Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools, Part 4
Offered here is Part 4 of my book, Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through "No Excuses" Teaching. This chapter sketches the history of "No Excuses."
Whence No Excuses?
What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul: loses his appreciation of things worth while, of the values to which these things are relative . . . –John Dewey (1938/2007)
In a 1993 commentary that attacked Jonathan Kozol and Gerald Bracey for questioning the veracity of the dramatic warnings of A Nation at Risk ten years after its publication, conservative education policymaker, Denis Doyle (1993) was one of the first policymakers to use the term, “No Excuses,” in an educational context:
If they [public schools] begin to benchmark seriously, they will compare themselves to the best of the best, not just in public elementary and secondary schools, but also in high-performance organizations. The power of benchmarking is that it does internally what competition is supposed to do externally: it holds organizations to high standards of performance, measurement, and reporting. It accepts no excuses. It is continuous. There is no finish line (p. 631).
The term, “No Excuses,” was used two years later by policymaker, Anne Lewis (1995), who admonished folks like Denis Doyle for a narrow focus on accountability outcomes at the expense of adequate resource allocation. Lewis offered a reminder to budget cutters and efficiency seekers that there was no escape from the ultimate responsibility to educate all children, without excuse or failure. Specifically, Lewis took to task the newly-empowered conservative budget hawks in Washington for their efforts to slash federal funding for welfare and education programs. She warned in pointed terms that as “the culpable may get off the hook temporarily, the responsibility of education to prepare young people for the legitimate economy cannot be passed off. No matter what panaceas are offered by the budget cutters, the bottom line for kids is the classroom. And the work they do there must be demanding, with no failures and no excuses” (p. 660).
Over the next five years, however, the conservative targets of Lewis’s castigation successfully Schools Matter: Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools, Part 4: