Holding Back to Get Ahead

Researcher Joanne Golann says that no-excuses charters are teaching low-income students to defer to authority and hold back their opinions—the opposite of what they’ll need to succeed in college and life.

walking in lineEduShyster: You’re one of the first researchers to spend an extended period of time inside a no-excuses charter school. Here’s where I ask you to sum up close to two years of research into a single sentence. OK—you can have a paragraph.

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

Sit Down and Shut Up

I went to a high-performing charter school to become a better teacher. Instead I learned how to silence and punish kids.

Editor’s note: the following piece was written by a charter school teacher whose request for anonymity I honored. Leave comments or email them to me at jennifer@edushyster.com and I’ll pass them along. 

It’s sexy to be *woke* right now. Some schools are infusing social justice into their curricula, while others are scaling back on harsh discipline practices. At an individual level, an increasing (and still too small) number of people—including a growing number of teachers, most of them young—are posting pictures and statuses on social media about how #BlackLivesMatter.

seth-tobocman.jpg (750×199)I’m no exception. Indeed, this growing movement has had a profound impact on the way I view my role as the white teacher of all students of color. I know it’s vital that I’m aware of the cultural differences between me and my students. I want to show them amazing literature by authors who look like them and expose them to new perspectives. I’m aware of the disparate manner in which discipline is applied at schools along racial lines. I don’t want to contribute to that disparity, or to the school-to-prison pipeline.  In a recent meeting led by teachers of color at my school, I excitedly engaged in a conversation about a cartoon that juxtaposed a white officer yelling at a black man against a white teacher yelling at a black child.

But I have a confession to make… Continue reading →

Our Voices Were Heard, But They Were Ignored

Students at a Boston High School that grooms community leaders learn a hard lesson

By Bilal Lafta
BilalBoston Community Leadership Academy is very unique in that it has a mission to expose students to community service and focuses a lot on leadership. Students have a community service requirement in order to graduate, but many of them end up taking that requirement above and beyond and really becoming a leader. That’s the reason why when students first heard about the budget cuts back in January, we took it as an opportunity to fight back. That’s what we’ve been doing for months now. We’ve been speaking out at the School Committee, speaking directly to our city councilors, contacting the superintendent and protesting.

Our school has taught us that if you follow this path of leadership and you act as a leader and say what you believe in, adults will hear you and ultimately you’ll be able to bring about change. That didn’t happen in this circumstance, despite the fact that we had so many students protesting and voicing their opinions. Our voices were heard, but they were ignored. Continue reading →

Kindergarten Suspensions: It’s a *Thing*

We meet a five-year-old who, in his first four months as a kindergartner, was suspended 16 times. In other, words, what????

It’s time for another installment of Have You Heard, listener. In this episode (our third!), we head to Boston for a look at the controversial trend of kindergarten suspension. We go behind the data to bring you the story of a mother and a five-year-old boy who, in his first four months as a kindergartner, was suspended 16 times. Hard to imagine? His mother thinks so too as she struggles to understand how her bright, creative little boy could end up in so much trouble so quickly. After you’ve listened, drop me a line by email or on Twitter to let me know what you thought. I’ll be talking about the issue of kindergarten suspension and other controversial edu-topics in a live webcast on May 11. Sign up here.

In an Effort to Keep Our Kids Safe, We May be Silencing Their Voices

Parent and early childhood educator Jamila Carter warns that the emphasis on strict discipline and control in urban schools can stifle kids’ creativity and natural desire to learn…

By Jamila Carter

Philadelphia mom and early educator Jamila Carter.

Philadelphia mom and early childhood educator Jamila Carter.

There is a sentiment among some folks in the black community that teaching our children respect for authority through strict discipline will save them from falling victim to violence, jail or being killed at the hands of the police.

Historically, black parents, especially those of us in low-income communities have often used strict discipline coupled with love and support as a means to protect our children. So I’m not surprised when I hear of parents who welcome the *no-excuses* discipline methods employed at some urban schools.

The belief is that because of the color of our skin there is no room for mistakes, and in the real world we may not get a second chance. Therefore, the training ground for this dismal reality should extend to the classroom.

I understand why many parents feel the need to use discipline to protect their children, but I reject this notion in the classroom. I certainly believe that classrooms must be safe and orderly and that students must face consequences for misbehaving in order to maintain a healthy and productive learning environment. However, the emphasis on order and discipline, especially in urban schools where children of color are the majority, can be demeaning to students and their families. It can lead to a style of classroom management that excludes one of the key elements of education: engaging children. It may also give parents the false notion that strict discipline is the driving factor in their child’s educational success. Continue reading →