Last week was a bad one for the “Education Should Be a Business” crowd.
First, a Success Academy charter school teacher was caught on film harshly criticizing and publicly humiliating a first grader. She literally tore the girl’s classwork into pieces and flung them aside!
Success Academy, of course, is claiming that the incident was an exception, both for this teacher and the network in general. However, there’s plenty of testimony that it isn’t. “If you’ve made them cry, you’ve succeeded in getting your point across,” is how one former assistant principal characterized the Success Academy culture; and she also noted that, “embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.”
Success Academy is a not-for-profit organization that many have accused of operating way too much like a for-profit one, with enormous salaries for top execs, and too many ties to the for-profit sector.
Then there’s Simon Newman, the president of Mount Saint Mary’s College in Maryland. He’s a former financial executive and current psychopath who appears to have gotten his job despite having zero educational experience. Here’s the advice he gave about underperforming freshman at a closed faculty meeting:
“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies. But you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”
After this was leaked and published in the student paper, he then fired the tenured faculty member overseeing that paper. (Later reinstated.)
I hope and expect Newman’s days at MSMC are numbered—I mean who other than Mommie Dearest would send their kid to a school run by this guy?–but I’m guessing he’ll leave with a fine severance package and a satisfying sense of victimization.
There’s a lot of misapprehensions about non-profits, particularly that execs of such somehow should get paid less than “for-profit” corporations.
This is just flat-out not the case. Non-profits are extraordinarily profitable – for those who sit on their boards and run them. And those folks all make a lot more money than anyone realizes.
not on topic I guess
There have been numerous stories showing how “non-profit” charter schools are simply a way to funnel tax-payer dollars into the pockets of private corporations and so-called “executives” it is the scam to end all scams.
Whooops the Comment Eater struck again.
“However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.” Link
Am currently reading Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World, which compares US, Finnish, Korean, and Polish high school systems. It is quite a revealing and enraging read.
@Litlebritdifrnt: and they’re all about teaching to the test.
If it was an exception, why did the assistant video tape it?
@JPL: Common to do this in most classrooms for teacher training.
I’ll say this: this is an extraordinarily rare thing to have happen in charter schools. Parents want their kids to go to charters not so that they get a better/stricter/more rigorous education, but so they get a guaranteed 4.0 GPA and the social cachet/college admissions bennies of having gone to a charter (colleges do favor charter kids). Most kids who go to charters and private schools don’t do much in the way of any kind of “schoolwork” at all.
Success academy teacher may be doing it wrong but the lack of good math skill among college students is real. Most people are being taught Math by teachers who themselves are lacking in those skills.
The teacher who taught us Algebra I was extremely sarcastic, but she was good at Algebra and it is because of her that I developed a life long love for all things mathematical.
When I grew up, you still had to worry about getting struck with a flying chalkboard eraser if you weren’t paying attention or getting paddled.
Not saying those days were better. Just sayin’
More like 379 times more per student.
Charter schools are horrible.
I do admissions at a well known university. As with many universities, we are always trying to recruit under-represented minorities. In our experience, a B-level student from a struggling inner city school is way, way more likely to succeed that most A+-level students who have been pulled out of the inner city and put in a charter school.
I think her problem is that extreme rigor is a theme of Moskowitz’s and she’s quite influential in ed reform circles. She’s invited to address Congress, etc. The general idea is children are coddled which is really attractive to a lot of adults- the idea that kids don’t work hard enough, or worked harder at some time in the past and that’s why we have economic inequality, etc.
This is her speaking to a group that included a governor and various big shots:
It’s real common in ed reform circles. “Rigor” is one of their favorite words. It’s very bootstrappy (so appealing to wealthy donors) but it’s also weirdly elite and almost self-aggrandizing to me, because so many of the people who promote it seem to feel this is the secret of their own success. I question that assumption.
Another item to add to the list: the Virginia Senate narrowly defeated a conditional amendment(!) to allow the state Board of Education to override local officials and authorize charter schools. Privatization hacks are sad because school boards have only approved nine charters in the whole state.
State Sen. Mark Obenshain, who ran for attorney general last time around, had the gall to say:
Gee, Mark, if only you were a powerful state official in a position to do something about that, eh? Like, for example, provide state funding to schools at the level the state’s own formula says you’re supposed to…
Privatization has been a lie that has done nothing but siphon money into the pockets of “business.”
And I put business in quotes because it’s just long con; and the sooner we recognize that, the better.
