The Silent Treatment: A Day in the Life of a Student in ‘No Excuses’ Land

Little Carolina is college bound, but to realize her dreams she must spend the next seven years at a college prep charter—in near complete silence.

Meet Carolina. This college-bound fifth grader is fortunate enough to attend a charter school where expectations are high and innovation and excellence abound. There’s just one wee catch. In order to realize her goal of opportunity and the promise of independence, Carolina must spend the next SEVEN YEARS in near silence. Sweet Carolina is not a novice in a convent or an inmate in a children’s prison but a resident of a horrifying place called “no excuses” land that, while often lauded by education rephormers, is rarely seen from within.

You see, Carolina is a would-be student at a proposed new school, Argosy Collegiate Charter School, in Fall River, Massachusetts. As part of its application to the state Board of Education, Argosy included a detailed hour-by-hour look at what Carolina’s typical school day is like (note: Day in the Life begins on page 144 of the application). The following is an excerpt from Carolina’s day.

7:10 amCarolina, an Argosy Collegiate fifth grader is ready to board the school bus on the corner of South Main Street and Mt. Hope Avenue.  Just like every morning, Carolina’s mother, Mrs. Medeiros, an Argosy Collegiate Volunteer, supervises her daughter and the other four students who board the bus at this stop.  Mrs. Medeiros asks each student if they are ready to learn today. Students respond with an enthusiastic, “Yes, I’m ready to learn today. I can’t wait to learn something new!” “Excellent,” responds Mrs. Medeiros. Once the school bus arrives, Carolina and her peers board the bus one at a time and in silence, other than a greeting for Ms. Oliveira, the bus driver, who responds with, “Good morning, Carolina. Are you Determined to learn today?” Carolina responds, “Yes, Ms. Oliveira, I am Determined to learn today!

7:27 am – Carolina arrives to Argosy Collegiate on time, and waits for the bus to come to a complete stop before gathering her belongings. She and the other students on the bus look for Mr. Silvia, one of her math teachers, who boards the South Main St./Mt. Hope Avenue bus every day as part of his morning duties. Mr. Silvia makes eye contact with Carolina and Dante, and signals them non-verbally to stand and walk off the bus. Mr. Silvia continues this procedure, row by row, and  the students maintain their silence except for a quick “Thank you, Ms. Oliveira” from Carolina and each of the scholars until all 28 scholars have vacated the bus.

7:30 am – The Executive Director, Ms. Pavao, opens the school doors, and warmly and individually greets every student by name.  When it’s Carolina’s turn to enter the building, Ms. Pavao welcomes her eagerly. “Good Morning, Carolina! Why are you here today?” “I am here to learn,” Carolina replies.  “What will it take?” asks Ms. Pavao.  “Determination, Responsibility, Excellence, Ambition, and Maturity,” replies Carolina.  “Absolutely,” says Ms. Pavao. “Let’s check your uniform quickly, belt, socks, and shirt tucked. Great…”

Carolina walks to her left to silently join the line of students walking around the perimeter of the room toward the breakfast pick-up table.  With breakfast in hand, Carolina continues to walk along the perimeter, just as she had been taught in student Summer Orientation,  until she reaches her advisory’s table, clearly identified with a laminated sign that reads “Boston University 5” next to a colorful picture of Rhett, the Boston Terrier, Boston University’s mascot. After 10 minutes, Ms. Pavao, the ED, walks to the center of the room to lead a clapped chant, letting everyone know that it is time for a cheer and some Shout Outs. 

Good morning, Class of 2026!”  “We are Argosy Collegiate Scholars. We have the knowledge to go to college.  We share our knowledge with others because explaining what we know and justifying our thinking prepares us to transform ourselves, our communities, and the 21st century.”  Carolina and the rest of the students and staff repeat the chant in unison.  Scholars chant a short burst of encouragement about Responsibility, and scholars immediately return to silence. With a non-verbal cue, a hand gesture, Ms. Pavao directs the students and staff that it is time for silent cleanup. This is the cue for students who have cafeteria clean up jobs this week to wheel large waste cans to the end of each table.   Students silently carry their food trays in two single file lines to the end of the table, where there is a separate waste container for solids and liquids.  Students wait for additional directions and then gather their belongings to transition to advisory in silent, orderly lines, led by their homeroom/advisory leader.

