Data Wonk

Do “No Excuses” Charter Schools Work?

The data is encouraging. So why are some MPS leaders resistant?

By - Nov 11th, 2016 02:00 pm

In an April 2015 column entitled, Can there be an excuse to block a Milwaukee ‘no excuses’ school?, Alan Borsuk wrote about the Milwaukee School Board’s rejection, on a 4 to 4 vote, of a charter school application. The proposed school, called Milwaukee Excellence, fit the model of the so-called “no excuses” school, based on the idea that a combination of high expectations and a high level of support can help overcome the effects of poverty.

A recent report on Boston’s charter high schools describes the underlying approach:

No Excuses schools emphasize discipline and comportment, traditional reading and math skills, extended instruction time, and selective teacher hiring. Massachusetts’ No Excuses charters also make heavy use of Teach for America (TFA) corps members and alumni and provide extensive and ongoing feedback to teachers.

Borsuk wrote:

Don’t want excuses about why things aren’t going better on Milwaukee’s education scene? Well, meet the people who don’t want schools that demand no excuses. …

Borsuk then went on to paraphrase the objections of three board members:

Board member Larry Miller said the proposed school wouldn’t serve the full needs of students and had too many disciplinary rules. Terry Falk said the proposal drew too much on a school in the Boston area that had a high suspension rate. …

Tatiana Joseph said it concerns her that some teachers likely will come from Teach for America, which works to put college graduates into high-needs classrooms for two years.

In a later article, Jabril Faraj of the Neighborhood New Service expanded on the opponents’ objections, quoting Miller as saying, “The whole idea of regimented, special discipline for African-American children doesn’t work for me.” Faraj then went on to quote Marva Herndon of Schools and Communities United: “When I looked at their plan it was very, very restrictive and prison-like.”

Faraj went on to quote Herndon questioning the ability of the school to make up for the children’s previous education. “Those kids can’t read when they get them. Now, you’re magically going to have them prepared for college?”

Herndon and Gail Hicks, a former special education teacher, said it’s not that simple. They said the real issue is a lack of structure in the central city community, stemming from high unemployment. Without jobs, said Hicks, parents won’t have the resources to send their children to college anyway.

In a later interview with WUWM, Faraj summarized both sides:

What I heard from opponents of this plan was that this type of school would not be considered in a Whitefish Bay, in a Shorewood, and that the real issues were symptoms stemming from poverty and lack of employment in the city. The proponents are saying this is something we need given those conditions.

Borsuk noted that two of the four board members voting for the charter were about to leave the board, suggesting its prognosis was dim. Yet the following July, the board approved the proposal by a 7-2 vote. The included the three members Borsuk singled out as criticizing the original proposed. Why the switch?

Three considerations help explain the board’s reversal. One was tweaking of the proposal to remove language that set off board members. The second was a promise to recruit students from outside MPS. By far the most important, however, was fear of the state legislature; that turning down the proposal would give ammunition to efforts to take schools away from the board’s control. Leaving aside the politics of the situation, was the board right when it rejected the school or when it accepted it?

A recent analysis (summarized in a column published in the New York Times) of the results from No Excuses charter high schools in Boston took advantage of the fact that these schools have more applicants than capacity and must hold a lottery to determine who gets in. The study, whose authors are at Columbia University, the University of Michigan, MIT, and the University of California, compared the outcomes of students accepted to those rejected by the lottery. Students who were accepted but dropped out were included among those accepted.

The researchers found large and statistically significant increases in a number of measures for students in the charter schools. For example, the chart below shows the increased likelihood (in orange) that charter applicants would earn scores at a level deemed “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the state test.

MCAS Scores

MCAS Scores

A larger percentage earned scores that made them eligible for a state scholarship; as a result more of the charter students attended 4-year colleges (principally the University of Massachusetts, Boston).

About twice the percentage of students in the charter schools took at least one advanced placement exam as students in regular schools, as shown in the chart below. Those who did earned higher scores on average.

Percent taking Advanced Placement

Percent taking Advanced Placement

The researchers found a number of other measures indicating that students in the charter high schools were doing better than those in traditional public schools.

