“You’re confusing everybody.”
February 12, 2016 7:13 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times has obtained and published a video of a first grade teacher at the Success Academy, a charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, berating and ripping up the paper of a six year old after the child could not explain to the class how she solved a math problem.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz sharply criticized the New York Times reporter and the media...in a staff-wide email, calling out "haters."

Last year, the Times and Success Academy engaged in a PR battle after NYT published this piece, on the tactics that the school uses to obtain high test results. Additionally, in January, the Times covered a lawsuit filed by Success Academy parents "accusing the charter school network of discriminating against students with disabilities by denying them accommodations and in some cases pushing them out."
In October, 2015, PBS aired, "Is kindergarten too young to suspend a student?" about Success Academy.

WNYC: Opinion: Success Charter School Parents Should Not Be Afraid of Eva

Previously
posted by roomthreeseventeen (190 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Because we can't have any more of this.
posted by CincyBlues at 7:18 AM on February 12, 2016 [20 favorites]


Not to worry. The market will sort this out. No pain, no gain. Run it like a business. A few bad apples. Winners and losers. Get with the program. You have to break a few eggs...
posted by Thorzdad at 7:23 AM on February 12, 2016 [73 favorites]


I went through first grade in Korea. I've literally done cram school in hagwons. They are bullshit from the foundation to the top and they still aren't as bullshit as this.
posted by hleehowon at 7:24 AM on February 12, 2016 [38 favorites]


Meet the next Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump.
posted by happyroach at 7:25 AM on February 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


Well she's definitely right that someone needs to go to the calm down chair.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:27 AM on February 12, 2016 [82 favorites]


School CEO shouldn't even be a thing that exists.
posted by octothorpe at 7:27 AM on February 12, 2016 [112 favorites]


berating and ripping up the paper of a six year old after the child could not explain to the class how she solved a math problem.

*taps mat*

I am out.

I made a mistake, a small mistake (which I coped to, but it turns out was not me), at that age, and my teacher shook me like a picture (as the song says) in the '70s, and I have NEVER gotten over that experience.

I am so angry right now that I only got as far as "If you’ve made them cry, you’ve succeeded in getting your point across" I had to stop reading.

I just want to "educate" the teachers in this story.
A lot.
posted by Mezentian at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2016 [79 favorites]


But how else are we supposed to raise a child with "grit"? I want my kid to be gritty.
posted by todayandtomorrow at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Just watching that video... What the hell is wrong with that teacher? How could you possibly both want to be a teacher of young children and think that screaming at a child in that way was in any way acceptable?

I remember having "strict" teachers at primary school, but this is just something else. Even a single interaction with someone that angry has a lasting impression on children. She shouldn't ever be allowed near children again.
posted by leo_r at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


The boy version of the calm down chair at this school.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


School CEO shouldn't even be a thing that exists.

Well, welcome to the Chicago Public Schools. School CEOs: Not just for charters anymore!
posted by listen, lady at 7:31 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I did some quick googling, but can't find anything about whether higher test scores in elementary and middle school are actually correlated with something like say, success in high school, or post high school education (after removing disparities caused by economic class, race, etc.). Has anyone tried to do any studies about this or is it just taken as gospel these days that success on tests actually means (to paraphrase our previous great leader) our children is learning.

We were talking about math education a couple of days ago and from what I'm reading, this is a terrific way to instill a fear of mathematics and a conviction that one is no good at it, in addition to being convinced it is purely formulas, not something creative.
posted by Hactar at 7:32 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is why I never had children -- I would go full-on sledgehammer with anyone who did this to a child of mine, and then I'd be in prison.
posted by JanetLand at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


In Kindergarten (1975) I didn't draw a picture of Joey the Baby Kangaroo like I was supposed to so Mrs. Parker pulled my hair and screamed "What do you MEAN you didn't do one!?" at me over and over again.

Because I didn't draw a kangaroo.
posted by bondcliff at 7:34 AM on February 12, 2016 [17 favorites]


The rhetoric of the CEO (“This video proves utterly nothing but that a teacher in one of our 700 classrooms, on a day more than a year ago, got frustrated and spoke harshly to her students.”) is a baffling, blundering failure of empathy and logic that seeks to both defend and minimize Dial's (awful) treatment of a student and abuse of parents' trust.
posted by Bob Regular at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


"All I know is, any rule that makes a little girl cry has to be a bad rule!"
-- Franklin (Peanuts), written by St. Charles Schulz
posted by Etrigan at 7:36 AM on February 12, 2016 [41 favorites]


"We must not allow the haters to bully us or stop us from re-imagining public education as a private institution where we bully our students," Moskowitz writes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:37 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


But how else are we supposed to raise a child with "grit"? I want my kid to be gritty.

That's where my new charter school, Literally the Inside of a Chicken's Gizzard Academy of Leadership and Achievement for a New Generation steps in.
posted by Copronymus at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [46 favorites]


I went to some very good schools and experienced many such Ms. Dial moments. As with bondcliff above, this was in the 70s and 80s, so maybe different tolerances in different eras. What really stuck with me was the extreme personal dislike that some teachers had for certain children, and also the lack of protection students had from those teachers.

As an adult, I find it hard to believe that an adult professional could allow themselves to direct so much anger toward a child.
posted by grounded at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [33 favorites]


We had a (pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing) teacher when I was that age who used to hurl the board eraser at your head if you so much as spoke when you weren't supposed to. And another teacher who would pull you out of your seat by the ear in church if she thought you were only miming to the hymns.

I'd say things are better these days, on the whole.
posted by pipeski at 7:39 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


So awful, poor kids.
posted by zeoslap at 7:43 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


abuse of parents' trust.

