I wanted to share Jennifer Berkshire’s interview with Penn Professor Joan Goodman, who talks about the broader network of Mastery schools. These schools have just opened up in Camden:
EduShyster: You’re the author of an article called Charter Management Organizations and the Regulated Environment: Is It Worth the Price?that’s the single best overview of *no excuses* charter schools that I’ve seen. Talk a little about the research you’ve been doing.
Joan Goodman: I began to focus on charter schools when the first Mastery Charter School was started in Philadelphia. These were supposed to be experimental schools which would have a variety of new approaches and they’d get rid of bureaucracy and we’d see all kinds of novel approaches to children. But particularly in terms of the charter management organizations they haven’t provided much variety—they’re all strikingly similar to one another. These schools have a very clear philosophy about what they’re trying to do, how they’re trying to do it, what they think is necessary, who they read, who their leaders are. And they’re explicit in describing it. The combination of the uniformity across these different schools and their explicitness about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it makes it easier to get hold of this movement than it is with say, public schools in a city or a school district where there’s so much variety and there isn’t a single philosophy.
ES: Minority children in urban areas are increasingly being educated at schools run by the types of charter management organizations you study, yet I find that people know little if anything about the way these schools view the world.
Goodman: These schools start with the belief that there’s no reason for the large academic gaps that exist between poor minority students and more privileged children. They argue that if we just used better methods, demanded more, had higher expectations, enforced these higher expectations through very rigorous and uniform teaching methods and a very uniform and scripted curriculum geared to being successful on high-stakes tests, we can minimize or even eradicate these large gaps, high rates of drop outs and the academic failures of these children. To reach these objectives, these schools have developed very elaborate behavioral regimes that they insist all children follow, starting in kindergarten. Submission, obedience, and self-control are very large values. They want kids to submit. You can’t really do this kind of instruction if you don’t have very submissive children who are capable of high levels of inhibition and do whatever they’re told.
Please, go read the whole thing. As always, remember, these are the people we’ve invited to Camden.