They also examined the charges made by opponents of the No Excuses model. For example, one claim is that the better performance is due to weaker students being encouraged to drop out. Yet they find that attrition for weak students is more pronounced in the traditional public sector.

As part of their proposal for MPS improvement, MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver and School Board president Mark Sain suggested that MPS become the sole chartering authority in the city. With the present legislature, such a proposal is a long shot, at best. Making MPS the sole chartering authorizer would be good for MPS finances since students at schools it authorizes are included in the MPS count, in contrast to those authorized by the Common Council or UW-Milwaukee. However, the school board’s record of decision-making by ideology rather than results makes it even more unlikely that MPS will be given a monopoly on chartering.

I suggest several morals to this story.

  1. MPS and its board should resist the temptation to make decisions based on ideology or their personal comfort with the underlying model. Instead they should look at the research.
  2. At a time when the state legislature is particularly eager to second-guess decisions made in Milwaukee, the School Board (and other public bodies, such as the County Board) should avoid giving them ammunition.
  3. The widespread belief that a single model fits the needs of all children should die a painful death. One strength of charter schools is that no child is forced to attend a particular school. Students, their families and their teachers are all volunteers. If they disagreed with the model, they are free to go elsewhere.

The worst thing that could happen to the No Excuses model is that its success in Boston and other cities lead to a mandate that all schools follow the model. It is much better to give people options.

Categories: Data Wonk, Education

16 thoughts on “Data Wonk: Do “No Excuses” Charter Schools Work?”

  1. LowG says:

    Yes – if there is a zero tolerance approach for discipline issues than I guarantee you that academic performance will be better. I used to teach in MPS. The main thing that keeps students from learning is the disruptive environment of the classrooms. In suburban districts the classrooms are less disruptive and the students learn more. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it.

    My estimation from my experience: 15% of students will do great no matter what because of their own drive, ambition, and the support of their family. 15% of students have attitudes which lead to hopelessness and have negative social and family influence that disposes them against not only school but society as a whole. The other 70% of students are in the middle somewhere. When the influence of the “bad” 15% is in the school it has a huge effect on the “middle” 70%. If you remove that “bad” 15% then the remaining students are going to do great.

    But here’s the real issue: What do you do with disruptive students? Sure, it’s easy for a “No Excuses” school to just kick them out. Not our problem anymore. But it’s still society’s problem. We’re better off if disruptive students get their act together and get an education because then hopefully they won’t be career criminals. That’s the issue that needs to be figured out. That’s the actual difficult issue. It’s an easy answer “for my kids” to just send them to a zero tolerance school. In fact, if given the choice that’s what I’d do. But how can we change the lives of the kids on the other side of zero tolerance?

  2. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    The Conservatives have worked on schools for 70 years and have brought about the most improvements. Knowles: eliminated one room schools, improved funding. Tommy raised funding to 67%, formed CHOICE and charter schools cause MPS and others cannot be fixed.
    MPS will never work as it is. Every three years we get another Super, some new plans that mean little, and nothing improves for the kids.
    Kids will improve when society decided that is why we need to do. MPS must be busted up so the neighborhoods, parent run their own schools, then they have no excuses.

  3. Thomas Spellman says:

    Yes WCS is at it again. Not much insight. LowG actually nails the question

    “But here’s the real issue: What do you do with disruptive students? Sure, it’s easy for a “No Excuses” school to just kick them out. Not our problem anymore. But it’s still society’s problem. We’re better off if disruptive students get their act together and get an education because then hopefully they won’t be career criminals. That’s the issue that needs to be figured out. That’s the actual difficult issue. It’s an easy answer “for my kids” to just send them to a zero tolerance school. In fact, if given the choice that’s what I’d do. But how can we change the lives of the kids on the other side of zero tolerance?”

    LowG this is what we need to do. Sorry it is long

    A Millstone Around Our Necks

    By: Thomas Spellman May 31, 2014 – May 11 2015

    PART 1

    I will use RIGHT as a broad description of those forces who have orchestrated the placement of the millstone.

