Archives for category: Discipline

Emily Hoefling was principal of Leadership Prep Canarsie in Brooklyn, which is part of the Uncommon Schools charter chain. She was fired because she dared to express views that ran counter to the authoritarian culture of the chain.

Yes, she writes, it is an authoritarian regime, and it always was.

When she led a professional development session, she encouraged teachers to express their views. That was her first mistake. Their views conflicted with the company line, and she did no5 correct them. She was marched away, lectured, yelled at, and fired.

She writes:

Make no mistake about it, Uncommon Schools is an authoritarian organization from top to bottom. And dissent is dangerous for everyone — no matter your age and no matter your position.

As an Uncommon principal, I developed a reputation for being ‘unaligned to the mission’ of Uncommon Schools. And the iron fist that deals with ‘disobedient’ students and ‘difficult’ teachers is the same iron fist that deals with rebellious leaders.

Brett Peiser and Julie Jackson have not only designed and maintained the culture of Uncommon Schools, they have also created a system that will step on, silence, and erase anyone who dares to step out of line or tarnish the Uncommon brand.

Even after she was fired, she was threatened with legal action if she dared to write about what happened to her.

She did, so you should read what she wrote.

Students, parents, and alumni of the high-performing Mystic Valley Regional Charter School have raised questions about racism at the school, alleging that racism permeates its culture. Similar questions have been raised at Success Academy in New York City and other “no excuses” charter schools that emphasize test scores and tough discipline over human relations.

Hayley Kaufman wrote in the Boston Globe:

The questions came from parents, from alumni, from the president of the class of 2020. How would Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, known for rigorous academics and ranked a top high school in Massachusetts, address a long and alarming list of concerns about diversity, inclusion, and the treatment of students of color?

The questions came at a June 8 meeting with the Mystic Valley trustees, where 15 speakers raised the issues, describing a culture that penalized students who spoke out about inequities, while seeming to shrug off reports of bias. They also demanded to know why a series of controversial social media posts made by a cofounder of the Malden charter school hadn’t been publicly denounced.

“It’s going to take somebody to get their hands dirty, really going in and really, really, really looking this horrible situation in its eye,” Alvin Buyinza, a 2015 graduate, told the board. “There is a conversation on race that needs to be addressed at the school level.”

Amid a nationwide outcry on racial injustice, an urgent chorus of voices is calling for change at Mystic Valley, a K-12 charter school ranked in April as the sixth best high school in the state by U.S. News and World Report. One alumni group gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition demanding a more diverse faculty and a restructuring of the school’s mission statement to “address issues of systemic discrimination.” Another group said it has compiled more than 150 examples of alleged incidents of racism and LGBT bias. On June 25, parents and students held a protest, waving signs as drivers honked their horns.

“The culture has to change at the school,” said Zane T. Crute, president of the Mystic Valley area branch of the NAACP, who sent a scathing letter to administrators endorsing the petitioners’ demands. For change to happen, he said, an independent evaluation of policies must be conducted “to keep the school honest — separate from the donors, separate from the board.”

Few would deny that Mystic Valley, which was founded in 1998 and enrolls more than 1,550 students from Malden and surrounding communities, provides strong education to a diverse student body. Sixty-one percent of seniors in 2019 earned the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship. While most schools in Massachusetts require 180 days of instruction, Mystic Valley tops out at 200.

But the school also has an unsettling track record on issues of race and inclusion. Recent data shows Mystic Valley disciplines Black and Latinx students at sharply higher rates than white students, and disabled students at a higher rate still.

In 2017, in a widely publicized move, Attorney General Maura Healey determined a school policy that banned hair extensions and other hairstyles discriminated against students of color, especially Black students, who’d been suspended and banned from activities. Two years earlier, regulators pushed back on efforts to increase enrollment because the school lacked proper services for non-English speakers. And when a student wanted to form a gay-straight alliance club in 2014, her efforts were stymied until the American Civil Liberties Union got involved.

A series of social media posts made by Neil Kinnon, a Mystic Valley cofounder and former Malden city councilor, has sparked the latest conflagration. As protests swelled after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer, Kinnon posted a Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.”

“Please consider the real facts not the propaganda,” he wrote on his “Kinnon For Malden” Facebook page, a screenshot of which was obtained by the Globe before it was taken down. Systemic racism, he commented, is “a false narrative” and “the millions marching are indeed pawns.” Kinnon did not respond to e-mails and phone calls for this story.

The backlash to the Facebook post was swift. Students, alumni, even one of Kinnon’s neighbors blasted his statements. Meanwhile, screen shots of additional posts allegedly made by Kinnon on other Facebook pages triggered further outrage.

Long a divisive figure in Malden, Kinnon resigned from the charter school’s board of trustees in 2019 and no longer holds an official role there. But students say his influence is still felt. Petitioners asked that the school “further disaffiliate” from him by ending the Neil Kinnon Citizenship Award, presented annually to a graduating senior. And Alfie Tsang, 2020 class president, pushed trustees for clarity on Kinnon’s connection to the school, and why they hadn’t condemned the social media posts.

Chairman George Warren said at the June 8 meeting that the board was aware of Kinnon’s statements but needed time to “digest” things. “We will get back to you and the public,” he said, “if it’s deemed necessary.”

On June 16, Warren and Alexander Dan, the school’s superintendent/director, released a letter to parents. In it, they said Mystic Valley had undergone an “expansive internal investigation” in 2017 after the attorney general’s investigation. They’d “voluntarily implemented” suggestions from the review, which was conducted by a third party. Staffers received implicit bias training. Efforts to recruit more teachers of color were ongoing.

They also invoked George Floyd and condemned “the unacceptable tolerance of racism by sections of our society.” There was no mention of Kinnon.

In response to calls and e-mails from the Globe, Dan forwarded an annotated version of the letter to parents that was sent separately to the alumni behind the petition. There, Dan did refer to Kinnon: “Respectfully, we will not address the conduct of any person who is not a board member and not an employee at the school.”

Dan further noted: “Prior to your letter, Mr. Kinnon had already voluntarily determined to suspend his citizenship award at the school.”

Parents and students say the problems at Mystic Valley run much deeper than offensive social media posts. They say marginalization is baked into the foundation of the school, starting with its mission statement. It describes a “world class education characterized by a well-mannered, disciplined and structured academic climate” based in the “fundamental ideals of our American Culture.”

But how that discipline is delivered, and to whom, has left many frustrated, particularly when it comes to students of color.

“What they purport as discipline is essentially authoritarianism,” said Eric Henry, a retired Navy veteran and father of triplets going into ninth grade. Henry, who is Black, described several encounters his children have had, ranging from microaggressions to disciplinary incidents. In one, his daughter Thora was pulled out of class and reprimanded by a white teacher she did not know because she had dropped off a book in a classroom without knocking.

“She’s experiencing harassment and conflict resolution at way too young an age,” said Henry, who served on the PTO for several years. If parents complain about the way their children are treated, “They say, ‘Don’t forget, you asked to come here.‘ ”

Thora added: ”If you’re a student of color, you won’t get the benefit of the doubt.”

Indeed, data provided to the Department of Education showed that of the 289 Black students enrolled at Mystic Valley in 2018-19, 34, or 11.8 percent, received some sort of disciplinary action. Of 151 Latinx students, 17, or 11.3 percent, were disciplined. By comparison, 49 of 762 white students were disciplined, or 6.4 percent. Dan could not be reached for comment on the DOE numbers.

By far the highest percentage of disciplinary action was taken against students with disabilities. Of 221 students identified as having disabilities that year, 44, or 20 percent, were disciplined.

Parents and students also raised concerns about what they see as a pervasive insensitivity toward students with multicultural backgrounds.

Vanessa Santos described a situation in which her daughter, a rising eighth-grader, was chastised by a teacher who told her to stop “speaking Spanish.” When the girl noted that she was speaking Portuguese, she said, the teacher waved her off, saying, “It’s all the same.”

Kedisha Clerger, a 2019 graduate who now attends Howard University, described a painful experience from her senior year. One day on her way to class, she was speaking to a friend about college applications, confiding that she’d thought about writing an essay “comparing Mystic Valley to slavery.”

A teacher who’d been eavesdropping broke into the conversation. “I guess you could compare me to a plantation owner,” she recalled him saying.

Stunned, Clerger reported what had happened to administrators. And there began a head-spinning series of events. She was told the teacher was “just making a joke.” She was told she bore responsibility, that if she hadn’t made the slavery comment, the teacher wouldn’t have responded that way. Dan could not be reached for comment on the incident.

When all was said and done, Clerger said, she was accused of being “rude and disrespectful” and was suspended for a day.

“You report stuff at the school and they try to silence you,” she said. I just felt hopeless.”

Clerger recently wrote about the experience, posting it to the Mystic Valley Parents Facebook page. She said God has been a source of strength as she looks back on her time at the school. And she urged the community to take action.

“Black kids at MV go through so much that is unknown to people,” she wrote. “Fight for change.”

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at

KIPP is the largest charter chain in the nation. It grew thanks to the generosity of the Walton Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (the Gap, Old Navy, etc.), other billionaire funders, and huge grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program (thanks, Betsy DeVos).

KIPP’s slogan was “Work Hard, Be Nice.” Jay Mathews wrote a laudatory book about KIPP with that title. It implied submissiveness as the path to success. KIPP was one of the original “no excuses” chains.

The KIPP team brought students to perform at the Republican National Convention in 2000 that nominated George W. Bush. It became clear that KIPP was a darling of the right. What did Republicans like so much about KIPP? Was it implicit in their slogan?

Michael Klonsky reports that KIPP has decided to drop its famous slogan.

In a world turned upside-down and right-side-up by the Black Lives Matter Movement, a new slogan was needed.

KIPP has not yet found a new slogan.

Any suggestions?

Marilee Coles-Ritchie is a teacher educator in Utah. She wrote this advice for her fellow educators and other concerned citizens in Utah but it is good advice for everyone.

Here are her recommendations:

1. Decrease standardized tests. They harm students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

2. Increase the numbers of teachers from these groups across the schools.

3. Eliminate all police officers in schools. Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups. This strengthens school communities, prevents bullying, and reduces student conflicts. Early adoption has shown drastic reductions in suspension rates, and students report feeling more welcome, safe, and calm.

4. Require all students to take at least one course of history and literature of these groups.

5. Increase linguistic and cultural appreciation in all schools, diversifying the voices that are represented in the curriculum, with a goal of equity and inclusion.

Video was recently released of a police officer arresting a 6-year-old girl at her charter school in Orlando. Clearly the school called the police after the child engaged in unruly behavior. The charter school has 89 students and five teachersP. The students are 89% African American.

This is “no excuses” at its worst.

Newly released police body-camera video shows an officer in Orlando, Florida, arresting a 6-year-old girl who had zip ties put around her wrists at her school as she cried to be let go.

The video, which was provided Monday to NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando by the attorney for the child’s family, shows the incident on Sept. 19, which resulted in the firing of Orlando police Officer Dennis Turner.

‘Please let me go’: Video shows 6-year-old sobbing during arrest at Orlando school
Turner was involved in the arrest of two 6-year-olds in one week in September, among them the girl in the video. He was fired within days.

In the video, an officer is seen putting zip ties on the child’s wrists with her arms behind her back as the girl asks “What are those for?” and then cries “Don’t put handcuffs on” and “Help me, help me, please help me.”

As she is walked outside, she wails “Please let me go” and “I don’t want to go in the police car.”