7:45 am Mr. Amaral escorts Carolina along with the rest of BU 5 silently to their homeroom/advisory. Carolina proceeds to her pre-assigned desk. Mr. Amaral gives a non-verbal cue for Carolina’s group to move to the back cubbies to get organized, and signals with his other hand that they have one minute to complete their cubby tasks. Carolina silently stands up and brings her backpack to her cubby, unzips it, and removes all of her binders. She puts her white writing binder and blue science binder in her cubby and places her empty and zipped backpack on top of the cubby, along with the other scholars’ empty backpacks. She brings her green math binder, red reading binder, and black social studies binder to her desk. She places the reading and social studies binders in the rubber band that wraps around the two right-hand legs of her desk. This rubber band keeps her binders tightly secured and out of the way, and Carolina finished her cubby tasks in less than 60 seconds. 

Carolina sharpens two pencils from her pencil case, and places them along with a black pen and an eraser at the top of her desk. She begins reading her DEAR book, as the other students work for their minute time blocks to get their cubby work done. Mr. Amaral calls, “1-2-3 Eyes on me!” The class responds in unison, “1-2-3 Eyes on you!” and then proceeds to close their DEAR books and place them on the left corner of their desks. Mr. Amaral uses the last few minutes of class to review the main objective for the lesson, give feedback to the class using DREAM Points, remind scholars to copy HW, and provide direction for transition.Mr. Amaral says, “Scholars, yesterday you transitioned to Reading in 38 seconds. Your challenge now is to transition in 35 seconds. I am waiting for 100% eye contact.Good. Go.” Scholars quickly and silently switch out binders from their rubber bands around their desk legs. Carolina and her peers absolutely enjoy being timed for tasks and being challenged to beat their best times.

9:00 am – Fiction Reading begins with an overview of today’s lesson. Carolina reads along as Mr. Sullivan, the Reading teacher, states, “Argosy Collegiate Scholars will be able to understand the Latin Derivative pugnare for Word Wars, and to use active reading skills such as underlining important information (descriptions, actions, events) to understand context and plot in Freedom Walkers.”  Mr. Sullivan tells the class, “Scholars, you have 5 minutes to define the remaining 5 terms. Pencils up. 3-2-1- Go.” Carolina gets right to work and struggles a bit with the first one, but with determination, she pushes through. She looks up to the timer which is displayed on the front dry erase board using the projector, and she sees that she has 3 ½ minutes left. As the timer beeps, Carolina puts her pencil down and feels confident about her choices. Mr. Sullivan asks the students to raise their papers in the air and to “Flow them forward.” Carolina turns around in her chair and collects the papers from the scholars behind her. Mr. Sullivan is counting out loud, “5 seconds, 10 seconds, 13 seconds, very good. Now flow to the right.” All the stacks now in the front seats are passed to the right, where George sits. George is the designated anchor paper collector, and he alone is allowed to get up out of his chair without asking, and once he has the papers, he puts them in a bin labeled “Latin Word Wars.”

11:00 am – Financial Literacy begins and is taught by Mr. Amaral who displays the agenda, objective, and HW on the white board. Mr. Amaral asks Carolina to read the objective aloud for the class, “Argosy Collegiate Scholars Will Be Able To explain how limited personal resources affect the choices people make.” The lesson begins with 10 minutes of direct instruction.  Students use guided notes to fill in their note sheets with essential information.  Next Mr. Amaral queues up a video produced by Khan Academy, Buying versus Renting a Home, which allows students to apply course concepts to a new context, entering the real estate market as a buyer or renter.  Students turn to the next page in their course packet, which contains a list of key vocabulary words that they will be introduced to during the video and six questions that they answer during the video and will discuss as a group at the conclusion. 

Mr. Amaral begins the video debrief with a question prompt: “What is one difference between owning a home and renting one?”  Carolina thinks she knows the answer so she raises her pointer finger to signal that she would like to answer the question. “Everyone is tracking Carolina.” Her classmates shift in their seats to face her. “One difference between purchasing home and renting is that if you buy a home, then you may need a mortgage.”  Mr. Amaral asks another question, “A mortgage? That’s a new word. Carolina, what’s a mortgage?”  Carolina thinks for a second and looks down at her notes.  “A mortgage is a loan from a bank used to purchase a home.” Mr. Amaral, pleased with her response, says, “Nice definition, Carolina!” “Can anyone else think of another difference between owning a home and renting one?”  Mr. Amaral uses this class discussion to tease out other distinctions such as the need to save for a down payment, responsibilities for maintenance and repairs, tax benefits of homeownership, and homeownership as a real estate investment.

