EduShyster has a guest column by a teacher who recently finished teaching at UP Academy in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The UP network has five schools. They are not charter schools, though their authoritarian practices appear to be modeled on “no excuses” charter schools. They are zoned 6-8 public middle schools. The schools get high test scores, and the US Department of Education recently awarded them $4.3 million to replicate. Its disciplinary polices are harsh and unforgiving. While the schools get high test scores, shouldn’t we wait and see what other results follow from such schools before paying taxpayer dollars to get more of them? I would never let my children or grandchildren go to such a soulless school, but that’s just me. In the case of UP academies, parents don’t have a choice.
I was hired to teach at UP Academy in Lawrence, MA starting in August of 2014. Everyone on staff had a duty and mine was to stand in the girl’s bathroom and make sure that the students were leaving quickly and that they only used two pumps of soap and took two paper towels. If they used more I was supposed to give them a demerit. Everything is timed, and teachers walk around with timers. Kids are timed when they go to the bathroom and when they have their snack so that they aren’t wasting valuable learning time. At orientation, which lasted a month before the start of schools, we spent an entire day on how to pass papers and how to get the students to compete against each other as they did this.
When it comes to math and English, UP Academy is teaching a lot, but there’s no emphasis on anything else. Students get social studies and science for half a year; PE and art are considered *specials* and students only get them for an hour a week. The only time students leave their classrooms is when they’re going to PE, art or lunch. After sitting all day, they have to line up in single file in total silence, not making a single peep, hands behind their backs, everything tucked in—like perfect soldiers. I’d have to transport them to my classroom, giving them merits and demerits along the way.
There were fifteen minutes total for the the entire class to go to the bathroom. This was twice a day, in the morning and later in the afternoon. There was an average of 32 kids in the class and when we called their names, they would indicate whether they had to go to the bathroom or not by saying *yes, thank you* or *no, thank you.* You’d start from the top of the list in the morning and those people would go to the bathroom. In the afternoon, names would get called from the bottom up. If students didn’t get called, they couldn’t use the bathroom. Students have two emergency bathroom passes they can use during the semester. If they use them up they get a detention.
There is more to read. Frankly, I find this bordering on child abuse. This is the kind of school that superior people design for other people’s children, not their own.