Archives for category: Discipline

Gary Rubinstein explores a curious phenomenon at Success Academy. Fully one-seventh of its senior class fail to graduate.

How can this be? They have persisted through 11 years of the school’s harsh discipline, yet are told midway through their senior year that they must repeat the grade or leave.

Public data shows that very few students who begin at Success Academy actually graduate from Success Academy. The class of 2018 started with 72 students and only 16 graduated. The class of 2019 started with 80 students and only 27 graduated. The class of 2020 started with 350 students and only 98 graduated. Success Academy argues that this is normal attrition over 12 years, but one of the most jarring statistics I have ever seen about Success Academy is the attrition rate from students who are in the school at the beginning of their senior year but who do not graduate with their class 10 months later.

For the recent class of 2020 there were 114 seniors in the school in November 2019. But by graduation time in June there were only 98 graduating seniors.

Why?

This valuable report analyzes how money could be better spent to protect students at school. It’s findings are stunning. We as a nation are spending vast sums on police in schools but insignificant amounts on mental health services and counselors who interact directly with students.

KEY FINDINGS & OBSERVATIONS

*Since 2018, states have allocated an additional $965 million to law enforcement in schools.

*According to a 2019 ACLU study, 1.7 million students have cops in their schools, but no counselors; 3 million have cops, but no nurses; 6 million have cops, but no school psychologists; and 10 million have cops, but no social workers.

*As of 2020, nearly 60 percent of all schools and 90 percent of high schools now have a law enforcement officer at least part time.

*The $33.2 million “school security” budget allocated for 2021 in Washington, D.C., could instead fund up to 222 psychologists, 345 guidance counselors, or 332 social workers.

*The $15 million “school security” budget approved for 2021 in Chicago could instead fund up to 140 psychologists, 182 guidance counselors, or 192 social workers.

*The $32.5 million “school security” budget allocated for 2021 in Philadelphia could instead fund up to 278 psychologists, 355 guidance counselors, or 467 social workers.

The report describes “militarized schools”:

As of 2019, there were nearly 50,000 school resource officers patrolling the hallways of America’s schools.

In schools that serve predominantly Black student populations, it is often much more than hallways that are patrolled.

For example, D.C. police are deployed to nearly all high schools to monitor cafeterias, auditoriums, hallways, stairwells, restrooms, entrances, and exits, as well as provide security for school-sponsored events. Such schools promote a learning environment that is more akin to that of a correctional institution than an educational one

New York City’s vaunted Success Academy, which boasts the highest test scores in the state, the highest teacher turnover rate, and very likely the highest student attrition rate (unsure because unreleased by city authorities), has announced that it will be all-remote until at least January.

Success Academy is famed for its strict no-excuses policy and its readiness to eject any student who does not comply.

Problems, as the New York Daily News reports.

Under the plan, kids as young as 5 have to log on by 8:50 a.m. wearing their checkered orange and blue uniforms, and sit still with their hands clasped for nearly seven hours of live video instruction.

They also have to ask permission to use the bathroom — and can get a virtual boot and be suspended if they act up, which would turn off their cameras and microphones for a day or more.

“I don’t think it’s right for a 6-year-old … they have to sit there like a robot with their hands folded,” said one mom of a Success first-grader in Far Rockaway, Queens, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation from the school.

“Every day she cries and says she doesn’t want to go to school,” the frustrated mom told The News.

The article includes the news that Fabiola St. Hilaire, a teacher at Success Academy who sparked a controversy over racism at Success Academy last year, has resigned, saying she could no longer be complicit.

“Working for this organization has truly showed me that as long as I stand with the inaction and blatant disregard for child morality and healthy development it in turn will make me complicit, which I will never be,” she wrote in her resignation letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The News.

Victoria Theisen Homer writes in Salon about the ways that remote learning distorts and devalues human relationships.

