Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

“How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything”


How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything is an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal describing the disproportionate effect “bad employees” can have on the workplace. Bob Sutton, the author of the article, elaborates on it at his own blog.

There has been one time in my teaching career where it reached the point where a student just had to be moved. There have been other times when I thought life for the class — and for me — would have been a lot better without a student, but it was manageable if I focused a great deal of my time and energy on that particular student. Unfortunately, that took away my attention from others.

John Thompson quotes another author calling this the “Leo Effect,” where one or more students can “bring down performance” in a class, and shares some thoughtful comments about that kind of challenge, including suggesting we develop high quality alternative schools.

Based on what I read about the Turnaround For Children program which, admittedly, is just what I read in this recent New York Times article, it sounds like they might use a somewhat related strategy. Instead of removing the challenging students, though, it sounds like they “confront the 5 percent of students who behave the worst” but keep them in the school.

Clearly, some students face so many challenges that they cannot function in a regular school situation. But when, and who, makes that call? How many chances are students given?

When, if ever, have you reached a point where a student “had to go?” Charters obviously have more options to remove students from their school than non-charters. How should non-charters handle this kind of situation? What criteria should be used? What are our moral, ethical and legal obligations?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Larry,

    I find this to be a very interesting topic. I teach ESL at a community college and I was recently assigned to teach ESL students who just graduated from American local high schools, all from the area where I teach. I was warned that they may have “attitudes” and feel that they did not belong in an ESL classroom. For the most part, the students are great, other than the occasional day when they have some behavioral issues typical of teenagers. However, I have one student who is just uncooperative and defiant. Being a new teacher, and this being my first time dealing with such an issue (usually I have adult students that are so grateful to be in the classroom learning and learning English) I am at a loss. Especially at the college level. I am wondering if you have any advice, I know you teach high school, if you can point me in the right direction I would be much appreciative! I appreciate any assistance/advice you may have!

    • Kerri,

      I don’t have time to respond at length to you right now, but I can say I have a chapter in my book on Helping Students Motivate Themselves specifically devoted to this topic. You might want to check it out. I’ll see if I can respond a little more extensively later in the week. You might want to also explore my ‘The Best” lists under Classroom Management.


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