Do You Really Think This Is Education?

I’ve discussed before the stress that high-stakes testing causes young children (because it’s never too early to teach kids to hate learning). But this NY Times article about Success Academy, headed by Eva Moskowitz, is something else. While the horror that is Success Academy won’t be new to long time readers, this is the reality of education reform (boldface mine):

In an internal email that some former teachers said typified the attitude at some schools, one school leader said that students who were lagging should be made to feel “misery.” Suspension rates at Success schools, compared with public schools, are higher.

Former staff members described students in third grade and above wetting themselves during practice tests, either because teachers did not allow them to go to the restroom, which Ms. Moskowitz disputed, or because the students themselves felt so much pressure that they did not want to lose time on the test.

Jasmine Araujo, 25, who joined Success through the Teach for America program, quit after half a year as a special-education teacher at Success Academy Harlem 3. She now teaches at a charter school in New Orleans. “I would cry almost every night thinking about the way I was treating these kids, and thinking that that’s not the kind of teacher I wanted to be,” Ms. Araujo said….

One teacher complained that she was expected to announce all of her students’ scores on practice tests, by asking those who had scored a four to stand up, followed by those with a three and then those with a two. The teacher and her colleagues persuaded their supervisors not to make students with a score of one stand up, but those students were still left conspicuously sitting down, she said.

At one point, her leadership resident — what the network calls assistant principals — criticized her for not responding strongly enough when a student made a mistake. The leadership resident told her that she should have taken the student’s paper and ripped it up in front of her. Students were not supposed to go to the restroom during practice tests, she said, and she heard a leader from another school praise the dedication of a child who had wet his pants rather than take a break….

Other former staff members also described students having wet themselves, in some cases during practice tests. Two former staff members who worked at Success Academy Harlem West, a middle school, in the 2013-14 school year, said that they recalled having to go to the supply closet to get extra underwear and sweatpants, which were always on hand, for students who had wet themselves.

If you knew someone who was homeschooling his or her child, and the instructional method involved pissing themselves, wouldn’t you at least consider calling child services or somehow intervening? If a regular public school teacher did this, there would be disciplinary action–and deservedly so.

The curriculum, such as it is, is also warped (boldface mine):

She said she loves the children, but the atmosphere is stifling for both teachers and children. She is looking for another job. Everything is about test scores, and the competitive pressure never lets up. Right now, they are getting ready for the state exams, and signs posted everywhere say “Slam the Exams!”

I asked how long the test prep went on, and she said they have been doing test prep for months. She said the kids would not take spring vacation until the exams were finished.

What’s so bad about test prep, I asked her. She said some of the kids explode or break down. They are very young, and the pressure gets to be too much for them. They might start screaming or crying, and they have to be removed from the classroom until they calm down. The children are assigned a color depending on their test scores, and every classroom posts the names of the children and their color–red, green, blue, or yellow. I forget which is best and which is worst, but the goal is to shame the lowest performing students so they try harder to move up into the next level.

The test prep plus the ” no-excuses” climate of tough and strictly enforced rules unnerves some children, she said. And she felt badly for the children who were humiliated. The harshly competitive environment, she said, was dispiriting and joyless.

Let’s be clear: many of the well-educated, upper-middle or gentry class (not to mention the rich) who back “no-excuses” would never let their children be subjected to this. Moreover, they didn’t suffer this kind of education either.

Onward and upward. More reality–but not surprising if one considers Campbell’s Law:

What happens with the children who can’t adjust to the highly disciplined demands of the school, I asked. She replied that these children might be suspended repeatedly or their parents or guardian might be called to the school every day. Day after day. Eventually, the child’s parent or guardian will withdraw the child because they can’t afford to miss work every day.

That, of course, isn’t supposed to happen. At least, that’s what we’re told by our betters.

I don’t see how Success Academy–the golden child of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo–even remotely qualifies as education. It’s pretty good test prep though.

If this spreads, go long on diapers.

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4 Responses to Do You Really Think This Is Education?

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Way back in the day, when conservatives were conservative and worried about families, William F. Buckley’s brother James was a U.S. Senator from New York. Congress still functioned back then, partly because true conservatives still believed in making the U.S. a better place, and the shining city on a hill thing was seen as something we maybe should continue to work towards.

    In reauthorization of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society push-generated Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, whose Title I is particularly famous among education historians), Sen. Buckley took the floor of the Senate to defend an amendment he proposed to require that schools tell parents about any psychological testing they might be doing in a drive to create behavior modification, or learning, on students. Such decisions should be made by families, not government officials, Sen. Buckley said. Moreover, the results of any testing that might embarrass the hell out of students should not be used to shame them, and perhaps damage their psyches — so the amendment required that test results and rankings NOT be publicly posted in a form that exposed the identity of who was first in the class, and who was last.

    Teachers are required by regulations under this law to have lockable storage in the classroom to preserve records they may use in dealing with students, which need to be kept private.

    That law is still on the books.

    Eva Moskowitz’s schools violate that law.

    Someone should sue. Schools that trample student privacy should be deprived of any federal aid to do so, Sen. Buckley reasoned way back in 1974 or so.

    And so they should.

    Don’t take my word for it; I have been known to misremember:

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Maybe they should be required to use truth in labeling: Successful Shaming Academies

  3. Min says:

    This is not only cruel, it is how to make kids crazy. It is child abuse.

  4. albanaeon says:

    This is evil. Hopefully future generations will wonder WTF were we on to allow this like most of us consider children forced to work in mines.

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