In a police report, authorities said police were responding to a report that the 6-year-old had “battered three staff members by kicking and punching them” at her school, the Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy in Orlando.

A teacher at the acclaimed Success Academy charter chain in New York City publicly complained about Eva Moskowitz’s silence after the murder of George Floyd.

Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat reported:

Four days after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, a Brooklyn Success Academy teacher emailed her network’s CEO, one of the nation’s most prominent charter school leaders, asking why she hadn’t said anything publicly.

“I am deeply hurt and shocked by your lack of words on the topic that affects so many of your employees, children and families in communities that you serve,” first-year Success Academy Flatbush teacher Fabiola St Hilaire wrote to Eva Moskowitz. “All of your black employees are paying attention to your silence.”

Moskowitz responded about an hour later, thanking St Hilaire for reaching out but also brushing her aside. “I actually opined on this subject early this am. Please take a look,” Moskowitz wrote, referring to a tweet sent the same morning. “I hope you can understand that running remote learning in the middle of a world economic shutdown has kept me focused on [Success Academy’s] immediate needs.”

Upset by the response, St Hilaire posted the email exchange on social media, thrusting New York City’s largest charter network into a wider debate about institutional racism. Some current and former employees were angry that Moskowitz seemed to dismiss the concerns of an educator of color as well as the broader movement to reckon with structural racism in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing.

Eva Moskowitz quickly backtracked when she saw the reaction among her staff to her silence and her brusque dismissal of St Hilaire’s criticism. Moskowitz was interviewed by Donald Trump as a contender for his Secretary of Education. She supported his selection of Betsy DeVos.

The exchange between Moskowitz and a first-year teacher set off a debate about institutional racism in Success Academy and its harsh no-excuses methods. Those draconian disciplinary methods were defended by Robert Pondiscio of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who is white, and by Moskowitz, who is also white. Black children need harsh discipline, they argued.

Matt Barnum and Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat report that a new study of Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy found that it increased the dropout rate, especially for black boys, who were most likely to be stopped and frisked.

John Thompson used to be a friend of Robert Pondiscio, who is now a vice-president at the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute. A decade ago, Robert was a good friend of mine; he was one of the early readers of Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. At the time (2010), Robert and I agreed on the importance of public schools and the irrelevance of charters. I recall the publication party at the home of then-NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, where I told Robert how much I appreciated his help and his ideas, which were consonant with mine. I saw him as a professional ally. But since then, Robert has changed his views (as I changed mine in 2008-2010). I never criticize anyone for changing their views, even when I disagree with them.

John Thompson often posts here about what is happening in Oklahoma, where he was a teacher for many years. He also has useful insights on national topics, and I welcome his contributions to our discussion about providing “better education for all,” not just for the strivers or the gifted. The discussion below bears on an extended exchange that I had recently with a Wall Street guy, who has given six-figure donations to Success Academy. He insists that Eva Moskowitz has “cracked the code” and knows how to educate all children, if only the powers-that-be would copy her model. He insists that “every child” would have high scores if they all attended Success Academy charters. Pondiscio helpfully debunks that idea, although nothing I was able to say could change the belief of this donor. John makes the point below that many educators were offended by the claim that Success Academy was for all children; Robert explains that the chain cherry-picks the parents, not the students. I doubt many people would object to Eva or her chain if they openly admitted what Robert demonstrates in his book. Eva’s charters are not for all kids.

John Thompson writes:

This isn’t a review of Robert Pondiscio’s How the Other Half Learns but a review of our edu-political culture using the book review process to understand why we still have to fight education “Disruptors.” A decade ago, Robert and I were long-distance friends, continually sharing thoughts on how we should resist corporate reformers like Michelle Rhee and test-driven accountability, while improving schools like Robert’s in the South Bronx and my mid-high, which was the lowest performing secondary school in Oklahoma.

Now I’m trying to make sense of the aftershocks from the reformers’ previous political victories and the education debacles they prompted.

