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Turnaround-Inspired Teacher Firings on Tap in Ga.

It's Central Falls all over again! Savannah, Ga., will remove all the teachers in a high school and hire back no more than half the staff, per the terms of the Obama administration's School Improvement Grants, the Atlanta Constitution reports.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel is pretty worked up about it: "This is a disturbing trend that will take communities across this country down a dangerous road," he said in a statement. "NEA is committed to transforming our nation's struggling schools, but this method is short-sighted and could have disastrous outcomes for students."

I'm beginning to think we're going to see a lot more of these kinds of stories, especially now that a bunch of states have received their grants funding (click on the releases for March 26.) Such stories do makes sense from the human-interest point of view, in that these kinds of reconstitutions affect a lot of people, and in the case of Central Falls, really an entire community.

As I've mentioned before, the removal of teachers has been allowable under federal law for the past eight years. Don't believe me? Read section 1116 of No Child Left Behind, which allows districts, when dealing with school restructuring, to replace all or most of the staff "relevant" to the failure to make adequate yearly progress.

No one paid any attention to this provision in the past, because for all the fear of the NCLB sanctions, most districts used the politically palatable "any other major restructuring" option under the law. In practice, the option rarely included dismissals and often meant only superficial changes to curriculum and governance. In fact, some news reports including the AJC say there were only 20-30 instances of staff reconstitution per year in the country.

The School Improvement Grants, by contrast, don't allow the "other" option, so for the first time states, districts, teachers, and unions are having to really confront what restructuring means, and they really don't like the implications.

It's clear that groups that don't support these changes are trying to prevent these school turnaround models from being put into the rewrite of ESEA. One way to help that goal along? Make sure they bring the firings to the media's attention.

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