Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gus Morales Firing Epitomizes Everything Wrong with "School Reform"

You are leading a high poverty school district in Massachusetts with a majority Latino population. You have a teacher who grew up in the district. He is male, Latino, brilliant, and charismatic. He always dreamed of teaching in the community he grew up in. But he is also a veteran who is proud and outspoken. When he sees something wrong, he says so. Evern though he is a new teacher, his colleagues, who are mostly white, look to him for leadership, especially when he speaks out against excessive testing and the way tests and data walls are used to humiliate students. They elect him, as an untenured teacher, president of the local teachers unions.

So what do you do? Do you focus on what this teacher- Gus Morales- brings to his students, to the families in the district, to the entire community. Or do you decide to get rid of him to crush the opposition to the new testing policies and have a teaching staff that accepts the new "reforms" passively?
You decide to do the latter. You fire him once, and then in the face of national protest, hire him back. And then, after a year, you decide to fire him again.

This shows something we see happening all over the country. For all the comments that Arne Duncan makes about diversifying the nation's teaching force, there is nothing more threatening to the current generation of school reformers- Duncan included- than people with real roots in the communities they teach in who can connect with the students and parents in those districts. That is why they fire people like Gus Morales and try to bring in Teach for American temps who will be in those classrooms for only a few years and then leave.

And that is why we- the people who really care about children and schools and teaching- have to fight to get Gus Morales back in the classroom.
He represents exactly what we need in our high poverty schools and indeed all our public schools- teachers for life who live in the communities they teach in and love the children they work with.
Note: The School District is Holyoke, Massachusetts.Wi