    The NEA and the AFT and most, if not all, of the state education associations have a millstone around their necks, and they have not be able to figure out what that millstone is nor how to get rid of it. They know it is there because of the incessant Legislative Action taken against public education and Teacher Unions in particular. There is a history about the placement of the millstone, but because it has been a slow and systematic process, it is hard to pinpoint when it started.*

    The current phase of the effort to place the millstone started by their own admission in 1989 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with just a few hundred children who were poor and black (other minority children were included but few participated). It was represented to the public that these poor black children did not have the same “advantage” as the white children in Milwaukee, and so the Parental Choice School program* was created by the Wisconsin State Legislature to allow poor minority (black) children to attend a school of their parent’s choice which in essence meant attending a Religious school if it was going to be a better school.

    As with all “big” City school systems, in 1989, the poor black children who attended Milwaukee’s Public Schools (MPS) did not do as well as their white counterparts. In fact, a disproportionate number of the black children, primarily young black male children, were not learning, were not graduating from high school, and so this became the MORAL basis for the Parental Choice School program. The Parental Choice School program would provide poor black children a chance to attend better if not good schools. It is important to understand that the black children NOT LEARNING, NOT GRADUATING was the MORAL basis, the foundation, of the Parental Choice School program. It is CRITICAL to understand that black children NOT LEARNING, NOT GRADUATING, TODAY, STILL IS the MORAL basis for, not only Wisconsin’s Voucher, Charter and Parental Choice School programs, but, the whole National Charter School movement as well.

    The RIGHT (accidentally or by design) has successfully tied the millstone not only around the necks of the teacher’s Unions but also around the neck of Public Education itself! Yes the millstone can be seen as the failure of Public Education to graduate tens of thousands of young black males who as we know do not have good outcomes in their lives if they do not graduate.*

    Dr. Howard Fuller and others claimed that it was the FAULT of Milwaukee’s Public Schools (MPS) that those poor black children were not learning, and it was also the FAULT of the Milwaukee Teacher Education Association (MTEA) that kept “bad” teachers teaching, so both Public Education and teachers and the Teacher’s Union were BAD, and the millstone was attached to all!

    And so here we are today trying to figure out WHAT TO DO. Mind you that we have been trying to figure out WHAT TO DO for the past thirty plus years.

    This begs the question of WHO should have figured out what was happening and WHO should have directly addressed the MORAL issue of black children (young black male children) not learning. Not only were they not learning but were being ignored as well!! To be fair there surely have been efforts made to address young black males not learning, not graduating and yet as we all know much of that effort have been for naught.* I will leave for others to figure out the exact history of who did or did not make the critical observations that you will see are in the final analysis, simple and very basic.

    Now that we know what the millstone is – the MORAL concern that black children not learning, not graduating, is the BASIS for “change.”

    Before we examine the ways to remove the millstone let us first understand WHY the millstone has been attached to the necks of the Teacher Unions and Public Education itself.

    Now the RIGHT does long range planning and the millstone around the neck of the Teacher Unions and Public Education is the perfect example of their planning. It either starts with Howard Fuller efforts of creating Voucher Schools for Milwaukee’s black children or sometime before but as Fuller admitted in 2013:

    “When I (Howard Fuller) got into this battle in 1989, standardized test scores showed Milwaukee was failing to educate poor black children. That’s when state Rep. Annette Polly Williams courageously stepped forth to make sure that poor families were afforded some opportunity to choose schools in the private sector for their children. She shepherded the pioneering voucher program through the Legislature.”
    “Since then, I, along with many others, have fought tirelessly for parental choice for low-income families throughout the nation. The governor’s plan (Governor Scot Walker) would turn Milwaukee’s program into something it was never designed to be.”
    Please note that Dr. Fuller says he started working with Rep. Polly Williams in 1989 but he does not become the Superintendent of MPS, the largest Public Schools system in Wisconsin, until 1991 and holds that job for 5 years while cutting all of the manual arts classes out of the High Schools.

    So in the name of black children who were not learning, (the MORAL failure of society) Dr. Howard Fuller began the systematic attack on the Teachers Unions and on Public Education itself. The RIGHT supported Dr. Fuller, and Representative Annette Polly Williams and they became the mechanism to attack the MTEA and MPS. That was the first step in the plan to privatize Public Education*.

