Earlier this year Massachusetts enacted a law that allowed districts to remove at least half the teachers and the principal at their lowest-performing schools, reports the New York Times. The school turnaround legislation aligned the state with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program incentives and a chance to collect a piece of the $3.4 billion in federal grant money. From Washington this makes abundant good sense, a way to galvanize rapid and substantial change in schools for children who need it most. In practice, on the ground, it is messy for the people most necessary for turning a school around–the teachers–and not always fair. Often the decisions about which teachers will stay and which will go are made by new principals who may be very good, but don’t know the old staff. “We had several good teachers asked to leave,” said Heather Gorman, a fourth-grade teacher who will be staying at Blackstone Elementary here, where 38 of 50 teachers were removed. “Including my sister who’s been a special-ed teacher 22 years.”

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Maya Prabhu