attempted school restructurings. In any event, the union is unlikely to play chicken again with the district any time soon.