    It needs to be noted that research addressing why young black children and young black males in particular were not learning would have been the MORAL action to take but the RIGHT made sure that institutions (Public Education and Teacher Unions) that are the people’s voice would be systematically attacked and destroyed.

    It has been pointed out, by others, that while privatizing prison is a major source of cash for corporations, Public Education is the real CASH COW.* Not only is the RIGHT looking at the primary and secondary schools but at the Public Universities as well. If WE and that includes those closest to the battle, the Teacher Unions and Faculty at Public Universities, do not wake up we will see an education system as it was in the 1800’s. Oxford, Harvard and the like for the rich and not much else for the rest of us. While in the 1800’s servants were needed to support the life style of the rich, now they will have robots who do not need sick leave and are always clean, so who will need the workers. That is the direction we are headed and that is how the cards are currently stacked. The corporations of the world are salivating and just waiting for the right time to take over the Public Education system of United States.

    Thirty years ago when Dr. Howard Fuller spoke and when Annette Polly Williams spoke everyone understood that the basis for the attack of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) was the FAILURE of MPS to

    educate young black males.

    Yes, and what has been the response of those being attacked by the RIGHT? The teachers themselves and the Teacher Unions have rightly claimed that they are not the cause of the failure of young Black males not learning not graduating and by any applied logic* they are NOT. Recently as an effort to support Public Education the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) ran a campaign calling for “Great Schools” for all children in Wisconsin. They DID NOT address the MORAL issue of black children not learning, not graduating and hence the campaign fell on deaf ears because everyone knew that the black children DID NOT HAVE and WOULD NOT HAVE “great schools” and NO ONE was addressing the fact that a significant percentage of black children were not learning were not graduating.

    While the Teacher Unions have Presidents and public relations staff to express the views of their members, WHO SPEAKS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION? Yes as Dr. Seuss asks, WHO speaks for the trees? The concept of “Public Education”, has been commandeered by the RIGHT, to mean Central City Black Education. The simple proof of that is that there are thousands of high performing schools in the U.S. that are PUBLIC SCHOOLS. PUBLIC SCHOOLS WORK and yet the RIGHT has convinced many Americans that PUBLIC SCHOOLS and therefore PUBLIC EDUCATION is broken, and therefore needs to be FIXED and SAVED, by associating public education with central city education which is equated to the education of black children.

    Most unfortunately, for the children, there has been lots of hand wringing but NO RESULTS. While the numbers of black children who fail may be lower today than 30 years ago, the effects of today’s failures still haunts not only the immediate community but the cities themselves. The violence, the senseless deaths, in our large cities is horrifying and YET there is NO VISION of how to address the MORAL FAILING that young Black males are not learning, not graduating! The one seems to be unconnected form the other when in fact they are JOINED at the HIP!

    PART 2

    How do we proceed? We know that the millstone is a MORAL concern, the failure to educate black children primarily young black male children. Yes that is the millstone but what causes black children and in particular young black males to fail? That is the question that Dr. Howard Fuller and our Universities Public and Private should have addressed 30 years ago and it’s still the question that needs to be address today.

    As an observer of education, primarily Milwaukee and Wisconsin, for the past 40 years I have pieced together a few observations that others have not. What I know for sure is that by not addressing the moral issue, we have now failed two generations of black children.

    Observation one

    All learning is individual. While we teach children in groups, each child’s learning is dependent not only upon their cognitive abilities but also on their behavioral abilities. We know that we have various test to determine a child’s cognitive abilities. We will know a child’s behavioral abilities, disposition, by observation. If the child’s behavior is cooperative and inquisitive we know that there is a very good chance that that child will reach their cognitive potential. If on the other hand the child’s behavior is angry or belligerent we know that, that child will probably not reach their potential. Behavior is a/the key to learning. As we know cooperative behavior is assumed of all children attending public schools. Unfortunately many children are not cooperative and the Schools are not prepared to deal with children who are not cooperative and in fact who are angry or belligerent. (As we will see it is this failure that is the basis of the MORAL concern.)

