Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cherry-Picking Charter Schools

In today's NYTimes, Charter School Sends Message -- Thrive or Transfer.

The article is about a young boy who was pressured to leave a Harlem Success Academy charter school.

The boy was made to stay after school to "practice" walking in the halls correctly. According to a spokeswoman for HSA:

“Practicing walking through the halls is the opposite of a punishment,” she wrote. “Just as in math, when a child does not get a concept, we re-teach. We don’t let the child fail. We ensure he gets it. We take the same approach with behavior. If a child is struggling, we re-teach. This is an example of when the school went out of its way to help Matthew be successful.”

Oh, please. If you force a kid to do a boring, repetitive, pointless task, that's a punishment. You can call it "practice", you can call it "consequences", you can call it whatever you want, but it's still punishment. No, it isn't less punitive if you smile and speak with a gentle voice when you tell the kid he's going to practice walking silently in the hallway. It's the same old abuse that's been perpetrated by those with power against those without power for centuries.

I'm not surprised young Matthew was throwing up most mornings and asking his mother if he was going to be fired from school.

The good news is that Matthew is now doing very well at his local public school.


  1. "At that point, Ms. Sprowal had come to believe her son was so difficult that she was lucky anyone would take him. She wrote several e-mails thanking Ms. Moskowitz, saying she hoped that Matthew would someday be well-behaved enough to return to her “phenomenal” school."

    THIS is what made me saddest about the whole article. Not so much that the charter won't work for him... but that parents get roped into this thinking. I remember what that was like for my autistic Elf at a traditional public school. It is BULLYING.

    These people have no right to start an anti-bullying program for the kids if this is how people are treated.

    I am a special needs mom and I "GET" that some of my children mightn't do well in elite school. It would be a shame to shut the charters down, but NICE if everyone could please get real, do an entrance exam and say they only accept the high-performing students. You know? Why not?

  2. HappyElfMom -- And it isn't just the parents who got roped into the school's thinking. Notice the kid was afraid the school would "fire" him -- he has totally absorbed the metaphor of kids as employees.

    Why don't they just admit that they only want high-performing students? Because that would invalidate all the empirical claims they make about how their schools are what all poor kids need.