My wife and I are having a baby, due in July, and so this is the part that's most sticking with me right now. As a parent what can you do? With a charter, I'd probably pull my kid out and put them in the neighborhood school, but on the other hand the neighborhood school is probably a reason the parents elected to send their daughter to the charter in first place. I'm an educated, privileged, decently well-off person with lots of resources (though probably not enough to pay for private school), and in that situation I'm still not sure what I could do. I could complain, but it's obvious that complaint would fall on deaf ears, and honestly I'm not sure how I would I could complain in a way that wouldn't get me (reasonably) banned from school property. I could do my best to repair the damage done to the kid, but that doesn't stop it from happening and once a kid knows "when you do math wrong an adult screams at you" there's only so much that out of school enrichment can offer. I can't imagine what it feels like if you're already in a position of less privilege than I am. It's sickening.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:44 AM on February 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


This happened to me. I was in first grade too. It was forty years ago. I have never forgotten it, and it took me decades to learn to like math, and the self-hatred and loneliness was a nice bonus I've enjoyed recounting in therapy on multiple occasions.

I finally stopped taking math class in ninth grade.

Thanks Mrs. Barr. I'll always remember you.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [43 favorites]


[Success Academy waiting list intensifies]
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Had a chemistry teacher fail me for getting the right answers while stumbling through a mess of unbalanced equations. The fact that I could get the answers showed that I had the potential to do the work right and was just lazy, so he had to punish me and make an example.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:46 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mark Palko recently commented on a third NYT article about singling out "weak" students at Success Academy for expulsion. His point was there are students who are really challenging for teachers and can impact the entire class.
Conscientious administrators agonize over the decision of getting rid of their more challenging students, trying to balance the good of the few and the good of the many (at the Jesuit school I taught at in Watts, it was treated as the absolute last resort), For the unscrupulous, however, there is no simpler or more reliable method for rapidly improving a school.
In that light, behavior like in the video is the sign of a teacher who is sticking with the program. Maybe the child actually gets better. But perhaps even better is if you shatter the confidence of a little kid to the point where she can't take it, she's in tears every day, and the parent pulls her out. Either way the school wins, and that is what is important. Right?
posted by mark k at 7:48 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


This made me so upset just from reading the headline. I wasn't the easiest student, and my mother told a story _years and years_ later about a teacher humiliating her because she taped something in a non-prescribed way.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how this kind of behavior is so common, and why it happens, and how on earth it could be eliminated.

Even the nicest people can sometimes say hurtful things, if they are very stressed. Being in a room full of children increases both the consequences of lashing out and the probability of becoming very tired.

Unless you believe that this teacher, who was once a fragile little child herself, was born evil, then its reasonable to wonder why she did this (apparently, she did it a lot).

This kind of behavior comes from stress. Stress is increased by bad coping skills, or the inability to use said coping skills because of lack of time or resources.

The teacher's personality may also be a big part of the problem, but it sounds like she might have been a really great teacher at some point.

Not only stress on this teacher, but stress on, for example, the assistant who took the video, who didn't feel she could intervene otherwise (and is still afraid of being unemployable).

I know it's nearly impossible to achieve, but some kind of safe environment where people can just take breaks if they feel themselves approaching this kind of awful mental state would probably help.

If a charter school has this happen, I can't even imagine what it would be like in a public school.


This is why I never had children -- I would go full-on sledgehammer

This is why I never seriously considered being a teacher. There were a lot of teachers I encountered whom I would not want to be around every day, and the idea of having them as co-workers seemed just awful. Now, as an adult, I know that they were dealing with stuff that made them act that way, but the visceral negative response is just too strong to overcome. (Sorry, good teachers, you weren't enough to make me want to hang around school.)


So, I understand that trying to sympathize with this teacher may upset some people, but I'm saying I get it. I still want to understand why she acted this way because it's more productive than just dismissing her as "bad".
posted by amtho at 7:48 AM on February 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


What the hell is wrong with that teacher? How could you possibly both want to be a teacher of young children and think that screaming at a child in that way was in any way acceptable?

If I had to guess, the teacher is under a shit-ton of pressure from the corporation to meet quarterly goals and whatnot, and simply can't handle the strain. Hell, their job may be on the line. They just snapped.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


My personal anecdotes about how teachers berated me or name-called me or made me walk though barbed wire or otherwise physically harmed me in xth grade back in 19dicketywhatever aren't evidence that "things are better these days" for kids in schools, on the whole or even partially.
posted by blucevalo at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think this is pretty awful. Also, I went to primary in the 70s and it's scary how many similar incidents I can name - it was much more normal to be an abusive teacher then. As one example, one teacher duct-taped a kid in 4th grade to his desk, including taping his mouth so he could not speak. No one questioned this at the time; I'm not sure it was even reported to parents.

That is in no way to excuse this. Standards needed to change then and this behavior shouldn't be tolerated now.

What the hell is wrong with that teacher? How could you possibly both want to be a teacher of young children and think that screaming at a child in that way was in any way acceptable?

I used to be a teacher. Sad to say, though many people in education are motivated by a desire to help students learn to thrive in the world, a not-inconsequential number are motivated by the relative sense of power and control they get from being in charge of smaller people. It is a sickness within the profession and one rarely talked about overtly in professional development (although "classroom management" is a huge training topic). I would say that as time has gone on, it does appear to be a smaller and smaller minority who are like this. I have always thought that in the 70s/80s, there were still a lot of people, women mostly, who went into teaching not for love but because of career prospects limited by gender and the perceived ease of the profession. There should be fewer of those people now, because it's harder to become an educator.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on February 12, 2016 [33 favorites]


Speaking from experience: The pressures placed on charter school teachers to "perform" (meaning for their kids to perform, because the teacher is really dependent on their students' performance) get insane. Those incentive bonuses you hear about as rewards for performance? Those quickly become the standard. It's not "Hey, you did extra great, here's a bonus!" Rather, it's "Why aren't you making your bonus? How are you falling short?" And then it goes from there.