    It should be noted that successful schools are dependent upon each child’s success! Schools fail because STUEDNT FAIL, Schools succeed ONLY when STUDENTS SUCCEED!

    Observation Two

    Because it is often easier to see the differences when using two extremes let us examine and then compare two high schools, one that “works”, and by that I mean graduates almost all of its students 4 year later and many of those graduating students go on to college, and one that does NOT “work”, one that has a high dropout rate and few students go on to college. What do we see? Are there any clues or maybe even answers as to why some schools and again it is the children who determine if a schools is “successful” and why some schools and again it is the children who determine if the school is NOT “successful”?

    You can mentally run through all the differences between the two schools.* I ask you to focus on the behavioral differences between the two schools. Yes the “attitude” of the hallways and the number of suspensions/expulsions and that should begin to tell the tale.

    The reading ability of the children between those two schools will also be different but that is an indicating that the problem starts at an earlier age and not in the high school. Yes it starts in first grade and yes it starts in the home before that and gradually builds as the behavioral issues are first squashed and then with age become unmanageable. But what is it about the behavior that can be addressed?

    I suggest that there is a direct correlation between schools with high suspension/expulsion rates, and schools that are failing. We need to examine the children who are being suspended/expelled to understand why they are failing, why they are not succeeding and therefore why the school they attend is failing!!

    Observation Three

    Let us also look at a process that a friend who was a teacher and a principal uses with teachers he is consulting with. After the teachers have had their students for a month or so he asks them to think of the students in their classroom. He then ask them to first identify the ones that are the perfect students. They are always on task and cooperative, they are a joy to be with. Then to see those student who are almost as good and all they need is an occasional nudge. Then to see the students who need occasional reminders to stay on task and maybe help with a subject or two. The fourth group are those who are struggling but respond. The fifth group of students are those who act out who are contrary who at times are belligerent. It is this group that controls the behavioral atmosphere of the classroom. It is this group of students that can determines what the others learn.

    When the teacher has completed the reflection they see their classroom in a way that they may not have seen it before. They will see where their energy goes and also where help is needed. As we know all too often no help is available to help those students who are behavioral challenged.

    Observation Four

    As I see it, there are two sides of the equation for quality education – the academic side and the behavioral side. As I have suggested above let us examine the behavioral side to see if it bears fruit.

    The controlling element on the behavioral side may seem at first not to be that important. I have come to the conclusion that the unresolved abuse/trauma that some children suffer is the controlling element for the dysfunction of the child. We know there is unresolved abuse/trauma because we see the belligerent behavior which results in the classroom disruptions, the suspensions, and the expulsions.

    Some will argue that part of those disruptions are the fault of the “ineffective” teacher, but that begs the question because surely not all of the disruption (i.e. belligerent behavior) is the result of “ineffective” teaching/teachers.*

    The work of Dr. Lonnie Athens lays out very clearly that unresolved abuse/trauma is the foundation to all violent behavior. What Dr. Athens also observed, and is critical for all educators AND ALL OF US to understand, is that all abused/traumatized individuals who have NOT RESOLVED their abuse/trauma will become belligerent – will become so angry that they begin to act out. That acting out is either external – against others – or internal – against themselves.

    What is critical to understand is that the belligerent behavior must NOT be seen as an affront to authority BUT SEEN as a child’s CRY FOR HELP. The “CRY” is no different from a baby’s cry. In large part we know how to respond to a baby’s cry. WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW, IS HOW TO REPOND TO A CHILD’S BELLIGERENT BEHAVIOR. We need to learn how to positively respond to a child’s belligerent behavior!!

    This one change has the potential to change many if not most of the abuse/trauma outcomes.

    First to see the belligerent behavior as a cry for help and then to understand that the student’s UNRESOLVES abuse/trauma must be resolved.

    Also we respond very differently to a person who is crying for help, than one, who seems to us to be challenging our authority or more basically our safety.

