Thursday, October 06, 2005

Charter School Discipline Choices

Holding 7th grade girls basketball tryouts yesterday, and I see maybe half-dozen KIPP students lined face-first against the wall, noses touching the concrete, not moving. Looking like they're getting lined up to be shot. A KIPP instructor comes around the corner and I half expect him to offer cigarettes and a blindfold, but instead he starts screaming at the back of their heads about something, eventually leaving them to stand there.

What I witnessed was not discipline. The KIPP policy of putting kids on "the porch" -- a systematic method of exclusion and ostracization -- is not discipline. These actions are public shaming, akin to puritanical brandings of scarlet A's. I am, in no way, some hippie new waver who holds sing-alouds in my classroom and encourages shoeless meanderings and hand-holdings. At the same time, I do not seek to foster educational success through blatant intimidation and the instillation of humiliation. Nor do I need to.

There is a means vs. ends argument to be made here. How desperate are we for demonstrable academic success? How important is it to produce test scores? What type of behavior are we modeling, teaching, instilling? Seriously. School leaders have power and the KIPP people choose to demonstrate the use of power through ugly ways. What does that show our kids? What does that teach them?

As a staff, we have made different choices. We have consciously chosen to build strong relationships with students based on respect and a mutual appreciation. Teachers here like kids and kids respond. That's why 9th and 10th graders flood our campus every afternoon, usually just to sit in their old classrooms, but also to help out in the office or basketball practice or whatever else. It's also why it infuriated me to see a KIPP teacher publicly berating one of our students at lunch after his handball was hit over the roof and accidentally landed among the KIPP kids. Accidentally. Means vs. Ends, again. If you want to make money in this world, you can easily do it by exploitation. If you want to achieve power, you can easily do so through manipulation and back-stabbing. If you want to raise test scores, you can take the highest performing students and humiliate them into doing what you want. But you have to know that, like a Barry Bonds homerun record, your success comes with an asterisk.


Blogger posthipchick said...

you know what is curious here to me? every week in my school bulletin, there is another notice NOT to send students outside the room alone, that it is against the law, trouble, lawsuits, blah, blah, bullshit.
how does kipp get away with that?

7:54 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

KIPP exists in their own little universe. In every category that means anything it's a private school -- parents don't like it, fine, leave.

6:55 AM  

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