You invest all that money and time in getting a degree and a teaching credential and then you're completely dependent on the actions of children. Influencing those actions is not as easy as it looks on the outside. Controlling those actions is flat-out impossible...although teachers get crazy like this and they try, 'cause the world expects they can.

And naturally it's the students who get hurt. The whole system is insane.

I say none of that, by the way, to defend this teacher. Holy shit.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [39 favorites]


The video was recorded surreptitiously in the fall of 2014 by an assistant teacher who was concerned by what she described as Ms. Dial’s daily harsh treatment of the children.

So this is no surprise to me. Some teachers have always been like this; I'll bet most of us can tell these stories. It's probably a mistake to blame the system for them, except in the following, very specific sense: the school did not take this seriously and immediately fire the teacher.

Now, I know what you'll say: "...but teacher tenure." No: fire her.

Let her sue or file a grievance.

Then let her argue in front of a court that she should not have been fired for child abuse. Alert the prosecutor or district attorney after she has gone on the record. Then blackball her from every school in the nation. Make her a laughingstock, put her on national television, on billboards. Brag. Go on every morning show to spread the video and smile as you recount the firing. Watch as parents line up to send their children to your school because you know who to protect.

Then do it again, to every teacher who ever abuses his size and authority. Scorch the earth, make them realize that no contract or procedure or union or anything will ever justify treating a child this way, that no son or daughter of the citizens of our nation will ever stand unprotected before an ogre three times her size.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


His point was there are students who are really challenging for teachers and can impact the entire class.

This is absolutely true, but there's a known solution to it, which is better classroom staffing or better teacher-student ratios. Adopting a policy of exile in order to maintain classroom discipline is saying 'fuck those kids because budget'.
posted by fatbird at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


“The fear is likely not only about whether my teacher may at any time erupt with anger and punish me dramatically, but also whether I can ever be safe making mistakes.” -- The good ol' nuns I had in elementary school instilled in me this "fear of making mistakes" and it's taken a lot of grit to get past it. Fortunately, I also had teachers that encouraged us to revel in the glory of learning and exploring. I feel so sad for the children in that school who are learning to hate learning.
posted by pjsky at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


My personal anecdotes about how teachers berated me or name-called me or made me walk though barbed wire or otherwise physically harmed me in xth grade back in 19dicketywhatever aren't evidence that "things are better these days" for kids in schools, on the whole or even partially.

That's not what I was trying to say. I guess I was trying to say that it's always been kind of shitty and it seems like it's gonna continue to be shitty and these are the things kids will remember for the rest of their lives.
posted by bondcliff at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I spend time in my sons school and the number of kids crying and hiding under their desks is shocking to me. They regularly have kids breaking down in 2-3-4-5 grades, sending them out in the hall to lie on the floor sobbing and rocking themselves and when I express concern they say "oh that's normal." You know, I went to a lot of different schools and while some teachers were jerks, there was nothing like this. I did have one nutty teacher that would yell at people and wack them with rolled up newpapers but since she did this to everyone it was more comical than threatening. "No, you're wrong, that's stupid! Your answer is stupid!" She kind of cracked everyone up for some reason.

What I see happening to these kids, like not letting them use the bathroom unless they agree to do better at their work, making them cry over not understanding homework, and being required to do about 15 pages of work per day is nuts in 2nd and 3d grades?

We are in a really limited situation to find other schools in a remote area, but what I saw at both the schools he's gone to so far I would say is not only "not developmentally appropriate" but abusive. Abuse of kids in schools has certainly been worse, beating kids in school used to be normal, putting kids in the dunce hat to be ridiculed by the whole class was once a thing... I do think we're improving and also that emotional abuse is harmful and should be stopped.
posted by xarnop at 7:53 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Let her sue or file a grievance.

She was just promoted.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:54 AM on February 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


But perhaps even better is if you shatter the confidence of a little kid to the point where she can't take it, she's in tears every day, and the parent pulls her out. Either way the school wins, and that is what is important. Right?

Gotta drown those bunnies.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:55 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


I somehow missed a lesson on what times-tables were. I had no idea of the concept at all. The next year in a new class the teacher asked everyone to stand up and recite their times tables. I had no idea what the hell was going on at all, and ended up being ordered to stand on a chair while the class laughed at me. Deliberate public shaming. It became a fact agreed by teachers, the other kids, and me, that I could not do maths, and I don't think anyone even tried to help me until one teacher just before the end of high school.

(I've heard there were some shocked faces in the staffroom when I got an economics degree)
posted by BinaryApe at 7:57 AM on February 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


Once, when I was 14 I got shoved by a teacher (he was in the army reserve) because he was trying to get to a snippy crappy student, to 'remonstrate' him. Physically. And it was the '80s.

I was fine with that. The teacher was an okay dude, the student was walking shitbag who needed a firm hand (he didn't get it at home, ever) but is my impression nearing adulthood and not a child.

I was okay with that at 14, and am, kinda, okay with the scary authority figure even now (as I was then - I thought it was amusing), but man, the world these days.... and metrics!
posted by Mezentian at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2016


As a parent what can you do? With a charter, I'd probably pull my kid out and put them in the neighborhood school, but on the other hand the neighborhood school is probably a reason the parents elected to send their daughter to the charter in first place.

