Shouldn’t Teachers Union Be Held Accountable For Chronic Failure At Their Turnaround School?

Nothing demonstrates the hypocrisy of Connecticut teachers’ unions more than recent events surrounding High School in the Community – a school the New Haven Federation of Teachers (NHFT) took over and was supposed to turn around.

According to a recent report in the New Haven Independent, after three years under union management, the performance of the school declined so dramatically that New Haven Superintendent Garth Harries has decided to remove the school’s entire leadership team.

In case you’re wondering just how dramatic this decline was, according to the Independent, the four-year graduation rate dropped from 56.9 percent to 47.5 percent and the college enrollment rate dropped from 69.2 percent to 57.8 percent.

Admittedly, while NHFT President David Cicarella was involved in the decision to remove current leadership, one thing he decidedly did not suggest is switching management.

Rather than taking responsibility for the union’s failure to turnaround the school, Cicarella pointed fingers at the school’s leadership structure, which is an interesting claim considering High School in the Community teachers have been picking their own administrators from within their ranks since the school’s inception three decades ago — long before student performance began to decline in the early 2000s.

As ironic as it is for a teacher’s union president to fault a teacher-led administrative structure as the problem, here’s the real kicker: While the union was running High School in the Community into the ground, they fought to stop Achievement First from opening Elm City Imagine.

Since 2012, the union has spent millions of state dollars implementing an experimental “mastery based” school model that was supposed to improve student performance at High School in the Community. The results have been absolutely abysmal, and yet, according to Cicarella, the union should remain in control of the school.

Meanwhile Cicarella and his union was instrumental in halting Elm City Imagine – a school proposed by Achievement First, a charter school system that, unlike the union, has a long history of success – including Amistad Academy, which has consistently been ranked one of the best high schools in the state. 

Cicarella’s reason for refusing to support the new school: Charter schools allegedly aren’t being held “equally accountable.”

That’s interesting. I wonder what would have happened if a charter school operator chronically failed students for three years? Or even more importantly, what would have happened if a charter school continued to decline for an entire decade as High School in the Community has done?

I guess to Cicarella and his union “equal accountability” only applies to charter schools.



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