Central Falls teacher: Why I quit

A research scientist who became a science teacher at Rhode Island’s troubled Central Falls High, Dale Dearnley explains: Why I Resigned on GoLocalProv. A perennially low-scoring school, Central Falls fired — and then rehired — its teachers as part of a turnaround effort.

Her number one reason for leaving is “the absence of discipline and accountability.” The district approved a behavior system based on “restorative practices,” but failed to implement it consistently.

Chaos is the norm, interruption of education is consistent, and the environment is toxic.

Being sent to the “Restorative Room” is how students are held accountable for infractions from cutting class and disrupting lessons to threatening teachers and assault. I have heard from many students that they enjoy going to the Restorative Room because they can socialize with their friends, joke around with a so-called “behavior specialist, ” and their only academic responsibility is to complete a word search puzzle. If “restorative practices” were working, then students would not resort to extreme vulgarities and hate speech in response to simple directions and the routines of an orderly, productive classroom.

For five years, the high school has had no science curriculum, Dearnley writes.  Teachers were promised a chance to develop a curriculum. Instead, they get pre-packed science “kits ” from a contractor.

Teachers are “afraid to speak up because of fear of retribution,” she writes. When a student threatened to kill her, he was assigned to the Restorative Room for the remainder of the day. An administrator told her it wasn’t a police matter and reprimanded her for using the student’s full name in the school’s incident report.

Letting students get away with cursing and threatening teachers is a form of child neglect and abuse, Dearnley argues.

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Comments

  1. I wonder how much the lack of curriculum contributed to the lack of discipline; they might be two side of the same coin.

  2. The significance here is that this description could be of most public schools in all our states.

    The important question is, why?

    It is not a regional problem. It is a fundamental problem of the American public school system.

    Why do we have a culture, tradition, or structure, that allows students to be disruptive and avoid meaningful consequences?

    I’d like there to be a study–I don’t have the answers.

    But one thing I know is that we don’t send home disruptive students anymore and I think the primary reason is financial. Every suspended student means the loss of ADA money. A second reason seems to be the practice of sweeping problems under the rug instead of acting on them. A school that suspends a lot of students gets a bad rap, so no students are suspended, and what happens in the classroom is a lot of chaos.

    Teachers’ hands are tied when it comes to discipline, not just in Rhode Island, but everywhere.

    I’d sure like to see this problem addressed instead of covered up.

  3. I wonder how much the lack of curriculum contributed to the lack of discipline; they might be two side of the same coin.

    Uh, no.

    Every suspended student means the loss of ADA money. A second reason seems to be the practice of sweeping problems under the rug instead of acting on them.

    First reason is generally correct. Second, however, is the fear of disparate impact lawsuits. Disruptive kids are disproportionately URMs. Third, I’d wager, is that the police want babysitters.

  4. Cal is right..the reason is disparite impact. The first thing a lawyer does is check the numbers, and their had better not be a pattern of suspending certain demographics more than others.

    Another problem is Special Education students. One of my students was put up for explusion twice this year, only to be kicked back twice by the District for minor paperwork errors. I attended multiple behavior manifestation IEPs for some of my other special ed students. Regular students are supposed to be put up for expulsion at fifteen days of suspension, (guess how hard it is to get those last two or three days of suspension assigned?) Special Ed students are given twenty days before they are put up for expulsion, and require many more meetings and much more paperwork to get that far.

    One of the problems I am encountering with some of my Special Ed students is that prior to becoming Freshmen, they were often in classrooms with twelve or so students, and two or three adults and have trouble adapting to rooms with thirty-five students and one adult.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Arne Duncan warned against disparate impact in disciplinary activities. Gonna be watching the schools for that. I think there was a post on the subject here in the last year or so.

  6. Disparate impact may be a factor, but schools with all-minority or all-white students have these issues too. Behavior that would not have occurred fifty years ago is tolerated.

  7. And this is a BIG reason why parents choose charter schools. They may not be much better academically, but they are safer.

  8. tim-10-ber says:

    At the end of the day government education is a business…the only thing it does not have is true accountability…

    Reading these comments is very disheartening…

    My question is can it be fixed? The answer is no. Too many people have a hand in the till and it isn’t the teachers and it sure it done for the benefit of many of the students…

    Question — is this a bigger problem in urban schools or is it in rural schools, too? What about suburban schools?

    I have never understood why educators in total gave up on discipline…we could not get away with anything…the principal had and used a paddle…of course we didn’t have as many ambulance chasing attorneys…need to stop the lawsuits, stop worrying about how many of whatever group has been suspended, etc and fix the situation…everyone needs to be held accountable…

    I don’t know how or why teachers continue to teach in these situations…

  9. tim-10-ber says:

    At the end of the day government education is a business…the only thing it does not have is true accountability…

    Reading these comments is very disheartening…

    My question is can it be fixed? The answer is no. Too many people have a hand in the till and it isn’t the teachers and it sure it done for the benefit of many of the students…

    Question — is this a bigger problem in urban schools or is it in rural schools, too? What about suburban schools?

    I have never understood why educators in total gave up on discipline…we could not get away with anything…the principal had and used a paddle…of course we didn’t have as many ambulance chasing attorneys…need to stop the lawsuits, stop worrying about how many of whatever group has been suspended, etc and fix the situation…everyone needs to be held accountable…

    I don’t know how or why teachers continue to teach in these situations…

  10. I usually can come up with suggestions– at least half-ideas.

    But I’m stumped here.

    All I can for certain is that the situation is pretty bad.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Robert.
    Bucks to muffins, your suggestions are practical but that some group, educrats, helicopter parents, ambulance chasers, social workers would successfully oppose each.
    Can you think of any idea that wouldn’t be opposed by some group?

  12. Tim-10-ber, it’s a problem in rural and suburban schools as well; I suspect but don’t have anything other than anecdotal data to suggest that socioeconomic status may be a factor.

    It’d be easy enough to figure out, but doing so would take a bit of time.

  13. palisadesk says:

    [Charter schools] may not be much better academically, but they are safer.


    This is also a major reason why parents put their children in private schools. There have been a couple of studies relating to parents’ reasons for choosing a private school: a surprising (to many people) finding is that academic reasons are well down the list. Safety is at the very top!

    Other factors topping academics are small classes with individual attention, values (not necessarily religious) congruent with those of the parents, extracurricular and arts opportunities, and school climate. Academic outcomes were about 5th or 6th, which is congruent with the finding that private schools do not collectively produce better academic outcomes than public schools, once family income and parental education factors are controlled for.

  14. I don’t have any chaos in my classroom. It’s a suburban school, but I think one of the keys is that the administration and staff work together and aren’t at odds. We get crabby with each other now and then, but our turnover is relatively low; it’s best to learn how to get along with somebody you’re going to be working with for half your life. It also helps that we offer some stability and the kids generally can’t play us off each other.