To: Pia Durkin, Superintendent New Bedford Schools
Support New Bedford HS Teachers!
The decision to initiate a turnaround process at New Bedford High School, in which all teachers must reapply for jobs and only 50 percent can be rehired, must be overturned. It denies the commitment and good work of New Bedford teachers and is disruptive to already fragile students’ lives.
Why is this important?
The problem in New Bedford is not the quality of teaching, it is poverty, high needs, and a lack of adequate support. An over-emphasis on test scores only makes things worse. We need to teach, and to value, the whole child.
According to statistics available through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in New Bedford 73 percent of students come from families with low income, 78 percent of students are considered “high needs” (as compared to 47% statewide), and 21 percent do not have English as their first language. Despite these challenges, expenditure for the schools dropped by $3 million between 2011 and 2012, and per pupil spending is below the state average. Indeed, in the 2012-2013 school year at least 100 educator positions were lost to cuts, almost half of those at New Bedford High School.
Firing half the teachers at New Bedford High School will not improve education or help students. Turnaround plans are notoriously used to break contractual obligations, introduce unqualified new faculty from fast-track programs such as Teach for America, feed distrust and disrespect, and open the door for public education to be dominated by private interests. This is not how we create strong community schools that value the whole child.
If you care about student well-being and achievement, you should fight for economic justice, give teachers resources that they need, recognize and celebrate the critical work teachers do that is not measured by a test score, and make room for teachers, parents and community to share and grow knowledge in a spirit of trust, commitment, and goodwill.