12:00 pm – Carolina and her classmates exchange morning materials for afternoon materials from their cubbies by group and line up for lunch transition. Lunch transition like all other transitions are silent for scholars, and staff and teachers communicate with warm and supportive non-verbal hand signals (which are reviewed during Student Orientation) or whispers when necessary. Until all scholars have their lunches at their pre-assigned seats by homeroom, scholars are silent for the first five minutes so they can focus on eating their meals. After 5 minutes, Ms. Pavao says, “Good afternoon, Argosy Collegiate Scholars. Because of the Excellence you have demonstrated in your behavior with our lunch period, you have earned Level 2 Talk (Scholars know this means they can socialize using restaurant voices)…

It goes on reader. On and on and on and on. Dismissal is still hours away, meaning that Carolina has SLANT, many more timers, binders, 3-2-1’s, 1-2-3’s, DREAM points, exit tickets, “I do, you do, we do,” Q2, FOCUS and enrichment to go before at last boarding the bus for her silent ride home. But there is good news. Once fifth grade draws to its inevitable end, Carolina will have only 1295 days of silence to go before she gets to college…

She is tired, but knows she is working hard to keep her seat in college. The day’s work is intense but every day brings Carolina and the other scholars one day closer to college and a more successful future – full of opportunity and the promise of independence.

Send reactions to tips@edushyster.com.

71 Comments

  1. Maybe someday soon we can get robots to go through the school plan and leave those pesky humans out of the equation altogether.

    1. It is true….I have seen a video of a different school that is sadly exactly like that. many of the schools called “…. Academy” are exactly like that.

  2. Please say this is a parody.

    1. Nope. Look at the attached document. The schedule as described starts on page 47

  3. I am just speechless.
    Anyone remember childhood?
    Good grief, I loved school when I was a kid. This is more like prison, or reform school..or some sort of re education camp.
    The horror.

  4. You’d think Fall River would have learned something from history. Admittedly, it was 1892.

  5. Stephen Stollmack December 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    School seems like so much fun! It is no wonder many don’t consider the threat of prison confinement as much of a deterrent for ‘socially unacceptable behavior’. It is a mistake, however, to consider these conditions to be solely the fault of ‘privatization’ or ‘education reform’ — NCLB and RttT.
    When I taught briefly in inner city schools in Washington D.C. about 40-years ago, the fears — of ‘open classrooms’ and student choice in what they wanted to learn — were as present in administrators and teachers as they are today.
    http://www.quintcareers.com/job_skills_values.html
    Teachers in inner-city schools have known for many years that they (and their schools) were not up to meeting the challenges posed by having to provide equivalent education — to children coming from poor, racially stereotyped neighborhoods — as was being required for (mostly white) college-bound children. The situation has become even more pressing today because good entry-level jobs are scarcer and competition is more intense than back then — 1) job scarcity as has been caused by mechanization and increased use of robots in production and 2) by intensified competition arising from workers (being available) from developing nations where many corporations have relocated to take advantage of cheap labor and tax shelters or reductions; and where, the quality of the education provided to residents has grown even more rapidly than that in the USA USA ‘seems’ to have declined.
    I have puzzled about this situation daily for several months and I have concluded that substantial relief (from these pressures for ‘product’ conformity and quantifiable measures of capability — made possible by ‘high-stakes testing’) will not be forthcoming from this or any conceivable future administration. Change will have to come from within-system development of more acceptable measuring devices..

    While it is true that many huge mufti-national corporations (MNCs) — as well as those at home in the US — express the need for well-rounded, communications-capable, computer-literate, group-work trained and analytically capable job-candidates (see ref below), most of these needs will be filled by non-minority youth graduating from private or top public high schools (in suburban settings) who continue on to top rated Colleges and Universities, while the job of inner city k-12 schools will remain, for the most part, to produce compliant graduates with skills necessary to work at McDonald’s or Target or the service industries and, for schools with this type of demand, intense testing and standardization of classes may have indisputable benefits.

