According to a September Hartford Courant story about Achievement First –Hartford’s newly opened high school, “Rolling one’s eyes at a teacher will get a freshman sent to the school’s Reorientation Room, where Dean of School Culture Peter Uwalaka said “’they get the extra culture they need.’”
The Achievement First Family Handbook goes into far more detail about the school’s discipline policy.
Having spoken with parents who have had students attending an Achievement First school, the “Reorientation Room” is a place that students go to work on improving unacceptable behaviors. Students temporarily lose the privilege of wearing the school uniform. Instead, they wear a practice shirt. Students are not allowed to communicate with their peers. Students must stay after school to reflect on their behavior issue and to write apology letters to their teammates. Because students lose transportation privileges (they have lost the trust to take a bus unsupervised), parents need to pick their child up from school. Students remain in this room until they have shown dramatic behavior improvement.
Achievement First’s discipline code describes this place as, “a BIG DEAL. We are, in essence, isolating students from the rest of the school, and so it should be taken very seriously by students and teachers… [It] is a place where no student wants to go and will be a powerful tool in the establishment and maintenance of a strong, team-oriented school culture.”
Dean of School Culture?
Get the Extra Culture they need?
In a world where words have meaning and phrases have history, my first thought was; is Achievement First, Inc. incredibly insensitive or incredibly stupid?
Words like “Reorientation Rooms” and phrases like “get the extra culture they need” are the creation of writers like George Orwell or Franz Kafka, or worse, the reality of Stalin’s Russia or China’s Cultural Revolution.
I can’t imagine Achievement First would ever call the room where children in trouble are sent, the Gulag, the Labor Camp, or the Ship’s Hold. But, the term, “Reorientation Room” isn’t much better.
By their own admission, the “Reorientation Room” is a place that is intended to induce fear and force specific behaviors.
It is shocking that the company Stefan Pryor, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, created and help lead for eight years would utilize those words or promote those concepts of discipline.
It is even worse that more and more of our tax dollars are going to support that charter school company and their chain of schools.
In Connecticut, parents can send their children to a public school or pay to have them go to a private school. Charter schools claim that they are really public schools; they just utilize an alternative educational approach and environment.
But no public school would ever brag about, or even allow, a place called the “Reorientation Room.”
And when all is said and done, Achievement First, Inc. looks and acts a lot more like a private school than a public school.
Achievement First, Inc. is run by a corporate board and not a board of education made up of the citizens of that community.
Achievement First, Inc. doesn’t take its fair share of children who need special education services.
Achievement First, Inc. doesn’t take its fair share of students who are not fluent in English.
And only about 70% of Achievement First teachers are even certified to teach in Connecticut.
The facts speak for themselves.
Achievement First – Hartford, which is located less than 3,000 feet from the Jumoke Academy at Milner, has a student population where 95 percent of the students are fluent in English. Yet, at the same time, one in five Hartford students is an English Language Learner (i.e. not fluent in English).
In Hartford, where well over 40 percent of the students go home to households where English is not the spoken language, less than 5% of Academy First’s students come from homes where English is not the primary language.
Furthermore, the percentage of Achievement First students who need special education services is about half the percentage that attends Hartford’s public schools.
As noted, there is no question that parents have the right to send their children to private schools, but we taxpayers don’t directly pay the costs associated with parochial and other private schools, and we shouldn’t be forced to syphon off scarce taxpayer funds in order to pay for schools like Achievement First, schools that fail to meet the most basic criteria of what makes a public school – public.
You can read the Hartford Courant’s article on Achievement First – Hartford here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-af-high-school-20120916,0,591034,full.story