EduShyster interviews Joanne Golann, a doctoral student and researcher in sociology at Princeton who spent 15 months in a no-excuses charter school, studying its culture. After participating daily in the life of the school, interviewing students, teachers, and administrators. She notes that the no-excuses charter is a model of strict obedience and conformity that is widespread and focused on test scores. Teachers impose the model because it assures them control. If they let go, chaos might ensue. They can’t take that risk.

 

EduShyster asked Golann to sum up her findings, and she said:

 

“I found that in trying to prepare students for college, the school failed to teach students the skills and behaviors to help them succeed in college. In a tightly regulated environment, students learned to monitor themselves, hold back their opinions, and defer to authority. These are very different skills than the ones middle-class kids learn—to take initiative, be assertive, and negotiate with authority. Colleges expect students to take charge of their learning and to advocate for themselves. One of the students I talk about in the article learned to restrain herself to get through, to hold herself back and not speak her mind. She ended up winning the most-improved student award in 8th grade for her changed behavior…,

 

 

“If we create an educational marketplace where success is measured by student test scores, perhaps it is not altogether surprising that we end up with a rigid school model that produces these test scores. What we don’t get is a model that teaches students how to speak up or even a model that leaves students feeling like they have had a positive school experience. While charter schools were originally seen as a way to innovate, a way for communities to develop schools that might better fit their students and families, what’s come to dominate the charter field are charter management organizations and this no-excuses model. For example, in Boston, one study found that 71% of the urban charter schools subscribe to the no-excuses model. Of the high-achieving urban charters, almost all are no-excuses schools. They’ve expanded rapidly because of the support of foundations and the US Department of Education. Some $500 million in private foundation money has gone into replicating these schools….

 

EduShyster ended the interview by quoting the last line of Golann’s paper:

 

 

“EduShyster: The last line of your paper is really powerful. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to read it aloud so that we can all go forth pondering the essential point you make. *If teachers and administrators committed as much effort to learning about students’ families and neighborhoods as they dedicate to raising test scores or managing behavior, they might discover new ways of instruction and management to get kids to and through college, and perhaps more importantly, prepare them to ‘be the change,’ as one Dream Academy leader described.”