    Dr. Athens’ work is most easily understood in Why They Kill written by Richard Rhodes. In Chapters 10 and 11, Rhodes explains Athens’ theory. Unresolved abuse/trauma is the underlying cause of violent behavior and all who are first abused/traumatized become belligerent before they become violent. The first nine chapters of the book are a biography of Dr. Lonnie Athens which explains how he came to understand what he was observing, as he did his research with prisoners who had committed violent crimes.

    Below are two real-life examples of the effects of abuse/trauma.

    A friend who was an assistant principal at a middle school could set her watch when a girl would come into her office. Finally, she told the girl that they needed to have a long talk before lunch. After a long pause the girl blurted out that her brother had died from sickle cell anemia. Before the assistant principal could get her arms around the girl to hold her, the girl further revealed that she, too, has sickle cell anemia. She did not know if or when she would die, and her family had not listened or responded sufficiently to her cries for help. Most would deem this, the family’s responsibility, not the school’s responsibility. But the girl was failing, the girl was disruptive, and so it became the school’s issue. Her UNRESOLVED trauma in this case needed to be resolved for her own good as well as the good of the school and MPS itself.

    The other story is one told by a social work who took time to listen to a boy who was doing good work, but then in a very short period of time, things fell apart. As the boy talked, it came out that he was homeless in that they had moved in with relatives, and he was sleeping in the basement. But that was not the problem. The real issue was that he did not have a blanket to cover himself. This so upset him (traumatized him) that he became belligerent. Once a blanket was provided, he went back to doing good work once again. It is easy to see how this story could have ended without the blanket.

    These two stories represent a far greater number of stories of our children. Some of the stories will be horrifying to say the least. How schools and school districts responds to the stories is key for both the child’s success or failure, and therefore, the success or failure of the schools themselves. What we know for certain is that the vast majority of the children who are being suspended in the elementary grades are children in dire need of social services (i.e. therapy). It is critical to first figure out what is troubling each child and then to find the resources either inside the school or through other agencies to address each child’s issues.

    WHO speaks for the children??

    Can we all be agreed that a child’s inappropriate behavior – belligerent behavior is what needs to be focused on? It is the inappropriate behavior – belligerent behavior that begins the process of suspensions which for some (many) leads to dropping out and the rest of the litany that leads to violent crimes and then jail or death. Have we ever thought that just maybe the belligerent behavior is not directed as an affront to authority?

    The question before us is clear

    1) Is, a child’s belligerent behavior, an expression of the child’s WILL (having nothing to do with past abuse/trauma)?


    2) Is a child’s belligerent behavior a response to unresolved abuse/trauma that the child has experienced (suffered)?

    These two statements are diametrically opposed. Either a child’s belligerent behavior is personal and intentional or it is a response to the unresolved abuse/trauma that the child has experienced.

    Which is it? How do we determine this?

    We have for years approached a child’s belligerent behavior as a personal and intentional act. That the child WANTS to be disruptive enough so they can be suspended from school etc. Schools have tried to control and change the belligerent behavior without realizing that there is something that is causing the behavior. What is causing the belligerent behavior?

    They have not understood that for many children, their belligerent behavior is a “cry for help” to resolve the unresolved abuse/trauma that he/she has or is experiencing, not an affront to authority much less a threat to their personal safety.

    This one change in how a child’s belligerent behavior is understood and dealt with produces significantly different outcomes for the child, the students in the classroom, the teacher, the school and even the family.

    A way to look at this is that the belligerent behaviors is a symptom of a problem IT IS NOT the problem. Another way to look at it is the belligerent behavior is like a fever, we know that if we only treat the fever the person will in all likelihood not get better and in fact may die because the real cause of the fever is not being treated.

    So to, today, most of the children who are belligerent, have issues of unresolved abuse/trauma, the underlying cause for the behavior, and those issues are not being addressed and so the anger turns to rage and rage turns to violent behavior.

    Understanding Failing Schools,

    Understanding Schools that are not succeeding is like learning a NEW computer program. At first it all seems very complex and yet once you have learned the program, it is, very easy to use. That is the complexity of what we are dealing with. The elements are basically understood it is the arrangement of the elements that at first seems complex yet once understood it is in fact easy.

