Friday, May 14, 2021

Joanne W. Golann: I spent a year and a half at a 'no-excuses' charter school – this is what I saw - The Conversation

I spent a year and a half at a 'no-excuses' charter school – this is what I saw
I spent a year and a half at a ‘no-excuses’ charter school – this is what I saw

Disclosure statement

Joanne W. Golann has received funding from the Spencer Foundation, the National Academy of Education, and the American Sociological Association.

Charter schools are 30 years old as of 2021, and the contentious debate about their merits and place in American society continues.

To better understand what happens at charter schools – and as a sociologist who focuses on education – I spent a year and a half at a particular type of urban charter school that takes a “no-excuses” approach toward education. My research was conducted from 2012 through 2013, but these practices are still prevalent in charter schools today.

The no-excuses model is one of the most celebrated and most controversial education reform models for raising student achievement among Black and Latino students. Charters, which are public schools of choice that are independently managed, show comparable achievement to traditional public schools, but no-excuses charters produce much stronger test-score gains. No-excuses schools have been heralded as examples of charter success and have received millions of dollars in foundation support. At the same time, no-excuses schools themselves have started to rethink their harsh disciplinary practices. Large charter networks like KIPP and Noble in recent years have acknowledged the wrongfulness of their disciplinary approaches and repudiated the no-excuses approach.

Here are 10 of the most striking things that I observed at the no-excuses charter school where I spent 18 months.

1. Teachers let nothing slide

Teachers at no-excuses schools “sweat the small stuff.” The long list of infractions at the school that I observed included: not following directions, making unnecessary noise, putting one’s head down on a desk, being off-task, rolling one’s eyes and not tracking the speaker.

Students on average received one infraction every three days. One fifth grader managed to accumulate 295 infractions over the school year. Infractions resulted in detention, loss of privileges like field trips and school socials, and “bench” – a punishment in which students had to wear a special yellow shirt and could not talk to their classmates or participate in gym class.

2. Teachers constantly explained the ‘why’

Teachers were encouraged to explain the “why” of infractions so students would understand the rationale behind the school’s unbending rules. Why did students receive detention for arriving one minute late to school? Because supposedly it helped them develop time-management skills. College applications would not be accepted if they were one minute late, they claimed. Why were there silent hallways? Because, the school argued, self-control would get kids to and through college.

3. Students developed distorted ideas about college CONTINUE READING: I spent a year and a half at a 'no-excuses' charter school – this is what I saw