Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chaos continues at Central Falls High in Rhode Island

Nutty "no discipline" policies ensure it

Things aren’t going well at Central Falls High, the Rhode Island school that became famous early this year when all of the teachers were fired and President Obama praised the “accountability” move.

He didn’t say anything when an agreement was reached between Central Falls Schools District Superintendent Fran Gallo and the teachers union to rehire all the teachers and replace the principal with two co-principals as part of a state-mandated “turnaround” strategy because of a history of low standardized test scores and a high dropout rate.

Fast forward to now, a few months into the new school administration. Teachers and others report discipline, attendance and morale problems that have left the 840-student school seriously troubled in Rhode Island’s poorest city.

About half a dozen teachers have been out on extended medical leave -- including an Advanced Placement English class -- and the administration has had trouble covering the classes, with officials frequently getting on the loudspeaker to ask teachers to volunteer their time. (Gallo had said earlier this year that she got more than 700 applications for teaching jobs at Central Falls; you'd think she might have a pool to choose from to fill the open spots.)

A new disciplinary program that stressed leniency has failed to rein in dozens of students who caused serious disruptions; kids who come to school or class late, or who have even threatened teachers, received minimal or no punishment, said a number of teachers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Some teachers have reported being assaulted by students.

Teachers have made hundreds of referrals of students for disciplinary measures, but, some teachers said, the administration does little if anything in the way of punishment.

After first denying any problem, school officials have said part of the program would be reviewed. This admission occurred after a meeting with the Central Falls police chief, Capt. Col. Joseph Moran III, who is also head of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association....

Rhode Island’s acclaimed education commissioner, Deborah Gist, told me she had visited the school recently and found the students to be well-behaved and "wanting to learn" but some teachers not prepared to teach their classes.

When I asked about the discipline issue, citing the police chief, she responded that the chief had grown up in Central Falls with some of the teachers and was very close to them. Moran, who attended Central Falls and sent his children there, said the discipline problems about which teachers have complained are real.

Police have arrested a handful of students and at least two teachers have filed assault charges against students, yet school officials just inexplicably removed the police officer that had been assigned to the high school and send her to a middle school, the local station WRNI reported.

Teachers said that the co-principals are not responsive to their problems, and take a more active role in making sure students are behaving when top schools officials visit.

George McLaughlin, who had been a longtime counselor at Central Falls until this year, when he moved, said: “I get at least two calls per week from teachers still at CFHS asking for advice in how to deal with stress, danger (the kids are completely out of control--teachers and students are being attacked verbally and even physically, regularly) and persecution.”


A plan to tackle extremism in British classrooms

Thank God, or, if you prefer, Allah, that in Michael Gove, we have a Secretary of State for Education who will not continue his predecessor Ed Balls’s policy of pretending that faith schools are all the same. They are not.

Some of them turn out well-educated, well-rounded young people who will strengthen our society; others strive to keep the minds of their charges closed by isolating them from people or ideas that might challenge them. Non-believers queue to get their children into high-performing Anglican or Roman Catholic schools because they have no fear they will be indoctrinated. There are few of them breaking down the doors of fundamentalist Muslim academies or establishments run by extreme Protestant evangelists.

In a sensible world, rather than concentrating on bullying mainstream Christian schools to preach secular values, the Department for Education would be keeping a beady eye on schools that encourage intolerance and worse.

With the UK under constant threat from Islamist violence, one might think extra effort would have been put into scrutinising schools suspected of producing extremists. One would be wrong. The establishment is obsessed with fairness and terrified of allegations of racism, so little is done to protect children from being taught to hate the society they are growing up in. Under Mr Balls’s stewardship, it became possible for a school of under 199 pupils to be inspected by just one person, who can be of the school’s own faith.

It has been left largely to journalists and to think tanks like Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion to study and expose radicalisation in schools and universities.

Last night, Panorama’s John Ware revealed that 5,000 children in more than 40 Saudi Students’ Schools and Clubs in the UK were being taught anti-Semitism, homophobia and other tenets of sharia. Michael Gove promises that his department will extend its remit to ensure it can stamp out such teachings in part-time schools. Mr Gove is the author of Celsius 7/7, a brilliant analysis of how the perverted totalitarian ideology that is Islamism developed out of “a great, historical faith” that has brought spiritual nourishment to billions. Asked to define extremism, he has explained that "you know it when you see it”.


British education boss sweeps away trendy teaching to focus on traditional subjects

Traditional academic subjects will be put back at the centre of ­learning under radical government plans to be unveiled today. Education Secretary Michael Gove told the Daily Mail he plans to tear up the schools league table system so success in old-fashioned subjects such as science, history or foreign languages is the chief measure of achievement.

The reform is the centrepiece of a wide-ranging education White Paper which aims to toughen school discipline and free teachers from bureaucracy. From January, schools will be judged on pupils’ success in a so-called ‘English Baccalaureate’ made up of English; maths; a science; history or geography; and a modern or ancient language.

Currently, only 16 per cent of students get a grade C or above in all five subjects. But Mr Gove believes the ­focus on the ‘English Bac’ up to the age of 16 will halt the drift to softer subjects at GCSE. ‘We must make sure our children are studying the subjects that really stretch the mind and prepare them for a more competitive world,’ he said.

Labour gave non-academic qualifications – including certificates in ‘sports leadership’ – parity with traditional ­subjects in league tables in 2004. The move helped fuel a catastrophic fall in the number of children taking academic courses as schools pushed weaker pupils into other qualifications, regardless of educational value, to ‘milk’ as many league table points as possible. The latest figures show there has been a astonishing 3,000 per cent rise in the number of pupils doing non-academic qualifications since then.

Mr Gove is expected to unveil further proposals for a major shake-up of the school curriculum within days. Children will study literary classics, ­British prime ministers, historical battles, ‘our island story’ and key scientific concepts, while the curriculum will be drastically simplified and issued to parents so they can hold schools to account.

Further measures include a return to one-off public exams taken at the end of courses instead of tests in ‘bite-size’ modules.

Meanwhile a drive to strengthen classroom discipline will give heads greater powers to restrain violent pupils, search youngsters for mobile phones and put them in detention.


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