One of the thing's that's been most worrying to me about the charter movement is that, locally -- I doubt this is true nationally -- the neighbor school increasing is the charter school, here in Philly. Our local school district has been shutting down public schools and new charters keep opening: this has flipped the default from 'send kid to nearby public school or send them on a a long commute to a charter' to 'I guess the nearest three schools are all charters?' for some parts of the city. And there's no sign that trend is going to stop soon.
posted by cjelli at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


I still want to understand why she acted this way because it's more productive than just dismissing her as "bad".

I tepidly agree with this (though the fact that this seems to be a routine practice on this particular teacher's part weighs more on the "just bad" side), but I am 100 percent willing to dismiss the principal (or CEO or whatthefuckever) as "bad", because that person had the time to sit down and think, What do I really want to say and do here? and still chose -- actively chose -- to be an asshole.
posted by Etrigan at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Meet the next Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump.

The fundamental problem we face is that the Eva Moskowitzs of the world could also end up Secretary of Education under President Hilary Clinton.

Arne Duncan, President Obama's Sec of Ed, was a big advocate of 'performance pay' based on test scores.
posted by zipadee at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2016 [31 favorites]


That was one of the most desolate things I've ever seen. I had a version of this about ten times less harsh and I still remember it 35 years later. Like others in the thread no doubt, I'm back there now and feel quite shaky.
posted by colie at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is such a nightmare. I cannot even imagine how much this would wound my kid, who is a gentle soul.

My first grader is far, far ahead of his classmates in a lot of ways, and he struggles with the "explain how you got the answer" parts of his homework. Last week, he was asked to explain how he knew what 19 +7 was. I am positively not shitting you when I tell you he wrote, "I just knew it because this is very easy."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:08 AM on February 12, 2016 [45 favorites]


I want my kid to be gritty.

Be careful with this wish, because it usually leads to you, as the child's parent, being murdered and a bat flying through the child's window years later. Who wants that?

Also, the Monsters Under the Bed complain that gritty children are a leading cause of tooth wear and dental costs. Show some respect!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:08 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


School CEO shouldn't even be a thing that exists.

I mean, I get that this community hates privatization, and in general I agree that public resources need to remain that way, but... this is kind of a weird categorical imperative. Would you rather she change her title to "superintendent?" Charter schools are their own districts, and a network can include multiple schools, each of which has a principal that has to report to somebody.

And while I'm screaming into the abyss here, I feel I should mention that the implementation of charter schools varies wildly by state, and there are places that have done it right. Massachusetts is doing a pretty good job of it, for example, by putting charter networks under such close scrutiny that they have to self-police a whole lot more strictly than public districts do. If you're a parent in Boston, your options (in descending order) are essentially 1) exam school 2) charter school 3) private school 4) move to the suburbs 5) send your kid to the ignominious failure on the other side of town
posted by Mayor West at 8:12 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Be careful with this wish, because it usually leads to you, as the child's parent, being murdered and a bat flying through the child's window years later. Who wants that?

I just want a grimey ass kid. Between Mandarin immersion classes, the Success Academy gives my son that abusive Brooklyn upbringing that leads to academic griminess. My kid is gonna be hella gritty.
posted by todayandtomorrow at 8:15 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Boston's school mess is special in its horridness. I'm not sure there are lessons anyone should be taking from Boston. Boston should be learning from others but, of course, it can't.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:18 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you're a parent in Boston, your options (in descending order) are essentially 1) exam school 2) charter school 3) private school 4) move to the suburbs 5) send your kid to the ignominious failure on the other side of town

What on earth happened to "by default unless there are special circumstances send my child to the perfectly good school that they are assigned to up the street or a brief schoolbus ride away"? Why is it preferable for parents to have to jump through ropes to figure out what school their kid is going to ?
posted by hydropsyche at 8:20 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, both parties are shit on education, in large part because we've been sold a bill of goods about the problem with education being everything but poverty, by people who were looking to use it as either a way to extract money from the government, or to use as justification to undermine workers in the US.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:21 AM on February 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


I still want to understand why she acted this way because it's more productive than just dismissing her as "bad".

Because abuse does get results. Abuse works. If we could drop the pretense Success has to keep up that they're not abusive, they could be quite upfront about how abusing the students is effective at improving test scores and learning outcomes. This is short-term profit, and if you're the parent of one of these kids, I can see how this would be compelling to you.

The damage they're doing to these kids by being abusive (and the rest of us by extension) is an externality to be dumped in the commons. It's almost identical to dumping toxic waste. This is the natural outcome of market-driven approach to education.
posted by fatbird at 8:22 AM on February 12, 2016 [66 favorites]


I don't have any particular memories of horrible teachers when I was in elementary and middle school. High School was different, but by then I was mature enough to be pissed off instead of traumatized.

But if I have children, and I work hard for 5 years to instill a love of learning in them, like I had a that age, and some scumbag adult (I won't honor them by calling them a teacher) destroys that love of learning, I will make it my full time job to make that person's life a living hell.

I don't even have kids yet, and just imagining this happening to them is making me shaky with rage. Which is bad because I'm already pissed off for all the poor kids going through this right now. (And all your stories, holy hell your sad, sad stories).
posted by sharp pointy objects at 8:22 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've had lots of great teachers and some duds, luckily nobody outright hostile. One guy, though - an interim middle school choral director with a chip on his shoulder - permanently impacted my musical trajectory. I was in 8th grade and had been studying piano for 2 years. My piano teacher, a leather-pants-wearing rock keyboardist (!!), had focused equally on standard repertoire (Bach minuets, etc) and teaching me theory via chord progressions. At the time I was at a Minuet In G level. I made the mistake of telling said choral director that I wanted to go to Julliard.

