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Too Hard to Try?!!

(05/15/2009)


In a recent update to our volunteers we were reminded of Frederick Douglass' famous quote: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

In this update, a lesson from Gregory Hodge, Principal of NYC's Frederick Douglass Academy comes to mind as a very strong counterpoint to the needlessly hopeless May 3 LA Times article Failure gets a pass: When firing a teacher is almost too hard to try. Compare the LA Times' pessimism with this introduction to Principal Gregory Hodge's lessons from No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools p.1 (PDF p.8):

"A tenured teacher recently came to my office and told me, “These children can’t learn. It’s cultural.” So, I looked at the lady, and I said, “You’re coming from 72nd Street, all the way up to Harlem, to tell me that children of color cannot learn?” I said to her, “You’ve got two choices. Either resign or I’m going to fire you.” And you know what, she left, quickly. Because I made her life miserable. I observed her every single day, and I told her she couldn’t teach, and she had to go. And she left. Good principals know the union contract. Good principals weed out ineffective teachers."

As great as having this skill of weeding out ineffective teachers may be, we should keep in mind that this skill is useless apart from the far higher-level skill of attracting, retaining, and developing great teachers to work collaboratively with their peers and management to successfully close the achievement gap in every grade, subject, and year. It is the absence of this far higher skill that makes charter schools perform no better as a group than their public school peers!

But for those few charters who know how to wield their hiring flexibility for good, their extraordinary performance is unmistakable. Want to see a bright future where the LA Times sees only pessimism? Turn again to No Excuses, this time to pp.17-23 (PDF pp.24-30). Here you'll get a glimpse of what Altadena Schools might look like when staffed with the skills necessary for closing the achievement gap!



 

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