"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, June 09, 2014

Reporter Visits NOLA Charter Cult Where Parents Filed Civil Rights Complaint

A clip from the story, followed by part of my email to the reporter, Andrew Vanacore:

. . . . Its campuses have never been outwardly impressive. Its first, Sci Academy, opened in 2008 in a set of trailers near what used to be Abramson High School. The group began a phased takeover of Carver High School, in the Desire neighborhood, in 2012, splitting it into two separate programs with a combined football team and other extracurricular programs. Those schools are housed in trailers too, all of them now temporarily clumped near Sci Academy on Read Boulevard while permanent buildings are under construction.
Like most schools in the Recovery District, the students at Collegiate’s schools are almost entirely African-American, and most qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a measure of poverty.
Whatever the appearances, Collegiate’s approach and philosophy are palpable, starting with the morning meeting, which includes everyone from the principal to the security guard.
There are, indeed, lots of rules, even for the adults. People in the charter movement use the word “intentionality” often; very little is done in a desultory way or left to chance. Teachers and other staff members form a circle, drumming their hands on their thighs as they take turns offering “shout-outs” to colleagues for a job well done.
Just like students, teachers have to wait for Bryant, the principal, to call on them, and then say “thank you” after he does. 
One morning last month, a Carver Collegiate teacher slipped up, praising another teacher for embodying not just one of Collegiate’s five “core values,” but two of them at the same time.
A clear faux pas. Teachers around the circle chimed in gleefully, “You’re breaking the rules!”
He started all over again.
Classrooms have a similar atmosphere. Charters like those run by Collegiate focus intensely on a particular set of classroom skills preached by modern education gurus like Doug Lemov, a former teacher and charter school founder. Lemov’s popular book “Teach Like a Champion” is as good a place as any to begin understanding the approach.
Again, raising expectations is central. “It’s not OK not to try,” Lemov writes, and so letting a student mutter, “I don’t know,” will never pass. There are no “partially right” answers, only “100 percent” correct ones. Certain freedoms are said to be overrated, like the “freedom to take notes on a grubby, torn half-sheet of paper that ultimately becomes buried at the bottom of a backpack.”
All of this attention to detail obviously strikes some families as going too far, especially those used to a more relaxed atmosphere in schools.
In a recent interview, Russell Robinson Jr. and Jherell Johnson, cousins whose families last year pulled them out of Sci Academy and Carver, respectively, described an atmosphere where every infraction was counted against them, adding up to one detention after another.
“You don’t raise your hand straight, that’s a deduction,” Johnson said. “If you’re not sitting up straight, that’s a deduction.”
Still, it is sometimes hard to square what is written in the civil rights complaint with how the school actually appears to operate, unless policies and procedures were turned on their head for a reporter who visited last month, moving from class to class more or less at random.

The complaint speaks of classrooms where students are suspended for “laughing too much,” “hugging a friend” or being “disrespectful,” all of it aimed at enforcing a “military-like uniformity” at “the expense of learning.”. . . .

My email to Andrew:

Thanks for your piece on the No Excuses chain gangs that have replaced schools in NOLA and many other American cities.  What you saw on the day of your visit to one of them is referred to by many unhappy teachers in these schools as a "shit show."  Teachers and students most likely knew which day you were coming, and if they did not, they know exactly how to perform when that unfamiliar face shows up at the door.  

One has to wonder what black parents of the 1940s and 1950s would think if they come back and see the solution to the “Negro problem” that has been devised by white elites who mouth the cynical sentiment that education is the “civil rights issue of our generation.”  How would they square that claim with the fact that their children’s grandchildren are being incarcerated in segregated minimum security testing prisons comprised of trailers and delapidated buildings, where the guards are white corporate missionaries trained to act like good corporate cult members—at least until they move on after a year or two to law school and then take up careers spreading the corporate fascism aimed to extinguish indigenous cultures and replace them with the white man’s ideal of black and brown behavior.   

What would those parents of the Jim Crow era think?  Is this progress?  At least the teachers in the segregated schools 75 years ago cared for their children and treated them with respect, rather than as circus animals being trained to jump through hoops.

Meanwhile, the operators of these cultural sterilization facilities collect huge sums of public dollars and tax benefits that make this schooling model one of the most lucrative that could be imagined by Wall Street hedge funders.  

If you think I am over the top on my descriptions, think again.  There is ample evidence for every point made here if you are curious enough to pursue it.  I encourage you to nterview some former teachers and students and parents from this school.  Dig a little deeper.  

Keep in mind that when the Red Cross visited the one concentration camp in 1944, they bought the Nazi charade hook, line, and sinker.  Did they believe the smiling faces they saw, or did they pretend to believe?

Thanks again.  Dig deeper if you want the real story.

1 comment:

  1. Some of the comments criticizing parents in the New Orleans article are very telling. The commenters sound like segregationists talking about "uppity Negroes" who don't know their place.