He looked at me and said, dismissively, "If you haven't been playing for 10 years already, you're not going to Julliard."

I took that to heart and pretty much gave up in terms of becoming a classical pianist. I avoided college applications which required a performance component (I was applying for composition). I didn't really dig into being a pianist again until college, where I was required to take piano lessons and discovered that, whoah, I didn't suck after all. The damage, however, had already been done.

Fuck that guy.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:23 AM on February 12, 2016 [39 favorites]


Oh and yes, Mr. Sudberg, who when I was 11 took me into his office and told me I'd fail out of high school and never amount to anything? I'd like to feed him my degrees.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:23 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, I wanted to point out that the assistant teacher who managed to covertly record this is a hero.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:25 AM on February 12, 2016 [46 favorites]


Meet the next Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump.

You're expecting Pres. Trump to still have Department of Education?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:26 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


The "neighborhood school" in this case is in the same building as the charter school, and was one of the more integrated schools in Brooklyn. There was a lot of opposition to Success opening here. Some background.
posted by phooky at 8:29 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I live in this neighborhood and recently attended a meeting where residents voiced their concerns over the proposed skyscraper condo-ing of Long Island City Hospital. You could tell that most people in the auditorium were barely containing their anger over the proposal. The developers weren't helping; essentially communicating that they were going to build a skyscraper in a brownstone neighborhood whether anyone wanted it or not, it was their land now, but weren't they being nice by asking residents what they would want on the street level?

Aside from a few pointed reminders that "we used to have a hospital," the absolute, number one, angriest request was that the development make space for more schools. Cobble Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods are packed with families, and it seems that almost all of them are aware that Success Academy is a bullshit monster terror zone that they don't want their children anywhere near. Unfortunately, a family avoiding Success Academy means having to quest far and wide for a school that has enough space to take their kids. (Hence their request.) It was a roundabout way of condemning Success Academy.

Unfortunately, this means that the utter poison that Eva Moskowitz encourages has a ripple effect beyond the confines of a well-to-do neighborhood. She pushes families to other schools, which can push out kids who live in those areas, and the negative effects trickle down the chain, landing onto families who cannot afford different schooling options. In essence, avoiding the problem just spreads the poison.

Teachers and administrators like this can do so. much. damage.
posted by greenland at 8:30 AM on February 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


So this is no surprise to me. Some teachers have always been like this; I'll bet most of us can tell these stories. It's probably a mistake to blame the system for them, except in the following, very specific sense: the school did not take this seriously and immediately fire the teacher.

Now, I know what you'll say: "...but teacher tenure." No: fire her.
Teachers at Success Academy work at will and can be fired for any or no reason. She isn't going to be fired, but it's not because she has tenure. She won't be fired because her behavior is a feature, not a bug. She is considered a model teacher in this system. Officially, for public consumption, her behavior went too far and she has been instructed not to do it again. There is every indication that this is considered perfectly appropriate and even commendable teaching when the cameras are off.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2016 [33 favorites]


Oh and yes, Mr. Sudberg, who when I was 11 took me into his office and told me I'd fail out of high school and never amount to anything? I'd like to feed him my degrees.

Mrs. Freeman-Shaw once shut me down over some argument telling me to come back and try again when I had gotten a Masters like her.

So I did.

She didn't like that one bit. Not one bit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:33 AM on February 12, 2016 [75 favorites]


So many feelings about this. I hate Charter Schools by nature, but there are definitely distinctions between those run like model schools for holistic education based on non-profit private schools (like the one my wife teaches at) that also function as de facto integration between white and black communities, and this rapacious bullshit.

This makes me very very angry and protective towards this child, but at the same time I can see why her mother doesn't hate the teacher and want her fired. She is desperate, and wants her kid to succeed. It sucks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:34 AM on February 12, 2016


This makes me very very angry and protective towards this child, but at the same time I can see why her mother doesn't hate the teacher and want her fired.
I don't think we have a ton of information about how the mother feels. We know that she initially said that she wasn't angry at the school, and then when she found out that the teacher was being returned to the classroom she said she was unhappy with the school and cut off contact with the Times. Given the viciousness with which Success Academy has gone after kids whose parents complained, she may be keeping her mouth shut to protect her child.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was briefly an ESL teacher in Korea. After totally losing my cool one day and yelling at a classroom of thirty 5th graders, I felt so horrible about it that I decided I don't have the temperament to be a teacher and left the country. This woman should feel the same.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:40 AM on February 12, 2016 [22 favorites]


Stories like those above are the scary part about being a teacher (or really, only one scary part). Everyone and anyone can be forgiven for one cranky thing they say in a bad moment or on a bad day. It happens. We all know it happens. We all do it. If you think you never say anything hurtful or thoughtless to somebody else, accidentally or otherwise, you're lying to yourself.

When you do it to another adult, they can blow you off. They can get other input. They'll usually be fine. When a teacher does it to a kid, it can scar them for life. And yet those teachers are just like everyone else, in that they have bad moments and bad days and sometimes they're frustrated and grasping at straws like anyone else.

(And yes, sometimes they're straight-up assholes. I've worked with plenty.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:40 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Let's all take a step back and sadly realize that, if this same thing happened at a regular public school, a teachers union would have already taken steps to prevent this teacher from being promptly fired. For example.

