I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do "No Excuses" Charters Really Prepare Kids for College?

EduShyster looks at a day in the life of a "no excuses" charter school student. An excerpt:
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. [emphasis mine]
Here's an interesting coincidence: Boston University has an excellent education school. Here is a bit on their philosophy:
An abiding passion for teaching and learning runs through our School. We go about our work with a dedication and enthusiasm born of the belief that what we are doing matters deeply. And we bring to this work the good cheer that accompanies a labor of love. Here, too, our sense of community is evident, as each contributes to and is uplifted by the spirit of the School.
We take pride in resisting what is merely fashionable in educational thought and practice. To the constant demands for and claims of “innovation,” we bring a measure of skepticism, recognizing that the latest is not necessarily the best. And we resist, too, ideological approaches that judge ideas and practices by their conformity to a particular dogma. No idea should be ruled out of court simply because it is unfashionable; and no idea should prevail unless it can withstand the test of critical inquiry.
Lively discussion and trying ideas out in practice help to keep the School of Education a lively and engaging community. [emphasis mine]
"Lively discussion," "trying ideas out," and "resisting dogma," eh?

Does it seem to you that Argosy Charter is really preparing Carolina for the sort of intellectual life prized by Boston University? Or are they engaging in "what is merely fashionable in educational thought and practice"?

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