I’d like HRC to talk about how privatization hasn’t worked; since the Clinton administrations were so gung ho about it.
@schrodinger’s cat: Again check out Ripley’s book – she agrees with you. She says most of the lag in US students’ scores is due to math (taught by nonmathematicians as you point out). In reading we’re actually competitive.
@Kay: There is nothing wrong with discipline in a classroom and unfortunately, the teacher doesn’t understand the difference between discipline and humiliation.
Maybe her speaking gigs will be few and far between.
@schrodinger’s cat: that said, absolutely no excuse for the teacher to behave as she did. you shouldn’t shame / humiliate a kid (or anyone) at any age, but a first grader. that’s just terrible and it takes only a tiny bit of that to alienate a kid from math or school in general.
what the SA and MSMC incident have in common is that the perpetrators don’t appear to understand the fundamental purposes of education: to instill a love of learning, and to grow and nurture young talent.
@Hillary Rettig: I have had seniors who were pre-med who couldn’t do basic algebra, they are scared of symbols, they want to put in the numerical values in the right formula and be done with it. One senior told that their high school math teacher had a degree in music, and used different “tricks” to get by.
@Kay: I find that breaktakingly sadistic.
Not to mention, just how well can the poor child do on a test when she’s not feeling well.
And it’s not like this is WWII and she’s saving an Italian village, is it?
@Walker: Thanks for the report from the proverbial frontline.
What about other charter attendees? I’m in New England, we have inner city kids, fancy suburbs (with realty prices to match the school reps) and every place in between, all in a geographically dense area.
Do white families from the ordinary (non-elite) burbs go around saying “Hey, my snowflake deserves to get into that charter!”
@WereBear: the Republican MO: starve government services, then complain they don’t work, then privatize
Eva and this teacher are a piece of work. However, I do not like this trend of micromanaging how a teacher manages their class. Teachers are like a football to be kicked around by everybody.
SiubhanDuinne, Annoying Scoundrel
But this wasn’t for teacher training. On the contrary, just as JPL suggests, the assistant who made the video already had her suspicions — that’s why she made the video! According to the article (my bolding):
It’s really popular in education circles now, because ed “reformers” are really influential. We have a public school district where this “no excuses” stuff has been adopted. One of the women I work with has kind of a fractious 3rd grade girl and this kid is just constantly hammered. I’m amazed how draconian it is. Her district is 5 miles from mine. It’s a way f thinking, not just about education but about the economy. In fact, Moskowitz testified before Congress on the economy.
It runs thru the whole “movement”, the “coddled kids” theme. It was central to Michelle Rhee’s argument. I just think it’s not true. My current 7th grader does more difficult math at a younger age not just than I did, but also than his 27 year old brother did, and they do a LOT of it. They’ve essentially narrowed the curriculum to mostly english and math.
Reminds me of the all too common sight of a supposed adult yelling at a weeping toddler to “Be a Man!”
SiubhanDuinne, Annoying Scoundrel
This is as succinct as anything I’ve seen, and I plan to use it verbatim in future political discussions.
Good Morning, Everyone :)
I would agree with you, except Moskowitz is a super star in this “movement”. She presents herself as not just running these schools but as “transforming education” and she isn’t accountable the way an elected or appointed (public) employee is- this is the only way to question a really influential person.
This is a popular theory. It needs to be analyzed in some way deeper than adoring fawning from Congress.
@CONGRATULATIONS!: I worked for a non-profit for close to 16 years. The members of its Board of Trustees were not paid. For 9 of those years I worked in Development. We had to raise some 4.5 MIllion a year to cover the budget. Our chief executive at the time was paid on the order of $160,000.
I find this hard to believe. I am helping my friend’s son with Algebra II and it is certainly not more difficult than what I did in grade 12. Most college freshmen (engineering majors) have extremely limited trig skills. Most schools have eliminated a Trig class, they teach Trig, Co-ordinate geometry etc in one PreCalc class. Your seventh grader may be doing more HW, but its just busy work, I doubt that he is getting real math skills.
The focus in math education is to rely on “tricks” to make difficult topics easier. So the kids who have learned these “tricks” trip up when a slightly different problem shows up. They are not taught to tackle problems based on first principles.
@Kay: I agree with you that these education reformers are selling snake oil.