So many people so afraid to admit that teachers are both underpaid and undervalued ... and many of them are woefully incompetent and uncaring.

Fire half of them. Double the salary of the other half. Hire fresh faces. Hold them accountable.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I read the comments before actually watching the video, and I have to say, if you want to know why parents are still at success Academy, it's because it's hard for some of us to see what you guys are apparently all seeing. I look at that video and I don't see anything particularly egregious. She doesn't even really seem like she's yelling, she seems like she has a particularly strident voice. I would have to see a lot of video of her teaching to say definitively, but this doesn't seem like at all the monstrosity that I initially thought it was going to be.

And I'm kind of a ridiculously fierce advocate for my kid, to the point where I am absolutely going to classrooms to talk to teachers about something I thought they were doing wrong, but I would not term this is abusive. Maybe not best practices, maybe not what she should've done, but not actually child abuse by any means.
posted by corb at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


My dad was in elementary school in the 60s and he got in trouble, like, yelled at and sent to the office trouble, because of a coloring worksheet. They were coloring a cutesy "people of the world" picture, and DadFreedom refused to color the Chinese person with the yellow crayon. "They're not YELLOW," he told his teacher. "I've never seen a yellow person."

"You will color that Chinese person yellow or you will go to the principal's office," his teacher told him. So he went to the principal's office . . . in first grade . . . over coloring.

His mother, who was a retired school teacher, was predictably livid. DadFreedom says he is sorry he wasn't allowed to hear the piece of her mind his mother gave both the teacher and the principal over that.

Interesting coda: years later when researching his birth family, DadFreedom found out that his birth mother is in fact half Chinese. Neither she nor we are yellow-colored, though.
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:44 AM on February 12, 2016 [27 favorites]


If a teacher ripped up my paper in front of the class, my parents would have pulled me from the school that afternoon.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh and yes, Mr. Sudberg, who when I was 11 took me into his office and told me I'd fail out of high school and never amount to anything? I'd like to feed him my degrees.

...

Mrs. Freeman-Shaw once shut me down over some argument telling me to come back and try again when I had gotten a Masters like her.

So I did.

She didn't like that one bit. Not one bit.


This is going to infuriate you guys, but I offer it with the intent of building a case: you need to have an argument against the "well, maybe their words motivated you" stance. I'm guessing it's something like "I got the degrees, but I lack the spirit of exploration which might help actually solve the problems you're currently facing, Mr. Sudberg" or "I focused on winning school, but I'm not interested in helping with your retirement fund" or something.

Whatever - I know these are weak. What I'm wondering is how to make a really compelling argument against the folks who care about effects...
posted by amtho at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


What on earth happened to "by default unless there are special circumstances send my child to the perfectly good school that they are assigned to up the street or a brief schoolbus ride away"?

The Reagan revolution. And schools being funded by local tax revenue. And local taxpayers who resent paying for "poor kid" schools.
posted by happyroach at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Let's all take a step back and sadly realize that, if this same thing happened at a regular public school, a teachers union would have already taken steps to prevent this teacher from being promptly fired.

So what you're saying is that, contrary to the claims of charter school advocates, privatizing schools and kicking out teacher's unions does not lead to better teachers? Since Ms. Dial was not fired in this case, either.

I'd rather have a teacher's union advocating for the rights of all teachers, good at their job or no, than a private CEO playing favorites.
posted by muddgirl at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [41 favorites]


I went to public school in Connecticut and had 12 years plus k and pre where the teachers were great and the only monsters were the other children. I currently work at a private school where a teacher who made a kid cry like this would be out the door with support from our union.

We have no merit pay and the whole child is more important to us than the tests. Our kids usually do great in college though of course some don't, just like at every other school. We're not perfect but we work hard to improve all the time.

The point is, if you can get the same results by ignoring test scores and treating the kids well and creating a healthy work environment, why spend every day being a miserable, abusive asshole? Or allowing a miserable asshole to teach the kids? As near as I can tell, this is because of test scores that are meaningless in the long run and administrators who don't get kids or education.

Success Academy should be closed down, the buildings burned, the ground salted where it once stupid. Metaphorically burned and salted but actually closed down.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:48 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Ms. Moskowitz dismissed the video as an anomaly.

If this was an anomaly, I don't think the assistant teacher would have been so ready to record it. Seems more likely that this was normal behavior for the teacher and the assistant eventually decided they'd had enough and needed to show others what was going on. The teacher appeared very comfortable doing this in front of the assistant and to me that indicates the school's culture allows this sort of thing to happen.
posted by blairsyprofane at 8:50 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


I look at that video and I don't see anything particularly egregious.

Ripping up work and publicly humiliating a six-year-old is absolutely appalling behavior, not even just as a decent human being but as a professional who should know the bare-bones basics about child development. Full stop.
posted by sonmi at 8:50 AM on February 12, 2016 [41 favorites]


"...you need to have an argument against the "well, maybe their words motivated you" stance."

In my case, her words weren't meant as motivation. Purely dismissive. And I sure as fuck didn't do grad school to prove a point to her. It was just a happy fuck you I was able to toss her way after the fact.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:53 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


So when you went back with your degrees, were you able to pick up the argument she had dismissed those years before and actually win the point this time?
posted by hippybear at 8:58 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I look at that video and I don't see anything particularly egregious.

It's the ritualised humiliation. Humiliation is perhaps the number one factor that creates unhappy (and often aggressive) children. People go insane in a very bad way when subjected to humiliation.
posted by colie at 8:58 AM on February 12, 2016 [30 favorites]


Responding to several comments:

"School CEO shouldn't even be a thing that exists."

