Pushing unruly kids out of high-performing “no-excuses” urban charter schools isn’t exactly something that draws praise. Indeed, the typical reaction is quite the opposite, with harsh condemnation for the idea that such schools may squeeze out difficult kids. But a few education policy types think we ought to think twice before being so fast to judge.
The latest fodder for the never-ending charter school debate: an explosive story two weeks ago in the New York Times reporting that a Brooklyn charter school in the Success Academy network, run by hard-charging education leader Eva Moskowitz, maintained a list of behaviorally-challenging students that school officials were determined to drum out of the school.
The roster of 16 troublemakers was none-too-subtly labeled the school’s “Got to Go” list. It appeared to be the smoking gun that buttressed the broad criticism that high-performing charter schools like Success Academy owe their impressive results to a determined effort to weed or “counsel” out difficult students who would drag down their test scores.
Charters have denied that they operate with such policies, and Success moved quickly to try to tamp down the furor. Moskowitz called the “Got to Go” list at Success Academy Fort Greene an anomaly and said the school’s principal was reprimanded as soon as network leaders learned of the list, which she said was just three days after he drew it up. The Times reports that nine of the 16 students on the list nonetheless ultimately left the school. Candido Brown, the school principal, offered a teary apology at a lengthy press conference with Moskowitz where he said how much he loves the school’s students and that he only wants the best for all of them.
Critics are quick to condemn the idea of weeding out disruptive kids from urban charter schools. Charter operators and their supporters are quick to deny that they employ such practices. The broader truth may lie in a gray area that both sides are reluctant to acknowledge.
The “Got to Go” list may well have been an anomaly and something that runs counter to official policy at Success Academy. That said, such “no-excuses” charter schools make no bones about the fact that they hew to very strict discipline policies that show little tolerance for unruly behavior that school leaders say cuts into learning time. Such policies may end up having the same effect as a “got to go” list — without any formal roster drawn up of kids who may be standing in the way of success at the school. Aggressive discipline and suspension policies can end up making it impossible for students with chronic behavior problems to continue at a school.
That is an exceedingly difficult problem for those students and their families. Like all kids, they deserve a shot at a good education.
But what about the bulk of the students at such schools — overwhelmingly low-income minority students, whose families want them to meet with the same success in school that is the goal of middle class families in comfortable suburbs. The absence of severely disruptive students in their classrooms may make that much more possible, says Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based education policy organization.
Pondiscio says wealthy suburban districts, in all sorts of ways, work to ensure that most kids aren’t held back by chaotic classrooms. Whether it’s through funding out-of-district placements in private schools for kids with behavioral or learning problems or through strict discipline policies of their own, he says, public schools in affluent communities brook disruptive students no more than urban charters that have set high expectations for student behavior.
“If you are the bright son or daughter of affluent parents, chronic classroom disruption is largely foreign to your school experience,” Pondiscio writes in US News & World Report. “If you encounter it at all, you can be reasonably confident it won’t last long. You almost never share a classroom with challenging, high-needs kids.”
It is with a similar goal in mind that hundreds of Boston families had their sixth-grade sons and daughters spend several hours on Saturday taking the standardized test that determines who will be offered a seat for next September at Boston Latin School or the city’s two other test-admission based exam schools. For some middle class families, whether they remain in Boston or make a beeline for a leafy suburb will depend on whether their child wins a seat at one of the schools, where high achievement is the norm — and disruptive behavior isn’t tolerated.
None of this discussion solves the challenge of how to reach the most challenging students and help them onto a positive path in school. But the point made by Pondiscio, who also serves as an advisor to a network of high-performing charter schools based in Harlem, and also made here by his Fordham colleague Michael Petrilli, is that we should be honest about the quest for quality education of parents at all income levels.
“Let’s not kid ourselves that ‘creaming’ and ‘counseling out’ are rarities in American public education,” writes Pondiscio. “But it’s in rich neighborhoods, not poor ones, where such practices thrive. Let’s not kid ourselves that those of us who pay a premium price for our child’s education, whether in private-school tuition or school taxes in well-off communities, don’t demand and receive schools largely free of the hardest to teach.”
“One final question,” he writes, “perhaps the most awkward of all: If all this creaming, counseling out, and ensuring just the right school and just the right environment is a standard part of American education for so many, why does it become a problem – why does it make national news – only when someone gets caught doing it for poor black and brown kids?”
Interesting food for thought for the never-ending education policy debates.
It comes as no great shock, but a new report says Massachusetts is among the cellar-dwellers when it comes to ranking states on their public records laws. (Boston Globe) The MetroWest Daily News wants to see state lawmakers debate changes to public records laws.
Massage parlors are pushing legislation that would allow them to open on Sundays.
