Child Abuse in the form of the “No Excuses” education model

The new Jumoke Academy at Dunbar (AKA The Paul Dunbar School, A FUSE Family Urban Schools of Excellence) recently posted job announcements that it was looking for four new teachers.

Putting aside why Jumoke, the charter school management company that was hired to take over and run the Dunbar elementary school is looking for four new teachers, over a month into the new school year, the job posting announces that the charter school company wants educators who will “sweat the small stuff” and are committed to “embracing the challenges facing urban schools with a mantra of ‘No Excuses’ and a willingness to do ‘Whatever it takes.’”

In this case, the phrase “sweat the small stuff” is a euphemism that explains that anyone unwilling to implement Jumoke’s “get tough, ”No Excuses” education model need not apply.

The “No Excuses” approach to education has become a rallying cry for the corporate education reform industry.

Many parents, teachers and proponents of schools, education and learning might mistakenly think the term “no excuses” describes the obligation society, government, schools and parents have to ensuring that every child in America gets a quality education.

But the term “No Excuses” is really a placeholder for a militaristic, highly disciplined, autocratic system in which children are forced to understand that discipline, conformity and following rules is the fundamental cornerstone that leads to academic achievement.

The adherents of the “No Excuse” model believe that the best route to creating safe, healthy and productive school environments is to ensure that children don’t deviate from the rules and that the price of non-compliance is punishments that are so disproportionate that the children  learn to comply or leave the school for good.

The fact that we are dealing with children or that the United States is constitutionally bound to the principle of individualism rather than fascism or collectivism is nothing more than a concept to be overlooked.

Most “No Excuses” schools actually lose more than half their students along the way.

At the Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools, CEO Eva Moskowitz has created a system in which, “New students are initiated at ‘kindergarten boot camp,’ where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides).”

Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor and owns and operates charter schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island utilizes the draconian techniques of excessive school suspensions and a “re-orientation” room.

As we learned earlier is year, “The incidence of suspension of kindergartners and first graders at Achievement First Hartford Academy last year was an estimated nine times the rate in Hartford public schools.

Put another way, an estimated 11.7 percent of kindergartners and first-graders at Achievement First Hartford Academy were suspended last year an average of 5.4 times each. In the Hartford public school system, 3.3 percent of kindergartners and first-graders were suspended an average of 2.1 times.”

At the time, Achievement First’s Dean of School Culture told the Hartford Courant that they instituted, “a very high bar for the conduct of our students and that’s because we’ve made a promise to our scholars and our families that we are going to prepare them for college.”

It figures it would take someone with the title of “dean of school culture” to come up with a phrase that brings together kindergartners, a high bar of conduct and preparing them for college.

At these “No Excuses” schools, the strategies to force conformity follow the children all the way through their primary and secondary education.  At Achievement First’s Hartford high school, “Rolling one’s eyes at a teacher will get a freshman sent to the school’s Reorientation Room where…’they get the extra culture they need.’”

As parents and children at Bridgeport’s “new” Dunbar School will come to find out, the discipline policies at the schools run by FUSE/Jumoke are similar in scope to those used by Achievement First, Inc.  Jumoke also relies on the suspensions and a “reorientation” room, although at Jumoke it apparently goes by a different name.

Even the most casual observer will recognize that the “No Excuses” education model drifts into the realm of what reasonable people would call child abuse.

Perhaps the most disturbing point of all is that while people like Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski tout the “No Excuses” model, not one of them would ever suggest that such a model be used in Connecticut’s suburban communities.

It is quite a commentary that here we are in the 21st century and  we’ve got “mainstream” political leaders who promote policies that are essentially child abuse….as long as those policies only apply to children who are attending urban schools that serve our minority and poor students.

Is Achievement First angling for a co-location site in Hartford?

  • Achievement First, Inc. is the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
  • Achievement First, Inc. won’t take its fair share of bilingual students or students who aren’t proficient in English.
  • Achievement First, Inc. won’t take its fair share of students who need special education services.
  • Achievement First Inc. is unwilling or unable to provide certified teachers in many of its classrooms.

And thanks to the Mayor of Hartford and a 5-2 vote of the Hartford Board of Education, Achievement First, Inc. will be opening a second elementary school in Hartford next year.

Only Board members Robert Cotto Jr. and Brad Noel voted against the Achievement First plan despite the fact that Achievement First effectively limits which Hartford students it will educate and also faces serious problems with its draconian disciplinary policies.

But now Achievement First Inc. only needs the approval of the State Board of Education (a la Stefan Pryor) and a Hartford location before it can move forward with its plans for a taxpayer-funded school.

One option being discussed is to close an existing Hartford school and turn the facility over to Achievement First, Inc.

Another option is to “co-locate” the Achievement First, Inc. school within an existing Hartford school.

New York City has utilized the co-location mechanism many times.  The charter school company moves into the existing public school.  It gets its pick of the best features of the facility and the remaining “public” school and its students then get to use whatever is left.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the co-location practice in New York City has been the Harlem Success Academy chain of charter schools.

Like Achievement First, Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools won’t take its fair share of bilingual or English Language Learners.

Like Achievement First, Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools won’t take its fair share of students who need special education services.

And like Achievement First, Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools have been widely criticized for discipline policies that appear to some to be nothing short of child abuse.

For example, in one report about CEO Eva Moskowitz and her Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools it was revealed that, “New students are initiated at ‘kindergarten boot camp,’ where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides).”

As of two years ago, Eva Moskowitz was earning over $490,000 a year from her five taxpayer-funded charter schools, more than twice what the New York City Chancellor of Schools made for running 1,400 schools.

And what does Eva Moskowitz say about co-location of charter schools within district schools.

In a commentary piece Eva Moskowitz wrote last summer she said;

“Sure, putting charter schools in separate buildings would spare district parents the pain of pressing their noses up against the glass of high-functioning charters. However, to improve our public-school system, parents must know things could be better, no matter how painful that knowledge is.

Consider it one more service charter schools do — communicating one simple message to the families whom the district schools so profoundly fail: It need not be so.”

Is that the type of education reform policy that is coming to Connecticut?

It wouldn’t be the first time Eva Moskowitz’s operation crossed into Connecticut.

Just last year, when Governor Malloy held a fundraiser for his Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee at the home of Jonathan Sackler, who serves on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the vice chair of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools dropped by with a $1,500 check for Malloy’s PAC.

The pattern is becoming all too familiar.