The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page’s animus toward the Little Rock School District and its teachers’ union has never been more apparent than in recent swipes tied to Education Commissioner Johnny Key’s plan to waive the teacher fair dismissal law, particularly targeting 22 schools graded D and F on the state’s test score-dependent grading system. It’s tunnel vision, at best.
Typical editorializing from last Thursday:
The Teacher Fair Dismissal Act really should’ve been called the Teacher Full Employment Act—because it takes years to get rid of the ones who were “just” doing a bad job of teaching. Under this law, it seems a teacher has to commit a crime to get the boot. And calling in sick every Friday, putting on videos for each class, and sleep-walking to retirement isn’t a crime. At least not on the books.
… It’s time to visit those 22 schools with D or F grades and find which teachers aren’t teaching.
Please note. The D-G editorial writes about this law only in a Little Rock School District context. But wait. In the most recent grading cycle, there were 145 “D” schools and 44 graded “F” in Arkansas.
What’s more, many of the flops were charter schools, much beloved by the newspaper publisher, Walter Hussman, and thus his editorial staff. They needn’t look far for examples. Last weekend, when another swipe at Little Rock teachers appeared on the editorial page, there were paid ads in the D-G announcing the grades of four charter schools north of the river in Pulaski County, including 2 Ds and one F. Time to visit, maybe?
There are more places to visit. Maybe the three KIPP schools with Ds? You know KIPP, it’s the editorial writer-beloved national chain much lauded for schools in the Delta. Or maybe Covenant Keepers, a persistent source of management and academic problems, another D on the south side of Little Rock. Or maybe Little Rock Prep Elementary? Another D.
All these charter schools share a demographic fact of life with the D and F schools in Little Rock — concentrated populations of poor, minority students. It is a group that has defied mass improvement on standardized test scores nationwide, not just in Little Rock and not just in conventional public schools.
There’s one other thing about those charter schools so often forgiven by the state Board of Education and the editorial writers advancing the Walton/Billionaire Boys Club party line. Nearly all ALREADY HAVE WAIVERS from the, heh heh, “Teacher Full Employment Act.” Not to mention the certified teacher requirement and many other laws aimed at helping make teachers more accountable and productive. Unencumbered from jump street by these supposed deadhead protection laws, these schools still “fail.” I put the word in quotes because I don’t happen to believe this crazy single-letter grading system is as valuable as the “reformers” say it is.
Johnny Key, the Waltons, Asa Hutchinson
So what’s the charter schools’ excuse?