Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 1 at a No-Excuses Kindergarten

This post is based on an observation of a No-Excuses charter elementary school, which I conducted a couple weeks ago. You will hopefully be seeing more of this kind of thing on this blog. I will never post anything about a school without the permission of the school's administration. As will often be the case in observation-based posts, names and distinguishing features have been modified in this post to hide the identity of the school described.

Not Until the Arm Drops

When I arrive at Mensch Prep Charter School, at 8:00AM, the new class of kindergarteners is already seated silently at six long tables in the florescent-lit cafeteria of PS xxx, in whose old, brick DOE building the young charter school is housed. The children occupy only a small space in the center of the cafeteria, which is built to seat a few hundred, and they are surrounded on all sides by teachers—the whole first-grade and kindergarten faculty is here, to provide as much adult attention as possible, on this, the first day of school of these kids' lives.

The eighty or so five- and six-year-olds arrived at Mensch Prep about half an hour before me and have already been divided into three homerooms, each named after a prestigious American University—though, in the tradition of No-Excuses charters, the word "homeroom" has been replaced with "cohort."[1] The students are almost all African-American, with here and there, a white or Hispanic kid mixed in, and they are dressed in uniforms of light blue and navy.

The dean of students is standing in an open space beyond the ends of the tables, addressing the students. Behind her, a sheet of chart-paper is tacked to a column; it reads:

E very bottom on the bench.
A lways say please and thank you
T rash to the middle

Evidently, they're already part way through a lesson on table-manners.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I’ve rewritten the introduction to this blog.

My readers may be forced wonder: am I stalling? Well, maybe a little—I admit, I’m a little daunted by all the different things I want to research and write about—but I’m also trying to lay a foundation. The more I think about the subject of this blog and the more I try to write the posts that I really want to write, the more I feel that the basic terms are not defined, or else poorly defined—that the theoretical framework has not been established to have the discussion that I want to have. These pages—these introductions and overviews and glossaries—are my attempts to sketch out that framework. It will be a very cursory sketch, partly because I don’t want to get lost in a theoretical discussion, but mostly because I am still piecing together the origins and subtle interrelations of today’s major educational movements.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've significantly altered the page on No-Excuses charter schools. The final section has been completely rewritten, because I had previously overlooked a major selection bias in No-Excuses student populations— namely, student-attrition— and other significant changes have been made throughout the article. If you read the original version and are interested in the subject, I recommend taking another look.