    In the long term, children will be tested and the test-data will be used to populate longitudinal databases which will eventually be available to the gatekeepers of post-secondary schools and large recruiters representing large corporate interests. As money gets tighter, pressure on these ‘gatekeepers’ — for producing candidates most likely to succeed — will increase to the point where standardized reports (from these databases) will be required. Companies will arise, like they have in the testing industry, which will specialize in using these data to produce some form of ‘product guarantee’ (like a Good Housekeeping stamp of approval). That is the future unless we can change it from within like with a coordinated approach (well publicized to schools in all states) to developing a quantifiable but more collegially and process-oriented observation-based teacher evaluation system.

  6. I recently interviewed at a charter school that uses the “no excuses” model. What it comes down to is consistency and standardization. By the end of my day observing, I knew that my style of teaching did not mesh well with their method of extreme drilling.

  7. Sounds like the Milford Academy in “Arrested Development.”

  8. In an old house near Boston that was covered with vines
    stood twelve little girls in two straight lines.
    In two straight lines they filled their heads
    with talking points from reformers of ed.

    with apologies to Madeline, Miss Clavell and the girls who had something called a joie de vivre that poor little Caroline will never know.

  9. ……and then all the Stepford wives came to pick up their college ready drones and off they went into the fantastic planet, as they waved a silent goodbye at the body snatchers of Alphaville. (Only in America)

    1. Agree…I thought this was a joke. You are right, it’s the Stepford children. Good gawd!

  10. I thought the end of WW2 destroyed the Third Reich.

  11. As an educator, I am struck that so much of this discussion is focused on procedures that students have been taught, and so little is focused on content in the curriculum. Indeed, the source of the content that merits the most intense description in this excerpt is a Khan Academy video that does not seem either intended or age-appropriate for fifth graders. Financial literacy was not in the curriculum of my child’s 5th grade, at a well-regarded public middle school in MA. What crucial topics in reading, science, math, and history have been shoved aside to create a daily schedule block for this topic?

    Also absent from the description – any mention of disciplinary or corrective procedures for students who are just a jot less compliant than Carolina. What happens when all those “warm and supportive hand gestures” are met with some other hand gestures?

    1. ‘Those kids’ are labeled ‘bad’ and eventually forced to leave the school so the kids willing and able to conform are able to learn. The parents of ‘those kids’ are considered to be ‘unconcerned’ and ‘dysfunctional’ because they can’t control their kids.

      1. Ellen raises an excellent question, and her critique is true of most of the charter applications I’ve read. What interventions are in place for students who are clearly not complying with the expectations of these “no excuses” charter schools?

        My experience has been that these students aren’t visibly “forced out” or “counseled out”–they’re just completely ignored by the administration. Suspended twice per week? Oh well, try again next week. Detention every day? Keep at it! With no intervention in place, parents inevitably pull these students from the school, and the admin can claim no one was counseled out.

  12. […] and her peers absolutely enjoy being timed for tasks and being challenged to beat their best times. The Silent Treatment: A Day in the Life of a Student in ‘No Excuses’ Land(via Making Light) (Image: ILGWU demonstration, women dressed in prison-stripe costumes, carrying […]

  13. I worked in the Globe Four Corners area-the neighborhood described in the application. It’s a working class, multigenerational, largely Portuguese area. The culture is friendly, highly social and organized around good food and families-everybody talks to everyone all the time, and everyone is related to each other somehow. It should be fun to see how long before all the administrators quit from frustration when they can’t get the kids to be quiet for so long-never mind their annoyed parents. Can you imagine being a teacher responsible for enforcing this nonsense?

  14. Well, anything to get into a top college, I guess. This isn’t about becoming employable, or getting any kind of education as it is stoking the egos of the parents that their little girl is going to go to a school of which they can feel proud. Meanwhile, there are places where you can get a great education that aren’t competitive at all, and will actually impress employers even more. But let them have their dreams, I suppose…

    1. But it won’t get them into a good college. Kids don’t go to good colleges when they come from places like this. The schools preparing students for admittance to top colleges are all into creativity and stuff (those schools are creepy in their own way, but we’re not talking about the same thing). These urban fascist charter school graduates sometimes go to good state universities or second tier private schools, but really selective colleges are very, very rare.