Being a former elementary teacher, Robert focused much more on reading instruction and curriculum. We agreed on the need to bring history, science, arts, and music back into the classroom, while opposing high stakes testing. Robert was more confrontational. He characterized Rhee’s value-added teacher evaluation system, IMPACT, as “pure lunacy,” and coined the phrase, “Erase To The Top.”

Even after we grew apart, Robert wrote, “It’s long past time to acknowledge that reading tests—especially tests with stakes for individual teachers attached to them—do more harm than good.” Moreover, he said, “if your goal is to boost test scores now, you’re incentivizing bad teaching by encouraging a vacuous skills-and-strategies approach to reading, conspiring against patient investment in knowledge and vocabulary, and sacrificing vast amounts of class time for test prep.”

Conversely, I took an embarrassingly long time before realizing that the Billionaires Boys Club wasn’t going to listen to classroom teachers.

I’ve been intrigued by Pondiscio’s recent writings, especially his critiques of the reforms that failed in the ways that we and so many others predicted. “Ed reform circa 2010 was riding a cresting wave, but in retrospect it was the high-water mark,” Pondiscio explained. And, ten years later, most of the reform victory has been “reversed or is in retreat. Big reform is dead.”

Pondiscio’s own review of his book foreshadowed ambivalence, at least in terms of what it would take to improve the highest challenge schools, “Regardless of where you stand on charter schools, choice, ed reform or education at large, you’re going to be disappointed: My book does not support your preferred views or narrative.” He concluded:

We have become overdependent on pleasing or expedient narratives that we know aren’t quite right, and we have become tribal in our devotions to them. It’s going to be painful and unpleasant, but it’s time to let them go.

So that’s my new book [wrote Pondiscio]. I hope you hate it

Fortunately, Gary Rubinstein has already written a definitive review of How the Other Half Learns. His title, “How the Other 1/300 Learn” spoofs the claim, which once was presented with a straight face, that Eva Moskowitz and company show what could have been accomplished had teachers and unions embraced “No Excuses!,” accountability, and competition.

Rubinstein focuses on the narratives that “will be devastating to the reputation of Success Academy,” concluding “if it is true that reformers do really like this book and are not just pretending to then Pondiscio has really accomplished quite a feat.”

Rubinstein stresses Pondiscio’s statements, such as the following, which implicitly explain why Success Academy isn’t scalable. Pondiscio wrote:

“•       The common criticism leveled at Moskowitz and her schools is that they cherry pick students, … This misses the mark entirely. Success Academy is cherry-picking parents.”
“•       Is Success Academy a proof point that the reform playbook works and that professionally run schools with high standards and even higher expectations can set any child on a path out of poverty?  Or does the rarity of Moskowitz’s accomplishment suggest that however nobly intended it might have been, the reform impulse was doomed from the start?
“•       It would be dishonest to pretend that Success Academy is not a self-selection engine that allows engaged families who happen to be poor or of modest means to get the best available education for their children.”

And that third paragraph brings me back to my review of the process of reviewing How the Other Half Learns. The second half of Pondiscio’s paragraph illustrates the two most salient features of his narrative.

Pondiscio then writes:

“It is equally dishonest and close to cruel to deny such families the ability to self-select in the name of “equity.” Indeed, it is nearly perverse to deny low-income families of color — and only those families — the ability to choose schools that allow their children to thrive, advance, and enjoy the full measure of their abilities.”

First, Pondiscio repeatedly pretends that the issue is how to educate the relatively small number of students who have benefited from Moskowitz et al’s charters. This would be valid if her enemies were elite schools that don’t properly serve poor children. But if that was her obsession, as opposed to a scorched earth crusade against traditional public schools, would educators and patrons have felt the need to resist her agenda?

Second, and most importantly for his book, it created another opportunity for Pondiscio to attack the integrity of his opponents as “dishonest and close to cruel,” and “nearly perverse.”

