A reader in New York City writes to describe the closing scenes in a Turnaround school. I can’t help but think of the desk jockeys inside the Beltway, the gals and guys who pull down six figures to explain why “turnaround” is a great idea. And all those consultants ready to swoop in for half a million or so. Then then there are the public relations consultants who will tell the media that this wonderful plan is working. The think tanks will celebrate: the theory works! Who are those ants on the ground. People, you say? But they are data, not people. Remember, it’s all about the children!

No problem: Just fire everyone, and it’s time for a do-over. Start fresh!

From D.C. it looks good. But at the school, it doesn’t look that great. A community dies. People pack their things. Careers ended, a school has died. It hurts:

Since you mention “turnaround schools,” I thought I would offer a glimpse of what is happening at the school I work at in Queens, NY that is undergoing turnaround. It is grim! The hiring process is awful. We teachers (and secretaries and paraprofessionals and guidance counselors) are asked a series of vague questions and then have four minutes to answer each of the five questions. The questions are insane for some teachers (like Phys Ed) to answer. One is “What are five ways you apply the common core standarsd to lesson plans so that they are scaffolded and differentiated and how do you know that you have differentiated and tiered these lessons correctly?” or something to that effect). Each question is at least a paragraph long.Teachers have been notified if they have been hired back and thus far, mostly younger, less experienced teachers have gotten rehired (or a letter of intent to rehire). Some of the best teachers in our school have heard nothing. You should have seen those teachers taking all of their belongings out of the school today. We are losing our best teachers. We are assuming that if we don’t hear that they want us that we are indeed unwanted.

Teachers are crying constantly. Constant breakdowns. So many teachers in my school are on anti-anxiety medication or on anti-depressants. The powers that be have succeeded in breaking the spirit of all the teachers in my school and I am sure in the other 23 schools in NYC.

This is not how a hiring process should work. The union is not doing anything to help and I am worried how the school will function in September–actually, I know how it will function. It won’t. It will be crazy with so many (up to 50 percent) inexperienced, young teachers…..

I was going to work for five more years. I am a science teacher who has certification to teach both chemistry and earth science. I had the highest ES Regents passing rate in the school, but when the hiring committee selected a younger, less experienced teacher and I heard nothing, I put in my retirement papers. I will not be humiliated like this and I will not be in the ATR.

I am sure there are some who are snickering, “Welcome to the real world” or who are happy to see teachers publicly flogged, but the real victims will be the students. All the teachers in my school are disgusted with the UFT and their hands off approach (Yeah, they did file a grievance, but have been fairly quiet about it ever since….and everyone in my school expects the UFT to lose…and even if they don’t lose, there has been so much damage done to all the teachers’ sense of self-esteem and loyalty to the school and to the students that any UFT victory will be hollow. And, we feel so betrayed by our union. Where is Michael Mulgrew? Why hasn’t he ever visited any of these schools or spoken out more publicly and more often about this? This affects over 3500 UFT members and well over 40,000 students!)

So, I am retiring–so are other talented and great teachers in my school…others are just resigned to be ATR’s and have no interest in working in our school again. They cannot face working for a new principal who found them inadequate. And the students? Nobody asked them what they wanted. I spoke to a few last week and they were so sad that their school, their second home, was being destroyed and that so many teachers who supported them and helped them and upon whom they relied would be gone.

Is this sound educational policy? NO! Is this going to help a single student? NO! All this will do is help destroy teaching as a profession and public education more than anything I can imagine now. And please note that my school is a good school with a lot of immigrant students. We have great programs and have students who come with deficient skill sets. We all work so hard and have great successes with the students. Our graduation rate has increased steadily over the past few years and that it takes some of these students five or six years to graduate should not be held against them or us.

But it is held against us and it is a lot easier to destroy something than it is to build something. The DOE and the Obama administration have created a policy that is destroying student lives. Shame on them and shame on the President whose change I no longer believe in.