Culture Shock

I hope it goes without saying that not all charter schools are beacons of excellence, but I’ve had the good fortune recently to study some of the best. So it came as a bit of a shock when my colleagues and I visited district-run schools receiving School Improvement Grants (SIG) and saw no semblance of the school culture that characterizes high-performing charters: a pervasive attitude among teachers and leaders that there can be no excuse for students not meeting high academic and behavioral standards, an intensity of effort that says every minute counts, and an obsession with data and continual organizational improvement. Yes, individual SIG teachers are doing good things, but their efforts don’t add up to school-wide change. We’ll have a fairly depressing report out on this SIG study soon.

-Robin Lake

3 Replies to “Culture Shock”

  1. Did you ask the teachers if the school was allowed to enforce its code of conduct? Was it allowed to enforce attendance policies? Were teachers allowed to hold students to high academic standards?

    Real world, every time a charter or any other type of school is granted the power to raise standards, the students who don’t meet those standards are shuttled to neighborhood schools. That means that those neighborhood schools lose even more of the power to enforce standards.

    How could you not know that?

  2. John: Good point. When I worked as a teacher in traditional public schools serving low-income students, it was practically impossible to enforce any type of behavior or attendance standards. Teachers who tried to do so were thwarted at every turn by the student’s parents, guidance counselors, assistant principals, principals and IEP/special education laws. The process imposed more lost time on the TEACHER who tried to assign a detention than on the STUDENT who initially misbehaved.

  3. It hurts to say this, but I’m very convinced that only if district-run schools bite the bullet and adopt charter-style behavior standards and disciplinary methods will the district schools ever be acceptable to parents of all income levels who have a choice. And by choice I don’t mean district versus charter; I mean district versus parochial or versus moving away. How this could happen I do not know. If children are excluded from regular classrooms because of their behavior, they will have to be enrolled in intensive behavior development classrooms, and the stresses in their lives will also have to be addressed somehow. But it is simply arrogant and unrealistic to think that real learning can happen in classrooms with even a few acting-out students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.