It's definitely of a piece with this attitude that "We will fix the schools by running them like businesses! There can be no possible skills used in the education of children that cannot be gleaned from running a steel mill!"

"Has anyone tried to do any studies about this or is it just taken as gospel these days that success on tests actually means (to paraphrase our previous great leader) our children is learning."

Some, but you probably need to get a bit more narrow on the questions you're asking -- for example, we know there's no difference at age 10 (or later achievement) between children who learn to read at the age of 2, and children who learn to read at the age of 7. So we shouldn't worry a whole lot about "late readers" until they're in second grade and still not showing fundamental pre-reading skills ... instead, we panic in pre-K when they don't know all their letter sounds and we give kindergarteners spelling tests.

"It's probably a mistake to blame the system for them, except in the following, very specific sense: the school did not take this seriously and immediately fire the teacher.
Now, I know what you'll say: "...but teacher tenure." No: fire her.
Let her sue or file a grievance."


Oh, lemme tell you, the single most rewarding part of my five frequently-insanely-stressful and often-futile years on school board was FIRING THIS SORT OF ASSHOLE. There is NO BETTER FEELING IN THE WORLD. And they say, "I'm going to sue! The union is going to grieve you!" and you're like, "OH PLEASE GO RIGHT AHEAD" because you know what the one thing better than firing this sort of asshole is? Letting them make the reasons for their firing public through an ill-considered court case. That part is FANTASTIC.

You do get grieved, and sometimes sued, for going through with firing a tenured teacher who abuses a student (especially if you report the abuse to DCFS and they lose their license). But it's the rare arbitrator or judge who says, "Why, definitely someone slapping students in rage should remain in the classroom, how COULD you fire such a paragon?" It's unpleasant to go through the firing and subsequent legal actions, but after you do it five or six times the union starts to tell bad-apple teachers, "Look, you're not going to win this and they're not going to settle and the longer it drags on the harder it's going to be for you to find other employment because of the public nature of the process."

"Alert the prosecutor or district attorney after she has gone on the record. Then blackball her from every school in the nation."

As a mandatory reporter, you report it to DCFS when it first happens, and DCFS takes care of passing it on for criminal prosecution and getting their teaching license revoked and putting them on the list so they can't get another one. And DCFS does not give two shits about your union or your tenure or your political debates over school funding; they just want to get their abuse cases processed. (And I have seen cases where an abusive teacher whose abuse was enabled by other teachers/administrators in the building who didn't report it got reported -- usually by a new teacher -- to DCFS, and then DCFS turns around and not only "indicates" the abusive teacher, but sanctions all the mandatory reporters who failed to report and hands them off to the prosecutor to plead out to misdeameanors. DCFS is GREAT because they are just so uninvolved in your school-level political shit and workplace drama.)

"Fire half of them. Double the salary of the other half. Hire fresh faces. Hold them accountable."

This is literally impossible because it's one of the largest single professions in the United States -- there are more than 3.5 million K-12 teachers. Most experts thing it's pretty impossible to fire even 10% all at once (sometimes imposed on failing districts), and typically leads to that 10% being replaced with EVEN WORSE options. The problem of "bad teachers" requires a pretty comprehensive intervention starting at the college level, going through teacher training, and extending into classrooms and, very crucially, school budgets that allow teachers time for planning, training, mentoring, and breaks.

There are simply not 1.75 million super-brilliant people who are great at teaching who are just DYING to get in a classroom and do a fantastic job, if only we paid a bit more. We have to work from a basis in reality, where good teachers are mostly already teaching and we MAY have good teachers who aren't in a classroom that we can lure there through better pay and conditions, but we're still going to have to fill a million jobs with indifferent teachers who score in the bottom 25% of teacher rankings. Firing that bottom million and replacing them with a million randos is not as helpful as some people seem to think.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [83 favorites]


in my algebra class (yeah that's not even barely mathematics, it's still basically arithmetic) - my teacher hated me because, once a month we would pitch in for donuts. and my favorite was the cruller, which also was hers. and I generally managed to win the beloved-donut. and so she told me repeatedly "you will never do well in math." (also, she somehow hated me because I kicked ass at algebra.)

yeah, who scored a perfect 5 in AP calculus and went on to win a degree in Foundations of Mathematics, you stupid cow.

my brother drives almost 2 hours every single day to teach science to special-needs kids. because he wants to. THAT'S HOW IT'S S'POSED TO EFFING WORK.
posted by dorian at 9:00 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


My boss told me this week that she sent her kid back to school before he was fully recovered from walking pneumonia because, in that district, apparently they have a policy of not sending homework home. If you are out from illness, you have to come to school early/stay late to do the make up work. And he's in middle school, so there's an insane amount of homework. He begged to go back although he was still sick and weak because he didn't want to go through the hassle and stress of early/late school days for weeks to catch up.

Oh and when he was coming down with pneumonia and begging his teacher to let him go to the nurse, she wouldn't let him. He walked home with a high temperature.

I was literally speechless.

We have my kid in a hippy-dippy no-homework Montessori-type school, because we are lucky enough to be related to one of the people that started it when he was heading into second grade. Had that not happened, I'm pretty sure we would have gone to homeschooling, even though we are neither of us well-equipped to teach and it would have been a severe economic hit (though probably less than paying full private school tuition). Because the alternative seems to be torturing a kid for 12 years.

And if the kids resist, as we all know, they don't paddle you anymore, they call the cops.