  15. Whoever made this proposal has obviously never seen a real child before.

  16. I’ve read about 3/4 of the Argosy application over the past couple weeks. I don’t know a single parent who would sign their child up for the school described in the application. Additionally, the “principle founder” who is to be the main administrator of the program has a mere 6 years experience teaching, and no experience in administrating. This is another example of a poorly planned pipe dream of business-people who purport to know what’s better for education than those of us who are actually educating in public schools. Area residents can come to the Fall River Public Library on Dec. 13 at 4pm where DESE will be holding a public hearing regarding the Argosy application. Hope to see many folks there asking the hard questions. I know I will.

  17. Hmm…so the principal is going to addressing each student as they enter the school for what appears to be a fifteen-second conversation. Their first year enrollment projection is 81 students. That will take the principal over 20 minutes to finish “welcoming”. In five years, with 397 students, that will take over an hour-and-a-half. Are they going to hire one of the disclaimer “blurters” one hears at the end of a car dealership commercial? The Micro Machines guy?

    Aside from the bizarre, fascistic regimen, it seems entirely impractical and spit-shot. What would be more horrifying is if they were approved.

  18. […] View original post here: The Silent Treatment: A Day in the Life of a Student in 'No Excuses … […]

  19. Christian Berger December 9, 2012 at 7:59 am

    What I don’t understand is why the US are trying to mimic China. After all with 1 Billion people they are bound to be an economic force. Why not look at Germany which manages nearly the same output with only 82 Million people.

    The problem in the US is a certain business culture which allows incompetent people to rise to the top. In the past it was common for a technical company to be founded and managed by engineers. Your boss knew at least a good part of what you knew about the subject, and if you knew more, he’d want to learn from you or at least trust your decisions. Today there are MBAs managing technical companies which often have no idea about how their products work. Combined with dispassionate engineers you’ll get companies which can only sell their products because there is barely any competition. Other MBAs will see those products and try to copy them.

    Raising robots won’t help the US economy. What you need is to teach your children how to stay curious and to provide them with easy access to all sorts of knowledge. However that’s more expensive in the short run than turning children into robots.

    1. China? More like North Korea

  20. ” ‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’

    The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders, – nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was, – all helped the emphasis.

    ‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’

    The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.” – Hard Times, Charles Dickens

  21. […] Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda, in Massachusetts and beyond…  […]

  22. OMG Argosy Collegiate is real! I clicked the link! It is one of those documents you have to read 1 page at a time, go away, do laundry or clean something, then come back to it! (hoarders take note) Seems to me that Argosy Collegiate should be part of the school to prison pipeline network. Again, there is the wiggle fingers! It’s not school to college, it’s not the school to prison pipeline network at all…it’s “Children of the Corn!”

  23. Okay…once in a while you have to laugh, but read this:

    Token Economy System: The Merit/Demerit system feeds into our token economy DREAM Dollars Program. Students receive $100 of mock money every Monday and work to maintain those dollars every day based on their demonstration of our DREAM Values, both behaviorally and academically. Each week scholars and families receive a weekly balance sheet totaling earned token dollars that they can save or spend on DREAM-value items (DREAM pencils or Excellence pencil case), school supplies, college t-shirts, or uniform items. We train, support, and hold all scholars to the highest academic standards beginning with our Code of Conduct, Honor Code, and Attendance Policy. We sweat the small stuff in a reasonable but incredibly Determined way so that Excellence can be achieved. Our DREAM Values stand for Determination, Responsibility, Excellence, Ambition, and Mastery.

    My husband says, “Like the tokens the kids would trade in after a day at Chuck E Cheese.”
    Notice you get the money up front and then they rip it out of your tiny fingers for not slanting, chanting, wigging and eye balling.

    Oh my……if this gets approved, we could start a new reality show….
    Charter Chain Madness.

    1. The sad thing is I can see a token reward system for good behavior and success working very well for children. But it has to be an AWARD system. A punitive system is foolish. Give them your edubucks for acting like “adults”, don’t take them away for acting like children.

  24. Apart from…the many other things that are wretched about this…it’s actually failing completely at its main goal, if that’s to prepare students for college. The college experience couldn’t possibly be any more different from this. These poor kids are going to get there and not have any idea what to do with themselves, because no one is telling them. They’re going to have catastrophic nervous breakdowns.

