Home > Uncategorized > Successful “No Excuses” Primary Students Flame Out in Middle School… WHY?

Successful “No Excuses” Primary Students Flame Out in Middle School… WHY?

January 21, 2016

Blogger/teacher Emily Kaplan wrote a thought provoking post earlier this month that Valerie Strauss reprinted in the Washington Post. A teacher who has worked in both public schools and a “no excuses” charter school, Ms. Kaplan describes the regimen “no excuses” charter students face and the success the students who remain in the schools achieve as measured by standardized tests. But when she tracked her “no excuses” students she found that their success was not sustained, which led her to do some soul searching:

Reflecting on my experiences teaching both at this school and at more traditional public schools, I find myself wondering if the methodology that enables young children to achieve so much so early actually hinders their long-term prospects. What if the struggles of graduates of “no excuses” schools reveal deficits that are not academic, but rather socio-emotional? What would happen if, instead of spending nine hours a day engaged in academic tasks determined by a teacher, children were to spend a large portion of their day developing “soft skills” that would enable them to overcome the hurdles they will encounter when they’re older? What if, like their suburban counterparts, they spent large portions of their day in rigorous, developmentally appropriate activities: learning to make friends, make art, and make believe, exploring and creating their interests and their identities?

That is, what if a necessary component of improving the long-term prospects of small children from disadvantaged backgrounds is not accelerating through childhood, but purposefully lingering in it?

Clearly Ms. Kaplan is onto something…. and the questions could continue to the list found in the “about” section of this blog.

  • Why do we group students in grade levels based on their age?
  • Why do we group students within a particular grade level based on their rate of learning?
  • Why do we group students at all?
  • Why does school take place in a limited time frame?
  • Why do we believe there is “one best way” to educate ALL children?

Ms. Kaplan is witnessing the effects of our factory school paradigm that insists that all children of a certain age must have intellectual growth that is intellectual to every other child that age… a mental model that has no basis in reality. By purposefully lingering in childhood we might change more that the academic well being of children: we might get them to appreciate their experiences in the present moment.

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