Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Short version -- policies that stress small children to the point where they throw up are probably bad policies

I am generally nervous about quoting overly partisan news sources. Even when the arguments are compelling, I am uncomfortable with discovery processes that seem to start with the conclusion.

That said, the Nation is a good magazine with a solid history of investigative journalism behind it. So, with the caveat that a publication this liberal will probably be hostile to charter schools (something we probably couldn't have said 10 years ago), this article is definitely worth checking out for anyone who's been following the debate.

In particular, this caught my eye:
Brenda Shufelt, a recently retired library who served public school and Success Academy Charter School students at a co-located school library in Harlem, noted that as charter schools rapidly expand, they may be taking in more high needs kids, many of whom cannot conform to one-size-fits-all disciplinary approaches.

“In my experience what would often happen is that charter school students would be so rigidly controlled that the kids would periodically blow up,” says Shufelt. “At PS 30, some of our kids would have meltdowns, usually because of problems at home, but I never saw kids meltdown in the way they did in charter schools. They were just so despairing, feeling like they could not do this. I was told by two custodians, they had never had so much vomit to clean up from kindergarten and elementary classes.” 
I realize that we have been hammering away at this thread for quite a while and I apologize for going over familiar ground in the next few paragraphs. Feel free to skim if you're a regular reader, but the following points do need to be emphasized.

Many of these techniques are remarkably hard on kids. Even if there were no other issues and the methods were accomplishing everything their supporters claimed, we would need to have a serious discussion as to whether or not they were worth the physical and emotional toll they are taking.

But there is considerable reason to question those alleged accomplishments. For starters, a lot of students do not make it all the way through the program. These kids pay a double toll, dealing with the stress not only of the no-excuses program but also of the disruption of being pulled out of one school where they have made friends and established relationships and put into another school where they are surrounded by strangers. Even for those kids who make it through, there is considerable evidence that the improvement in test scores is largely limited to one exam and does not translate into the areas we are really interested in.

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