She writes:

Think of your favorite teacher. Whenever I ask people to do this, they usually tell me about a teacher who saw them: the one who took them aside and encouraged them to pursue art or computer science, who helped counsel them through a personal issue, who attended their Quinceañera — who, ultimately, just cared. By connecting with us in meaningful ways, these teachers not only earned a permanent place in our memories, they also engaged, challenged, and inspired us. Today, our nation’s 56.6 million elementary and secondary students could all use teachers like this, to help shepherd them through the pandemic and into a better future. But even in the best of times, school structures are more conducive to punitive discipline than meaningful teacher-student relationships, especially in our least-resourced schools. Today, with the challenges of virtual learning and the urgent messaging around “COVID slide” – the learning loss students may have suffered while they were out of school – relationships in schools are under further threat, just when students need them most.

Across the U.S., the pandemic has put a strain on families and children, many of whom continue to suffer from food insecurity, job loss, or the death of loved ones to COVID-19. So as kids begin school this year, they require connection, understanding, and nurturance from their teachers. While positive relationships with significant adult figures like teachers help children cope with trauma, such relationships also facilitate better learning. When students have meaningful relationships with their teachers, they are more likely to engage in class, more likely to feel like they can complete their school work, more likely to grow and achieve academically and personally. This is because learning is profoundly social.

But the pandemic has turned everything upside down.

Homer has prepared teachers. She studied some that entered affluent progressive schools where encouragement was the norm, and another group that taught in “no excuses” public school where conformity and obedience were customary.

The pandemic has extended “no-excuses” discipline into many schools that rely on remote learning.

She writes:

Schools across the country that primarily serve students of color and those from low-income backgrounds often adopt an approach to learning that centers on standardized test scores and control. For example, the other teacher education program in my study was situated in a “no excuses” charter school, the most prominent type of urban charter school (think KIPP or Success Academy), which aim to efficiently improve the academic achievement of children of color from low income backgrounds by eliminating anything they feel might distract students from learning (e.g. colorful socks, poor posture, indirect eye contact, talking in hallways).

At schools like this, educators maintain that there is no valid excuse for children’s failure to learn or behave. The teacher education program grounded in this context approached relationships like a formula: applying a series of discrete moves to accumulate “professional relationship capital” with students to increase their behavioral compliance and academic achievement. The director explained, “I think the foundation of the relationship is that my job is to try to generate maximum effort in thinking from you. That’s my job. It’s not to be your friend.”

Again, I followed graduates of this program into their first year of teaching at no excuses middle schools that primarily served students of color. These teachers also began the year by faithfully applying what they had learned about connecting with and disciplining students. They walked around their classrooms with timers in hand, smoothly assigned merits and demerits for behavior, integrated “little nuggets” they had recalled about students into brief interactions with them, and conducted “rebuilding conversations” after removing students from their class for infractions. It was all very efficient and controlled. Students were often silent, and hoped this approach would help them “succeed.” But they did not feel truly seen or understood as human beings by their teachers. One student explained, “I don’t think any of the teachers [know us].” And by the end of the year, one of these teachers admitted, “I think a lot of the kids sort of feel like it’s run like a jail…They’re very smart kids, and they understand that some of our rules are unnecessary, and overly strict, and un-empathetic.” The urgent insistence on academic achievement and behavioral conformity in these schools not only eroded opportunities for nurturing teacher-student relationships, it also conditioned students for subservience. This might be why some research indicates no excuses schools improve student test scores, but not life outcomes.

No excuses schools are not alone in this approach, though, and it now seems to be extending to virtual school. Desperate to counteract COVID-slide, educators are implementing plans to monitor and control student behavior during virtual class, including their attire, location, camera-use, attentiveness, and snacking. This is unfortunate but not surprising, because whenever the focus of schooling turns to quantifiable educational outcomes like standardized test scores or budgetary efficiencies, students are treated like products that must be regulated. Of course, humans are not products, and we all have very good excuses not to be performing as others may want us to right now, but the forces that govern schools don’t seem to get that. Because affluent and white students are more likely to attend schools with the resources to support meaningful relationships and less likely to be penalized for virtual or in-person violations, students of color will bear the brunt of this coming “discipline crisis,” which is really a crisis for relationships. For while relationships connect children to teachers and schools, harsh discipline severs ties.

Efforts to close the academic “gaps” that grew wider during COVID have facilitated the worst kinds of teaching.

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 hayley.kaufman@globe.com.

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.