The following are illustrations of the pattern which reoccurs when Pondiscio is citing journalists’ criticisms of Success Academies:

•       Page 259 is a part of perhaps the best reporting in How the Other Half Learns where Pondiscio digs deeper into the exclusionary nature of Success Academy’s admissions lottery. As Rubinstein explains, the truth is even more upsetting than the story Pondiscio recounts. His narrative, however, creates the opportunity for attacking the New York Times’ Kate Taylor for her “armor-piercing articles” that “have frightened prospective parents away.”   

•       On page 53, Pondiscio characterized “no-excuses” as “an optimistic belief that the root cause of educational failure and black-white achievement gaps was adult failures – not poverty …” Two pages later, rather than acknowledge he had just made the argument against the scalability of the reformers’ solutions,  Pondiscio shifts gears and blames educators for “no excuses” going from a “rallying cry to a curse,” after a “sustained attack from political progressives, teachers’ unions, and anti-reform activists,” led by Diane Ravitch, their “Joan of Arc figure.”

•       On page 88, closing the chapter on the hugely important New York Times report on a first grade teacher ripping up a student’s work and “exiling her from the classroom rug,” Pondiscio cites the problem caused by teacher turnover. But, he then explains,  but doesn’t analyze, how Moskowitz suddenly realizes that the problem isn’t overworked and overstressed, inexperienced teachers, but “leadership via BFF.” The problem is that young teacher leaders want to be liked, so they aren’t tough enough!

•       On page 152, Moskowitz acknowledges to charter management organization leaders that she has no idea how to turn around high schools. This previews Success’ failure to run a high school, as well as the admission that “no-excuses” schools haven’t shown much of an ability to produce longterm, life-changing gains. This was an opportunity for Pondiscio to ask for evidence that their behaviorist methods are sustainable, as well as scalable. Instead, he quotes Moskowitz’ description of Success Academy as a “Catholic school on the outside, Bank Street [progressive school] on the inside.” That opens another door to Pondiscio’s attacks on opponents who have “promiscuously used, impressionistically defined” and “fetishized” progressivism.

•       On page 159, just after reporting on the beginning of the high school, Pondiscio seems to inexplicably change the subject to the unsupported claim that “students faced an intense scrutiny from critics.” This weird assertion made sense only after he identified the supposed lead critic – Diane Ravitch, “the longtime ed reform critic and fierce Moskowitz critic.”

•       On 179, Pondiscio addresses the New York Times description of “students in the third grade and above wetting themselves during practice tests.” Pondiscio’s reply is that it is “inaccurate” to blame “’drop everything and test-prep’” because there is “an overtone of test prep” throughout the year!?!?

•       He then changes the subject to the “opt out” movement which is “particularly strident.” And on page 180 Pondiscio seems to defend Success Academy’s test-prep as a part of a new normal which isn’t going away, “”No person in the room … likely ever spent a day in school, as an administrator, a teacher, or even a student, that was not dominated by the imperatives of standardized testing.”

And that, of course, is the real reason why educators across the nation fought back against Moskowitz. As another review of the Other Half by reform-sympathizer Natalie Wexler says, the book’s title is misleading because, “we’re not talking about the other ‘half,’ we’re talking about the other 1%—or less.” Teachers wouldn’t have had to counter-attack if the issue was merely “How the Other One Percent Learns – to Take Tests.”

As Pondiscio used to know, the problem wasn’t just tests; it was the high stakes they were tied to. The problem we fought wasn’t just tests; it’s the teach-to-the-test culture that reform imposed on everyone, whether they chose it or not.  We didn’t resist charters just because we opposed competition; it was the resulting toxic culture of competition. The damage was then multiplied as test scores became the ammunition for this battle for the survival of public schools. The biggest problem wasn’t just the false statements claiming that “no-excuses” charters served the same poor students who attended the highest-poverty schools. It was the well-funded and vicious propaganda campaign using such falsehoods to demonize teachers.