I just have a problem with it because when was this super duper era of “rigorous” education? A lot of these people went to school in the 1970’s and 80’s and 90’s. The vast majority of the people in the US went to ordinary public schools and they didn’t go to Ivy League colleges. I’m not sure “a lack of rigor” is the best explanation for our economic problems. It just seems really convenient to me for a bunch of powerful people to get together and announce they’ve solved the problem and it’s students , or, alternately, a low quality workforce, which is another wildly popular theory.
Gin & Tonic
@schrodinger’s cat: This crowd tends old, so I’m sure I’m not the only one who recalls 1960’s-era set-theoretic “New Math.” I happen to recall it very fondly, as it all made perfect sense to me, and probably contributed to my decision to major in math later. Practically, though, it was a disaster because the teachers didn’t understand it.
He really does. Same public school system my older son went to, and that son works in tech and did quite well in college math. My older son would agree with me. It’s an ordinary public school- 50% lower income and chronically under-funded. I didn’t do the algebra he does until 9th grade. In fact, he’ll get high school credit for the class he’ll take in 8th grade next year because it’s the same as the old 9th grade class. The idea is then they can take an additional math class in high school. They moved the whole scheme up a notch.
Speaking of...this is a new ‘model’ that I pray dies quickly. As a former teacher, it breaks my heart and I would never approach classroom management this way.
This enrages me. Read it.
I don’t have any problem with the idea public schools should improve. I don’t think anyone does. It’s a different world than it was in 1956. I just think there’s a political agenda behind the hair on fire “they’re all failing!” stuff and a denial that for a lot of schools, their population changed. My public school is 15% poorer than it was 10 years ago. This is the first year we became (slight) majority low income. That has to be reckoned with. We can have “higher standards” but we have to admit that costs money, and it costs more money the higher that low income number goes.
@Kay: The student I am helping is in one of the top ranked school districts in Massachusetts.
Plus the college students I see taking intro physics have really poor algebra and trig skills. So if they are learning a lot of stuff as you say they are sure as hell not retaining it. Eva may be a witch but the problems with math education are not all imaginary and made up by VSPs.
@JPL: yeah, I had a 6th grade teacher like that. GAH. What a vicious, unhappy woman. Some people should not be teachers!
Paul in KY
@CONGRATULATIONS!: Good! If today’s kids do a shitty job getting prepared for their adult job, that’s one less I have to worry about in next 20 years.
that explains why, when they get to my classes, they don;t know squat about history or civics. (Not your kids, but fresh-out-of-high-school kids in general)
No, it will be my kid.
He loves music (he plays in the band and he’s learning guitar) so we dumped some history for next year because he didn’t have time for both band and history, even with “early bird Spanish!”.
I had to give him something he loves. He’s my youngest and the older I get the more I think “joy” is important. They spend so much time in school. There should be things they love and look forward to, every day. Live and learn.
They kind of roll history into english in less-fancy schools. It’s historical english :)
they are teaching more earlier. the problem is its got everything thrown in including the kitchen sink and it’s confusing my nephew to the point he hates school plus many of them are just not really learning it. Too many different math principles thrown at them, multiple ways to solve problems but they aren’t mastering any and lose confidence. Plus I have to add, some of them don’t make any sense to parents trying to help so the parents can’t teach it. I am talking common core in first grade and I was good in math. Poor explanations and a fast pace. The whole common core thing is lacking in administrative discipline because they couldn’t see they needed to edit and chose to leave some things out.
changing things every few years because “it” isn’t working also doesn’t help. for pete’s sake do testing, evaluate, then implement. You know what, politicians are gullible on this subject.
Steve in the ATL
Say what??? I can’t speak for charter schools but private school kids do a fuckton of schoolwork. Are there “special” private schools where kids don’t do any?
@WereBear: This is 2016 American Capitalism.
EVERYTHING YOU DO is supposed to be like it’s WWII and you’re saving an Italian village o_O
J R in WV (in AZ temporarily)
Last year I went into an elementary school for the first time since I mover up to Junior High in about 1962 (we don’t have kids) when a good friend called me ans asked me to bring some special rocks to her class. I’m a long time rock collector and amateur geologist (some would also say I have rocks in my head).
It was an eye-opening event, my friend was having kind of a career day for her third-grade class. She has been a special ed expert for many years, and just recently began “normal” teaching to lessen the stress in her life. There were a ton of people in the school for just that 3rd grade class, as S is an easy person to get to know, very out-going and friendly.
When I came to the front door of the school, I could hear kids yelling and carrying on, and I was surprised to learn that the career day was only for one class. There was a Corvette just outside the front door with the hood up and both door open, and little boys all over it. The owner was a gear-head and loving the attention he and his car was getting.
