Plan to stem dropout rate stirs controversy

Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, the White House says.
Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, the White House says.

The Obama administration is offering a $900 million carrot to the nation’s school systems to tackle what many view as an abysmal dropout rate that threatens America’s ability to compete in the new global economy. But it’s the “stick” portion of the administration’s plan that has rankled many educators.

Districts would get the money only if they agree to one of four plans to dramatically change or even shut down their worst performing schools. One of these plans involves firing the principal and at least half of the staff members at a struggling school—a turnaround plan that captured national attention when it was tried by the Central Falls, R.I., school system last week.

President Obama took aim at the nation’s school dropout epidemic in a March 1 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. During the event—which was sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance, a youth-oriented organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma—Obama noted the economic impact that dropouts have on America’s ability to compete.…Read More

Rhode Island town fires all teachers at a failing high school

In one of the first tests of the federal government’s restructuring model for failing schools, the Central Falls, R.I., school board on Feb. 23 approved a recommendation to dismiss the entire faculty and staff of the town’s only public high school, reports the New York Times. The board voted 5 to 2 to accept a plan proposed by Schools Superintendent Frances Gallo to fire the approximately 100 faculty and staff members at the chronically underperforming Central Falls High School on the last day of this school year in June. The plan also will create a new school governance structure and requires the high school’s new teachers to take part in professional development that meets federal standards. Gallo said during the meeting that she chose what she called a “turnaround” plan, one of four offered by the state, after the teachers’ union rejected conditions in another state plan that called for increased hours without the promise of salary increases. “Union leadership went too far because I would not commit to monetary incentives,” Gallo said. She said she’d been instructed by the state education commissioner to choose one of the four state reform plans, which were modeled on federal recommendations and included the school’s closing. Central Falls High is one of Rhode Island’s six lowest achieving schools and has a four-year graduation rate of 48 percent…

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