President Obama in the State of the Union cited Bruce Randolph School in Denver as a shining example of educational success.
“Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said ‘Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing… that we are smart and we can make it.’” Obama said, according to his prepared remarks.
Notably, a key factor in the school’s success was a move to ditch the rules of teachers’ unions.
In 2008, the teachers there voted to reject unionization. Prior to that, the school had formed a “autonomy” agreement freeing it from local red tape and union rules.
As the Denver Post reported in May, the school’s transformation began when the principal asked every teacher to reapply. Of 40, only six were re-hired.
“Then the new staff, led by a union member, asked for autonomy from district and union rules — giving the school flexibility with its budget, hiring decisions, time, calendar and incentives,” the Post reported.
Obama did not address teachers’ unions in his address. He said the Bruce Randolph School shows “we know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.”