I only had a handful of kids, mostly kids that were a little off compared to the average 3rd grader, a little ADD maybe. S told me that it was a miracle that the little girl who loved rocks paid attention for a whole hour. I had crystals and fossils and fluorescent rocks with a little UV lamp. There were a couple of teacher-aides in the break room with us.
The thing that amazed me was that in the whole school, there was no where a teacher was telling a kid to be quiet and pay attention! All the kids were having a great time, and I suspect learning more in the mad-house than in a strict by-the-rules approach.
I suspect that this isn’t a normal school in WV. Or anywhere. The principal was experienced, the teachers were experienced, and they were all doing it as they wished it had been done where they were students.
This school was serving a rural lower-class student body, outside a town that used to have a lot of industry, now down to a handful of shrunken plants. If there wasn’t a state university there it would be even more faded.
But it gives me hope that good schools where the kids are learning a lot and having fun doing it are out there where you least suspect it.
Paul in KY
@Hillary Rettig: IMO, if there’s one subject you want your kid to excel in, it is reading & English comprehension.
SiubhanDuinne, Annoying Scoundrel
Good god. That is obscene.
@PurpleGirl: That’s been closer to my experience working at nonprofits, too. If you have doubts about a particular nonprofit, it’s a good idea to check it out at Guidestar or Charity Navigator. If anybody’s making a really heavy-duty salary, the tax returns should show it.
Not to mention getting plugged into those all-important peer networks and cliques. This traditionally applies to Harvard and its Ivy brethren, as well.
When my daughter was student teaching, she was in an elementary school classroom where the teacher started the section on fractions by saying “Okay, kids, today we’re going to begin fractions. I know it’s really scary, but we’ll get through it.”
My daughter was horrified, but it was her experience that many elementary level teachers selected to work in that age group because they were afraid of math and felt they could handle the lower levels.
I had math phobia as a child, and it wasn’t until I went to community college that I had a truly excellent math teacher, and my phobia melted away.
One of the new buzz words is “grit.” They want students to have “grit” which seems to be a blend of stick-to-it-iveness and determination. Perhaps they think all the yelling (at 6 year olds!) will give them grit.
@Ruviana: grit = blaming the victim.
@Hillary Rettig: Hillary, when you are reading about how education in the US compares to other nations, keep in mind there are a lot of apples and oranges.
Our schools which serve the middle class meet or exceed the scores and achievement levels of any other country’s schools. Our schools which serve the poor do not, and we have a LOT of poor kids. Almost a quarter of our kids live in poverty, compared to the low single digits, percentage wise, in Finland. If we would just tackle poverty, our schools would look better. But there isn’t a lot of political will for that.
Also, we as a nation are committed to educating everyone, even the most disabled, and to the greatest extent possible, including disabled kids with their typically developing peers. I’m not so sure other countries are as committed to this; I suspect a lot more disabled kids are in segregated settings in other countries.
@Ruviana: I hate grit. So many of these new education buzzconcepts seem to be about creating new ways to problematize poverty and non-neurotypicalness. I took Positive Psychology as an adult, and when they started going on and on about “grit,” I just had to laugh. As I explained, I have no grit – I’m pure glass – things just slide right on by, and I have little ability to control them. About two years later, I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, which meant it all made sense. But… pushing the concept of grit as being so important and something you should have – when it is something that you don’t and never will have is just cruel.
The kicker is that when someone did followup on the famous marshmellow test (where kids who were able to wait longer without eating a marshmellow were more likely to succeed in life), what they found is that what the marshmellow test actually measures is how much a kid trusts the adults in their life. So treating “grit” as something kids need to have, rather than how adults should behave towards children is truly ghoulish.
@SiubhanDuinne, Annoying Scoundrel:
‘Obscene’ only begins to describe it. What a horrible way to teach.
I survived a boss that was an EST advocate. After its collapse, he became an advocate of “Dare to be Great,” one of its spin-offs. We managers were required to attend weekly meetings off-site. When one or more attendees broke down crying, it was deemed “a great meeting.”
Years later, the boss lost his shirt in the Madoff swindle. SCHADENFREUD is the word that comes to hand.
It seems clear from the video that the teacher hasn’t “lost control” at all. She is feigning anger as a pedagogical technique. Teaching the 6-year-olds that the teacher’s love is 100% conditional on perfect performance is the intention. It’s not surprising that this will work to get high test scores but it is not without consequences for their little psyches in the future.