Except for foreign teenagers generally coming here to study, the lives of
American teenagers are so comfortably promising of the future that they 'You
just know you don't have to study anymore; you're going to make it one way or
another -sports, the media, Hollywood, whatever'. Proof? Every fucking one of
them has a cellphone stuck in his ear -compliments of Steve Jobs, the greatest
agent of mindless society so far -beat all hell out of Hollywood and TV
[Think the film Repo-man: Steve Estevez comes home, takes milk out of the
refrigerator; carton reads MILK -opened can reads FOOD; Mom and Dad stoned
watching TV; without looking at him, Mom (zombie) monotones "Put it in a dish,
son; it'll taste better".
June 13, 2011 NPR's All Things Considered
Changes At R.I. School Fail To Produce Results
by Claudio Sanchez
For the last year, Central Falls High School in Rhode Island has been under a
microscope. Long considered one of the poorest-performing high schools in the
state, administrators abandoned a proposal to fire all the teachers as long as
they agreed to a so-called "transformation" plan.
Now, as the school year winds down, that plan is in
Since August, when the restructuring of Central Falls High
School began, 26 teachers have resigned or been fired. Josh Karten is one of
"I think I've been let go because I'm not a true believer,"
Karten, a history and business teacher for four years here,
says he was all for the school's transformation — which called for a much
tougher teacher evaluation policy, mandatory training and more time dedicated
to struggling students. The plan and the money to pay for it came from the
Obama administration's campaign to fix schools labeled "dropout factories."
Karten's enthusiasm took a dive after he was put in charge of
the "restoration" room, a holding pen for the school's most disruptive
"But then once I started questioning some of the things they
were doing — putting kids in a room just to get them out of the way for the
period and then putting them back out. And they basically kept telling me to
shut my mouth and just log people when they come in. I never got to teach,"
Karten says the school was in such disarray that in-school
suspensions jumped from 2,300 to 8,500 by the end of May. His contract was not
renewed because, he says, he had seen too much and refused to be muzzled.
Not true, says Superintendent Francis Gallo, although she
declined to discuss Karten's firing.
"Personnel matters are personnel matters, but shame on us if
we didn't have enough planning with Josh so that he understood the role and
knew what had to be done," Gallo says.
The debacle at Central Falls High has gotten national attention because
President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have publicly sided with
administrators arguing that teachers must be held accountable for students'
dismal test scores. Last year, only 7 percent of students tested at grade level
in math, 24 percent in reading. This year's test results could be worse.
"Because of our low expectations in the classroom — meaning
teachers," Gallo says.
Gallo believes some teachers have sabotaged her reforms.
Teachers say those reforms are a joke. Joe Travers, a 21-year veteran, was
transferred to an elementary school after saying so at a town hall meeting.
"I'm fighting this because what they did is wrong. They use
that word transformation as a buzzword for everything: 'We can do this because
of transformation.' But transformation tries to retain the teachers that are
doing a good job, tries to retain teachers that can move the school forward,"
Instead, says Travers, the absolute lack of trust in Gallo
and administrators has made it impossible to move forward. Rhode Island's
Education Commissioner Deborah Gist agrees.
"If people are not working together, there's no chance for
its success," Gist says.
With teachers and administrators at an impasse, Gist, too,
has come under fire for failing to bring both sides together.
"I am ultimately responsible for getting that done," Gist
Gist says the school could eventually be shut down or turned
into a charter school. State legislators are calling for an investigation into
how the $1 million in federal funds for the school's transformation have been
spent and whether the school district violated the due process rights of
No one has been hurt more by the upheaval at Central Falls High than this
year's seniors. "I think most of us do feel cheated for the four years. Every
year has been different and this year has by far been the worst," senior
Derrick Lopes says.
"Like they let all the bad kids do whatever they want. It's
just kind of pathetic," his classmate, Ashley Castro, says.
And so, as the Obama administration considers how to turn
failing schools around, Central Falls High has become a cautionary tale about
the complexities of school reform and whether the federal government should be
dictating what those reforms should be.