Peter Gelzinis thinks Marty Walsh got a little too taken with the glamour of having IndyCars race through the Seaport — and may be having second thoughts. (Boston Herald) The Globe looks at the impact of such races in other cities and says it’s a mixed bag.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll wants one agency overseeing the city’s port, and is petitioning the Legislature for authority to create the Salem Harbor Port Authority. (Salem News)
A new report by an outside consultant says revenue projections for what Weymouth will receive from zoning changes for the Southfield mixed-use project are much lower than the developer claims. (Patriot Ledger)
Rochester officials have appealed to Gov. Charlie Baker to help expedite passage of special legislation that would approve last spring’s Town Meeting votes despite the lack of a quorum, which no one realized until after everything was passed. (Standard-Times)
Stoughton selectmen are trying to convince voters to approve the purchase of a vacant 127-year-old train station from the MBTA for $350,000. (The Enterprise)
Millennials like Cambridge better than Boston. (Boston Business Journal)
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has reached agreement with six separate Taunton land owners to buy their properties for a total of $34.5 million to make way for their planned casino, a deal that will result in the displacement of about a dozen businesses and demolition of four commercial and industrial buildings. (Taunton Gazette)
Thank you for your service: Recently re-elected Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno tosses the three commissioners who have been most critical of the MGM casino project off the city’s Historical Commission. (MassLive) As the city fumes over the changes to the casino design, The Republican finds that these sorts of moves are not unusual. (MassLive)
US Rep. Katherine Clark is getting notice as a fast-rising star in Washington — with some wondering whether gubernatorial aspirations could be in her future. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth took note last summer of the mark Clark was quickly making.
The New Republic‘s Rebecca Leber says New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is among a small group of Republicans in Congress doing something that has been largely unthinkable in their caucus until now — embracing an aggressively green agenda on climate change on environmental issues.
President Obama signs into law a bill giving veterans more medical leave. (Associated Press)
Andrea Campbell, who trounced 32-year incumbent Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey last week, isn’t the only rising star to emerge from the District 4 race. Her campaign manager, 23-year-old Katie Prisco-Buxbaum, is getting lots of positive notice for the highly disciplined, data-focused effort she helmed, which is likely to increasingly be the way of the campaign world. (Boston Herald)
After Ben Carson‘s combative response to media questions about his truthfulness regarding West Point and youthful transgressions, William Kristol, publisher of the conservative Weekly Standard, says he’s rethinking his declaration that Carson is not qualified to be president. He’s still holding fast on Donald Trump, though.
The state’s education and training programs, particularly at its vocational-technical high schools, are not keeping up with the demand for workers with the skills those programs give students, a trend that will hamper economic growth if not addressed, a new report says. (Boston Globe)
Governing examines whether putting private nonprofit companies in charge of state economic development efforts makes sense.
Favorable market conditions allowed state Treasurer Deb Goldberg to boost a state bond offering to $500 million to fund transportation projects such as the stalled Green Line extension and South Coast Rail. (State House News)
The Item remembers the great blackout of November 9, 1965, which shut out the lights on much of the East Coast. Meanwhile, much of Lenox dealt with power outages Saturday after a circuit-breaker control board malfunctioned. (Berkshire Eagle)
A set of events this week celebrating Marty Meehan’s rise to president of the UMass system will cost more than $100,000 to put on. Awkward timing, writes the Herald‘s Hillary Chabot, after Meehan’s lobbying for state funding to cover raises granted to UMass faculty and staff.
Schools in Westford are implementing transgender-supportive policies and opening gender-neutral bathrooms. (The Sun)
Dozens of black players on the University of Missouri football team have pledged to not play in any more games or participate in team activities until the school’s president resigns or is fired because of what many say is a tepid response to dealing with racial and ethnic tensions on campus. (New York Times)
A Boston Herald editorial urges the state to stop adding new things to the list of mandates that health insurers must cover in Massachusetts.
The Supreme Court has once again agreed to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, this time from religious-affiliated groups who want the same exemptions as churches and houses of worship from the mandate on birth control coverage. (U.S. News & World Report)
Complaints about the MBTA’s Ride program for the disabled are on the rise. (Boston Globe)
Florida plans a privately-funded and operated train service that would run between Miami and Orlando. (USA Today)
National Grid proposes a radically different rate structure for its distribution charges. The company seeks to replace some per-kilowatt charges with flat fees based on usage. (CommonWealth)
A new World Bank report says climate change could plunge 100 million into poverty by 2030. (Time)
Police have identified a body that was found burning near railroad tracks in Bridgewater last week as a 29-year-old woman from New Jersey. (The Enterprise)
Property seizures in civil forfeiture cases are a windfall for the Lowell Police Department. (The Sun)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will sign a new city ordinance today banning the public display of replica handguns. (Boston Globe)
From Sunday’s Globe, Yvonne Abraham raises more troubling questions about the conduct of Middlesex County prosecutors in the case of Irish nanny Aisling Brady McCarthy.
The Fall River Herald News is the latest paper to move its content behind a paywall — and one of the last GateHouse papers to make the move — requiring users to register to see 10 free articles a month before being shut off or buying a subscription.