    1. This is extraordinarily true. If all one does is take orders from above then that is all one ever knows how to do. I think this is also related to what another commenter was mentioning about how US business culture allows for incompetent people to rise to the top: the metrics of competience we use measure how well we can take orders and therefore we most reward those that manage to do that well.

      However, as another commenter wrote, this kind of education is exactly what is wanted from employeers in the service industry. If you are coming from a low-income family where your parents cannot give you any kind of structure in your life this school would be a dream. I can imagine that the sheer amount of routine in such a school can be very comforting when everything else is life is chaotic and unpredictable. However, as yet another commenter pointed out, there seem to be very few disciplinary mechanisms in place to get kinds INTO the system. Instead, the school seems very much built around of the idea of placating parents’ need of control.

      This, of course, is all very unsustainable. Loving parents who manifest that love w/o trust in their own children are raising little drones. I am hopeful that the 2008 financial disaster (which IMO was more a product of these characteristics of our education system than of greed proper) is waking people from their dogmatic slumber. If anything, I hope that this school does get accredited. It would be terrible for the students (who are screwed regardless due to their parents’ disciplinary fanaticism) but would be a good lesson to learn in terms of pedagogy.

    2. Not with the way college will be if the guys running this school get traction.

  25. Carolina isn’t going to make it into college. Her entrance essay will read like a North Korean agricultural report and her ability to reason from unrelated facts will show a marked deficit. By that time, however, we shall have sweatshops here again making cheap electronics that she will be able to work at fourteen to eighteen hours a day, in the same blouse, pants, and kerchief every other worker does, just like at Foxconn, still in silence. An American teknik. There’s your future.

  26. Well, my urban scholars would be at a loss practically right off the bat since pretty much none of them bring pencils or pens to schools. Binders? Ha. Don’t make me laugh. (Of course, they all manage to bring cell phones and Hot Cheetos).

    I had a parent express annoyance this year when I called to report that his child had come to school without a pencil or pen for three days in a row.
    “Can’t you just give her one every day?” he asked.

    I’m guessing he would not be the type of parent to send his child to Argosy.

  27. […] Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda, in Massachusetts and beyond…  […]

  28. Omg – that is horrendous! I just had to comment on reading this. My question, does Carolina even exist? For me it reads as a sci-fi novel, not reality. Reading this is horrifying and sad. Sad to think that people feel we must crush the spirit, the individuality, the joy and social side of a child completely in order to educate them, when in fact if we find ways to engage children, teach them and are open to also learning from them, form true relationships with them and allow them to think outside the box those will be our Bill Gates, Thomas Gallaudet, Louis Braille, Tim Berners-Lee and future leaders – because they were TRULY allowed to DREAM. Seriously, this article is scary.

  29. Well, it may not get her into college, but Carolina should have a fabulous career ahead of her as a mime.

    1. Well, except for that creativity thing, that is.

  30. Drill and kill.

  31. Some of these classes, like financial literacy, sound very good, but this level of regimentation probably isn’t suitable for all children. Children need SOME recess and SOME unstructured time to learn social skills. This school will probably teach them hard work and discipline, which are important, but it will also stifle creativity, initiative, and interpersonal development. These kids are as controlled as if they were in a mental hospital. I wouldn’t be surprised if they developed institutionalized personalities. A more moderate approach would be much better.

    Rigid classes like this should be reserved for kids who were unable to thrive in ordinary classes.

    In the 1800s, people believed that putting children (and criminals) in neat little rows and giving them regular, rigid schedules was good for them, that it would cure crime and other problems. Today we know that isn’t true.

  32. What about all of the cognitive development theory and brain research that proves that what Carolina is doing most of the day does not improve her ability to learn new material, learn on her own, think analytically, or be motivated to learn in the future?

    What some may deem as “excuses” coming from a fifth grader may be critical or analytic thought being put to practical use, or expressing challenges that may help guide the teacher to effectively meet individual student needs. Effective dialogue, which is a crucial tool in college and most professional fields, should be encouraged and practiced.

    I have always thought the “No Excuses” mantra smacks of classism /racism (blaming the victim mentality). The irony is that the higher one is in the educational hierarchy, the more students’ individual thoughts and ideas seem to be valued.

