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." 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.