    What are the elements of this new language?

    A) Suspension – We know about suspensions. Kids do stuff that breaks the rules, disrupt others and or endanger others or themselves and they get warned and finally they get suspended for a few days.

    B) Another name for the “stuff” that kids do to get suspended is Belligerent Behavior. The word “belligerent” is in and of itself very descriptive of the process.

    C) Belligerent behavior is the expression of UNRESOLVE abuse/trauma (This may be new) It is critical to understand this because it is the foundation of all violent behavior

    D) (This is new) It is in the telling of the story of the unresolved abuse/trauma that begins the healing process and brings the help that is needed to address the unresolved abuse/trauma.

    E) The abuse/trauma can be as simple as a young boy not having a blanket or as horrific as a girl of 11 being raped by her uncle for 2 years and then by her cousin for another 2 years. The boy got his blanket because a teacher took the time to ask him WHY he was so upset and to LISTEN to him. The girl of 11 was not as lucky, she raged all through high school but NO ONE ASKED WHY! NO ONE LISTENED because they ALL KNEW THAT SHE WAS A SPOILED RICH KID.

    These are the elements, it is first understanding them and then applying them that leads to proficiency!!

    An additional note:

    Circles/Classroom Meetings

    If I am right that abuse and the honor code (not covered here) are significant issues that must be worked on and eventually resolved for MPS to be successful, then what can be done in a classroom or school to be effective? I know a leap.

    William Glasser in his book Schools Without Failure has one specific suggestion which he explains in detail. Chapters 10 – 12 describe what he calls “classroom meetings”. Today they are called “circles”. He provides the detail necessary to have a good understanding of what takes place in a classroom meeting and how it will benefit the individual student, the class itself, and therefore the school. The abuse/trauma issues will come out in these classroom meetings. Some of them will be simple to fix while others will be very involved and more difficult to resolve. Support for unresolved or difficult issues can be sought with the help of the principal, school social workers or outside partner agencies.

    I am not an academic nor am I Chris Hedges, so please bear with me here.

    Thomas Spellman 210 N 2nd St Delavan WI 53115 414 403 1341

    * There are a number of issues that I will only make reference to.

  4. Virginia says:

    Thanks LowG for your excellent summary of the real challenge. And Thomas Spellman, for your analysis.

    Yes, charter schools are and will be part of the education landscape. But what about the rest of students and the future of public education as a basic right for all?

    The effectiveness of frequent school suspensions, rather than other methods of “redirecting behavior,” is being called into question. Sure, impose strict discipline in some charter schools and give some students a chance for a self-selected education model? Sure, rely on eager Teach for America students doing two-year stints (and then often moving on) However, demeaning the teaching profession is already depressing college enrollment in Wisconsin’s education programs. And continually cutting resources is not the answer to MPS’s problems.

    What are models that are working in traditional school systems?

  5. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Watch “Waiting for Superman”. Conservatives have been interested in this problem since Knowles dissolved the one room schools.
    in 1974, Bill Dyke, myself and others want to bust up MPS into 9-18 districts, cause as it is, it will never succeed.
    Worst problem? Kids cannot read. cannot ever go anywhere till you can read. What good does it do t give a kid a book in 6th grade if he cannot read, so he will jerk off.
    Start at the bottom, fix reading, and dissolve MPS, Give the power to the families they then have to produce.

  6. swamper says:


    Once again you have a problem with facts. Our district in northern WI had a one room school until 5 years ago.

  7. Thomas Spellman says:

    And what was wrong with a one room school? Must say that WCD observation that children KNOWING how to read is surely part of the KEY. That is in essence what happens in schools that “work” that advance children to the next grade who are capable of doing the next grade’s work. We blame MPS, Teachers, etc for the policy that allows a first grade student who does not know how to read to continue to second grade and if the school has 20 to 30% student we have a ‘failing school” not a 100 or 200 failing students. Only failing students can make a “failing school”. Yes why does MPS fail this most basic function but then again why do a significant number of Charter/Choice schools fail as well. A think worth remembering is that Dr Howard Fuller was a school board member for one of those FAILING Charter Schools or was it a Choice School? At least WCD understands the most basic element of what needs to be changed.