  33. Marianne O'Malley December 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    As a educator, I thought this was a total parody. The more I read, the more I realized that Carolina was not being educated at all. She wasn’t using any modalities that I use in Boston. I don’t intend to be wordy, do I will leave you with a quote that hung in my classroom for years.-
    ” TELL ME, I’LL FORGET
    SHOW ME, I’LL REMEMBER,
    INVOLVE ME, I’ll UNDERSTAND!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~Chinese Proverb~~~~~~~~~~~

    ~~~~~In a perfect world, if all went well, when Carolina went to College; she would have zero social skills. So she would feel, if she had any feelings at all; a total disconnect. We have enough children committing suicide for plenty of reasons; let’s not produce them starting at a young age. Seriously

  34. And Stalin smiles…

  35. I had to slit my throat half-way through Latin or whatever that was around 10 am. I just couldn’t take another acronym, chant, or iota of mindless horse manure. She’ll be ready for life in a police state, for sure.

  36. This almost perfectly describes what I witnessed and, shamefully, did to 6th grade students at KIPP:STAR middle school in Harlem. When I began teaching there I had 6 years experience working in urban high schools in San Francisco and La Puente California. Despite my successful, project and inquiry based approach to teaching, I had to be retaught how to teach and much of my day was spent watching children and removing dollars from their paycheck for speaking when they were supposed to be silent. I contacted Jim Horn at Schools Matter and contributed via a 2.5hour interview to data he was collecting about the teaching and learning conditions at KIPP:STAR. I wonder if Carolina is an English learner? If so, this framework should be found out of compliance and subject to an investigation by the Department of Ed…

  37. Alan Watts and the southpark guys sum this up pretty well

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERbvKrH-GC4

  38. I find it incredible that we continue to treat education like some grand non-scientific experiment and subject it to our children. There is no reasonable scientific evidence for most learning methodologies, but we continue to get sold on what is effectively snake oil. This is reminiscent of medicine at the turn of the last century, where everyone with a crackpot idea about disease and healing could peddle their cures.

    First, we should not make any assumption that education is sick and in need of a cure. What we need to be cured of are the lame-brained schemes to find some sort of magic bullet learning technology (yes, this approach is a technology), where the unstated goal is economic power at the expense of the human being.

  39. Fábio Emilio Costa December 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Looks so much like “Ender’s Game”, without the violence. It’s a doctrination system, and I thought this kind of things were exclusive of (gasp!) commies!

  40. I’m confused. Is praising the Dear Leader ‘Level 2 Talk’ or ‘Level 3 Talk’? Overall this does sound very exciting, though Caroline’s day didn’t mention the bathroom. That must also be a ‘Level 3′ privilege.

  41. […] This is a description of the typical day of a child in a new “no-excuses” school. […]

  42. Christine Langhoff December 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Perhaps Caroline and her fellow students ought to learn a bit of Fall River history, the story of one of the city’s most well known citizens:

    Lizzie Borden took an axe
    and gave her mother forty whacks
    When she saw what she had done,
    she gave her father forty-one.

    Attacking the figureheads of the corporation running such a school would be justifable as self-defense.

  43. These kids…

    They’ll break, in school, college or life afterwards, they’ll break and they’ll do damage to others when they do.

  44. What this speaks to is the not so great choices that parents in poor, immigrant communities have when looking at their local, public schools. They often see noisy, undisciplined schools that have a difficult time teaching all children to learn at their highest levels. And the schools that are working for all kids have waiting lists and lottery systems. So, rather than send their kids to a sub-par school they choose a charter where they and their children are welcomed and there are high expectations for their children’s future. It is not ideal, but certainly understandable. I have seen a charter school that does not dull children’s creativity while requiring order and discipline. Students were happy and productive and engaged in project based learning as well as drill and memorization. This is a school that needs to be replicated both by other charter schools as well as local public schools.

  45. This little authoritarian fantasy won’t prepare Carolina for any real college. It will be positively harmful, in fact.

    I would be proud to put being expelled from such a school on a college application.

    1. Carolina would probably learn more in prison, honestly.

  46. There is no excuse for a school like this to exist. Truly troubling.

  47. While I wouldn’t want my child to attend Argosy I understand why these schools exist. Readers must keep in mind that there are many schools that are a complete mess. We may wax poetic about “progressive” education but truth is, in some schools there is little learning going on and one of the main culprits is behavioral. I have substitute taught in schools where I cannot even get the children to look me in the eyes much less stop talking among themselves. And forget about even getting them to process a mere fact. I have also taught in more well-ordered schools where teachers were more-or-less respected and children were willing to attempt to think and do school work. In the former school what would you all suggest be done? Progressive techniques do not work when order and discipline have long since evaporated and the children’s culture of slackitude and apathy dominates.

