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

Friday, August 21, 2015

KIPP Administrators Sitting Atop Kindergarten and 1st Grade Children

I talked with a 28th former KIPP teacher last evening to hear her story, and she was as eloquent and upset as any of the rest.  

Mandy spent a year in a West Coast KIPP, which was in its first year of applying KIPP's punishing penal-style pedagogy to segregated kindergarteners and first graders (60 percent Latino and 40 percent African-American). 

Until a month ago, Mandy thought she would be returning to this KIPP school that she had learned to dread, but she landed a teaching job in a public school in July. 

Mandy is now dealing with what she describes as PTSD-like symptoms, and she is re-learning what it is like to have rights and choices and that precious commodity, time--time to take care of herself and to have relationships with family, her boyfriend, and friends.  Time once more to enjoy life and work.

Over half the KIPP teachers and support staff that began the year with Mandy left, too.  Mandy described a micro-managing, demanding, and ruthless school leader who was inflexible, out of touch, manipulative, and without empathy.

Like many other former KIPP teachers, Mandy's health suffered while she was there, and she became an alien to herself--willing to go along with ways of teaching and treating children and parents that ran counter to her deepest values.

Mandy's story will be shared in depth at a later date, but for now I wanted to share another element of "No Excuses" charter school teaching that no one hears about in the media.  

We have heard about KIPP's isolation chambers for children, but we have not heard about adult administrators sitting atop 1st graders and kindergarteners who are being physically restrained.

Mandy had seen this physical restraint practice before, when she worked for Achievement First, a charter chain started by Doug Lemov and based on KIPP's grueling indoctrination system. 

Here a short clip from our conversation last evening:
Q: . . . who are the people who are doing the restraining, and what did it look like? 

A: It happened any time a child was so out of control behaviorally.  Um, I don't actually know what their measure was for restraining a child because sometimes they would let a child destroy a classroom and just walk around, and other times, in my mind, [restraint was used] for a behavior that was more minor in terms of an infraction, but they would restrain them.  So I have no idea what it was for, but a lot of times it was used if a child tried to hit or hurt the dean or the principal, which is funny, not funny, but a little ironic because these children who were having these behavioral issues would hurt the teachers, and we could do nothing.  

But when the child started to attack the Dean or the Principal, they were able to defend themselves.  So they would take the student by their wrists and cross them in front of their chests, and a lot of times they would be sitting on the ground, and they would put their legs on top of the child, so if you can imagine, the adult is sitting with their legs open, the child is sitting up against them, their arms are crossed like a pretzel over them, [the administrators'] legs are on top of the child, and just kind of sitting there holding them and the child thrashing, saying, "let go of me, you are hurting me."

And they would say, "if I let you go, will you sit nicely, will you calm down," or, "if you just sit nicely, it won't hurt--you are hurting yourself." 

(Long pause)

Q: And did this happen often?

A: I would say so.  It didn't happen as often as it did when I worked at Achievement First in __________, but it happened pretty regularly.
My book, Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys through "No Excuses" Teaching will be published later this year. 

1 comment:

  1. They are "educating" students for a life working for Amazon or dog walking for the wealthy