After a decade of failure, corporate reformers have backed off from the “bad teacher” meme. But Pondiscio now exemplifies the quieter ways their anger is revealed. Yes, reformers, we have a problem, he says. Then Pondiscio repeatedly spins and blames the problem on those of us who resisted their failed agenda. His theme is, yes, Success Academy failed its student, Adama. But you defenders of the status quo failed my student, Tiffany, and she might have benefited by being in the 1 percent.

I’m afraid this pattern in his (and his colleagues’) writing shows that Pondiscio is just one of many defeated Disruptors who admit that something went wrong but who habitually change the subject by responding to evidence-based criticism with the children’s defensive meme, “I know you are, but what am I?”

Finally, here’s why I approach Pondiscio’s book as an opportunity for contemplation, not just an education case study. I admit to mistakes rooted in my congenital optimism. I’d thought, however, I’d learned my lesson when realizing why corporate reformers were not about to listen to people who saw the world differently. I belatedly acknowledged that the movement was about more than accountability-driven, competition-driven policy; it was a part of a larger privatization movement. I’m finally understanding how corporate reformers, who couldn’t face facts, became Disruptors.

In contrast to Pondiscio, who also sought more pragmatism among traditional school system leaders, as well as a serious effort to build safe and orderly school cultures, I continued to work within the system. Today, after defeating so many of the worst data-driven experiments, its frustrating when traditional public schools remain terrified that a new Goliath will emerge, again attacking the professional autonomy of educators.

The Disruptors’ politics of destruction may have been beaten back. But Pondiscio illustrates the politics of resentment which remains threatening. How the Other Half Learns provides more evidence how and why their experiment failed. It also personifies their anger, and how they still blame teachers (and Diane Ravitch) for their theories’ defeat.         

The expose published by ProPublic and the Chicago Tribune about the isolation of students with disabilities in locked “quiet rooms” got immediate response from the Governor and the State Board of Education in Illinois.

This is known as seclusion.

The governor said he will introduce legislation to end and prohibit the barbaric practice. 

The Illinois State Board of Education announced Wednesday that it will take emergency action to end the seclusion of children alone behind locked doors at schools, saying the practice has been “misused and overused to a shocking extent.”

Responding to a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation published a day earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the isolation of children in the state “appalling” and said he directed the education agency to make emergency rules for schools. He will then work with legislators to make the rules into law, he said.

The rules would not totally ban the use of timeout rooms but would end isolation. The state board said children would be put in timeout only if a “trained adult” is in the room and the door is unlocked. Timeouts also must be used only for therapeutic reasons or to protect the safety of students and staff, the board said.

The board also said it will begin collecting data on all instances of timeout and physical restraint in Illinois schools and will investigate “known cases of isolated seclusion to take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action.” State officials had not previously monitored these practices.

H/T to Laura Chapman for alerting me to this important news.

ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune collaborated to produce this shocking investigation of the mistreatment and abuse of students with special needs in Illinois.

This is a story of shameful cruelty to children. Read it and weep.

THE SPACES have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room.

But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out.

The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens.

In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found.

Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.”

For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.

Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion…

No federal law regulates the use of seclusion, and Congress has debated off and on for years whether that should change. Last fall, a bill was introduced that would prohibit seclusion in public schools that receive federal funding. A U.S. House committee held a hearing on the issue in January, but there’s been no movement since.

Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1.

The story contains stories of children locked in small rooms, where they urinate on themselves, bang on the walls and doors and scratch them. Some of the children have serious mental or emotional disorders. Some are disobedient. None deserves to be treated with such inhumanity. Experts say that punitive “seclusion” is not only cruel but ineffective.

After reading this report, I asked ProPublica where seclusion has been banned.

This was the answer:

These four states ban any type of seclusion (Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, Pennsylvania) and that these are the remaining 15 you’re looking for: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming (with varying levels of exceptions).

Thanks to ProPublica for shedding light on this horrible practice.