    PS You will not get any argument from me about school district size. All the small school districts seem to work and there are a number of reasons for that such as the inbred nature of larger systems. Peace

    Look what rational discussion brings out

  8. AG says:

    LowG, I appreciate your point of view and think it’s pretty accurate. The only difference I have in view point, which differs from a lot of people here, is instead of asking what we do with the 15% who are the “bad” kids causing the disruption, I ask why we don’t first “save” the 70% from them by removing the problem. We can’t solve it all over night… if the low hanging fruit is to pull the worst out and put them in a disciplinary school so the rest can succeed, lets start there.

    From there, we can look at solutions to work with the violent, the traumatized, those who are left behind by their inattentive parents, etc. Those students usually have far greater needs, and simply punishing them won’t work, clearly. However, if we can keep them from disrupting the 70% and allow those kids to learn, then we can really concentrate our resources on helping those 15% who need it most.

  9. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    As Long as MPS is organized the, way it is, it will never work. It must be busted up, to dissolve the administration that stops any good people from succeeding. It must be removed from the Left’s influence, Barrett and the Union, or the kids will never learn.
    If that is not done the only alternative is Vouchers.

  10. swamper says:

    Does anyone find it odd that wcd, who couldn’t but together a coherent sentence if his life depended on it, is an expert at education? He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but we don’t need more bomb throwers condemning the educational system while exhibiting how poorly educated they are themselves.

  11. Thomas Spellman says:

    On this score I find WCD closer to reality than not. To AG yes it could be turned around in a years time in the lower grades and in the upper grades in two or three years. You identify the problem, the disruptive children, the trick as I say in my response above is that they are CRYING FOR HELP not confronting authority. The Danish have an hour a week where each student can in essence ask for help for a problem they are having. As I mention above William Glasser MD wrote “Schools Without Failure” where he layout out the classroom meeting which would do the same thing. He wrote it 50 years ago! Why the educational community from University types on down have not picked up on it is beyond me but we know they have not because we have the problems that Glasser addressed 50 years ago TODAY!! Peace Tom

    PS WCD If you look at Milwaukee’s Choice/Charter school you find a few better but unfortunately they are not that much better and again they are not dealing with the reasons children are disruptive that I layout in the Millstone piece above.

  12. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Thomas, there is a verysimple principle here. Big districts never work across the country. In 1974 I wrote a plan to bust up Milwaukee schools. Why cause the parents are stymied by the administrqtion. Complain you get labeled troublemakers. If the parents are in control of the schools in their neighborhoods for their kids they millwork better. That is why so many parents like CHOICE schools. They have input. For the last 40 years I have worked with Inner City parents and that is what they talk about. I find Inner city single mother of all colors, races etc, care was much for their children often than out in the sticks. They get bad rep from a few.
    Let the parents,neighborhoods control their schools and we will have a better program,m

  13. Thomas Spellman says:

    MPS is the only school district in the nation with 7 Montessori Schools and we know a high percentage of the kids graduate from high school after their elementary school in Montessori which is a good yet little is mentioned about them in all of this.

  14. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    We have all kinds of districts in the county but one thing is clear. That if the parents school and kids have close relationship, and can work together it works.
    Frills, new buildings mean nothing it all is leadership.
    Conservatives have led the fight to fix the schools and teach the kids. Left has led the fight to increase their power, the unions and the teacher salary and benefits. Kids last.
    Shanker said: The union has nothing to do with education it is about dsalries and bennies.

  15. SteveM says:

    Admit it WCD, you don’t really want MPS to succeed, the fact that major parts of our society are struggling make your world go round. Where are the “reformers'” successes?

  16. Thomas Spellman says:

    Whose job is it to figure out why suburban and exurban school almost all work and some urban schools works that the ones that we are focusing on FAIL Since schools (buildings and staff do not fail) it is the students that fail but through NO FAULT of their own.
    Yes who is responsible. What I wrote above is the direction we need to go if we are serious about making sure that primarily African American boy are educated. They are the ones in large part that fail.

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