  48. First, these schools are extremely successful at producing students who learn more, and do better at school, by an enormous factor. “Stanford recently released an updated version of the study showing that charter school students in Newark learn the equivalent of seven months more than their traditional district peers each year.”

    Maybe that is not such a big deal for you, but for the parents of these kids, this is the future. And if we know anything about the modern US urban school, it is that academic performance and rigor are a joke, except for schools such as this.

    When you are in middle school classroom, it is reasonable to expect students to work hard, and pay attention to their work. Texting, chatting, and other distractions are simply signs that the teacher and the school don’t really care if you succeed.

    The “rah, rah” cheer phrases are a little over the top, but they are harmless and may help some students stay motivated.

    I though the tenor of the article and most of the comments reflect modern left-wing teaching theory, where actual academic performance is secondary to making sure the kids are enjoying themselves. My kids go to even tougher schools than this, and they will attend very selective colleges, and enjoy professional success.

    The acid test of modern education is how well kids handle the AP tests, and if your kid is unable to perform well on these tests, why not cheer them up with a small paper hat, so they can ask, “Will you want fries with that?” all day long.

  49. Okay, so we get to pick from two styles of crazy: ugly chaos and ugly order. How and where can we check “none of the above”?

  50. For some reason this made me think of articles about penology I’ve read. I think it was Sing Sing prison that was originally designed for the prisoners to be silent. That was a Quaker idea, the idea that years of silent contemplation of the sins that caused them to be there would lead to rehabilitation. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Then I got to thinking about the fact that solitary confinement used to be considered a form of torture, and in the late nineteenth century we seemed to bo on the way to abolishing it, but it was so cheap it was retained and now is widespread; the Supermax prisons are essentially huge agglomerations of solitary confinement cells. Then I got to wondering what Jesperson and Mitchell, the two “psychologists” who designed our torture program, based on ideas of treating people like labratory animals and “learned helplessness” to control their actions, are doing now. They built a consulting company that at one point had about fifty people working there. Wonder what they’re doing for customers nowadays. I’ve sometimes wondered if they fit somewhere on the autism spectrum, simply unable to empathize with human beings, or just psychopaths.

  51. My step-daughter actually went to a school like this, and she LOVED it. We ended up having to move across country and she was more upset about leaving that school than leaving her mother. She is an extremely bright girl and that environment worked for her. Let me point out that both this school and her school are CHARTER schools. She chose to go there. We think my step daughter may have a mild form of aspergers and she doesn’t really want all the “fun” they have in regular public school now, and she is doing well and has friends, but she does miss the structure of her old school. I know I would have hated it, but because of that I would never have chose to go there. That structure does work, though. She did the equivalent of two years of school in her one year at that charter school. That school also had not only a %100 graduation rate, but %100 of their students went on to 4 year colleges and many of them into programs such engineering, math, physics, etc. There were many kids there who were going to be the first in their families to graduate. These kids will now go on to stop the cycle of poverty that threatens many children in schools in big cities. It gave those kids another option besides regular public school. The school was split about 1/2 kids from bad neighborhoods whose parents wanted more for them and 1/2 kids like my step-daughter who really excelled in math and science and wanted to have an environment where that was pushed to the extreme. Without the strictness that level of focus would be impossible.

    Now, I would never have been able to excel in that school. It is definitely not for everyone. I still joke with my step daughter about sneezing. After one incident at the beginning of summer school (it was required for incoming 6th graders) she almost got detention for sneezing. Luckily classmates came to her defense and said it really was a sneeze and she wasn’t talking. I thought that was insane, but even now I yell at her “How dare you sneeze! You insolent child!” each time she does it. We both then crack up at the angry looks we get from people around us.

    So, it may not be for you or your kids, but it is great for some people. I really wish we had something similar in the town we are in now.

  52. […] A char­ter school in Mass­a­chu­setts plans to sub­ject stu­dents to rigid dis­ci­pline all day with­out a moment’s break. […]

  53. What’s sad is that being silent and repeating exactly what you were told isn’t what is going to make a student stand out in most colleges. And if it does, there’s something wrong with that college class.

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