I had strict teachers, and there was some that were mean or overly punitive, but I cannot remember anything like this institutionalized brutality and crushing workload when I was in school.
posted by emjaybee at 9:06 AM on February 12, 2016 [17 favorites]


I always assumed that I was smarter than my teachers, so if there were any attempts at humiliation I didn't notice them. They were wrong anyway, so who cares?

My sister, on the other hand, got told by her first-grade teacher, "I am a witch, and I can send you to hell if you do anything wrong."
posted by clawsoon at 9:09 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is so dark. I owe so much of my character to being able to gently test the boundaries of caring teachers. The occasional villainous teachers were really more like buffoons in retrospect, and had their own lessons to impart. I broke someone's ribs, I skipped handing in homework altogether, and I was never scolded like this - what gets me is the genuine contempt Dial shows her students. I don't think you sound like that during a "temporary emotional lapse", that's something with deep roots.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:14 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I look at that video and I don't see anything particularly egregious. She doesn't even really seem like she's yelling, she seems like she has a particularly strident voice.

She told a six year old that her making math mistakes infuriated her. A child who probably doesn't even know what the word infuriate means, except that it's scary and means someone is angry with them. She then made a dramatic gesture of tearing up a piece of paper and throwing it at the child (which would be unacceptable in any non-abusive adult workplace). She finally banished the (pretty calm) student to the "calm down chair," which is honestly kind of gaslighting; the student doesn't need to calm down. She doesn't need to yell. Yelling isn't the only tool in the abusive bully's arsenal. She's mastered the others well enough that she can do enough damage without raising her voice.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:16 AM on February 12, 2016 [54 favorites]


In 1980 I had a teacher for third grade math who would give us timed times-tables quizzes every day. 10/10 got a gold star. 8/10 got a green star and yelled at. Anything less than 8 got screamed at. As a result, I went from 5/10 to a 10/10 every single day.

When I saw her death notice in the paper a few years back, I cackled with glee. And shared it on Facebook, where a bunch of 40+ year olds also cackled with glee.

Someday these teachers will have a bunch of cackling former students, too.
posted by kimberussell at 9:17 AM on February 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I guess it doesn't read for me, because yes of course my public school (NYC, 1980s, poor neighborhood) teachers tried to humiliate me, but I didn't really care - as I saw it, we were in a war, the teachers and I, and the way I won was to do well and seize every opportunity to rebel without failing I could. They used to rip up our shit all the time - including creative novels we had written and brought to class. We just wrote more and started satirizing them in it. The thing about school I will never forget is not a moment of humiliation but that shining moment when I outscored even my most humiliating teacher's son on the Stuyvesant test, and they demanded how I possibly could have done it, but had scored higher than anyone else in the school so they couldn't accuse me of cheating, though they clearly wanted to.
posted by corb at 9:18 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Though thinking about it, we also were a largely minority school with all white teachers, I suddenly recall. That may be related.
posted by corb at 9:20 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


That you went through it and lived doesn't make what happened okay, and it doesn't make it okay for someone to do it to your - or any other - kid.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on February 12, 2016 [48 favorites]


(which would be unacceptable in any non-abusive adult workplace)

It's not that long ago that teachers were encouraged to physically assault children. This was sometimes done as a bizarre psycho-sexual ritual involving a more senior teacher being called in to strike the buttocks. Most countries' laws still allow parents to do it too. And people wonder why the world is absolutely full of violent crime and misery!
posted by colie at 9:22 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'll add that I would have more sympathy if the teacher genuinely seemed angry or overwhelmed or out of control, but she doesn't. The classroom is incredibly orderly. The student isn't misbehaving. There's nothing there to justify losing control, and the teacher (to my reading) doesn't. It all seems calculated and purposeful. That is how she intends to teach. I'd rather watch a hundred videos of teachers losing control and screaming than that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:24 AM on February 12, 2016 [20 favorites]


Late to the game, but:

"I just knew it because this is very easy."

If inline images were still allowed, this is where you would see my then-six-year-old's very precisely printed response to "how do you know your answer is correct": " I'm good at math."
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:25 AM on February 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


corb, your school sounds like it was awful. Saying that oh, but you turned out OK is like saying that oh, my parents hit me, and I turned out fine. Still not OK. Still abusive. Still refuted by any respectable research on child development. Even for the children who can tough their way through that kind of crucible, it leaves its scars.

Six-year-olds are maybe the most sensitive age group and it's pretty make-or-break in terms of engaging them in school. Having an unsafe, aggressive classroom is literally the opposite of what needs to happen.
posted by sonmi at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


The thing about school I will never forget is not a moment of humiliation but that shining moment when I outscored even my most humiliating teacher's son on the Stuyvesant test, and they demanded how I possibly could have done it, but had scored higher than anyone else in the school so they couldn't accuse me of cheating, though they clearly wanted to.

Here at Success Academy, every student scores higher than anyone else in the school. Destroy the unions.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Holy crap that is awful. With 1st grade teachers like that it's no wonder the world is so fucked up.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


My sister, on the other hand, got told by her first-grade teacher, "I am a witch, and I can send you to hell if you do anything wrong."

Now, contrary to the horror stories we all have, that would have been awesome.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:27 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Convent school is a thing...
posted by colie at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2016


My mom was a teacher, and one time a friend who's moved away was back visiting and told us a story about an art teacher being really cruel in some remarks to him.
Turns out my mom had done her practicum under this teacher, and told us how thirty years before she had hidden children's art projects from him so he couldn't "correct" them, and then would smuggle them out so the kids could take their art home looking like they wanted it to look.
posted by chapps at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Many former students did cheer when the "I'm a witch" teacher was finally let go.

Come to think of it... I may have been used by her to humiliate other students, as in, "He got it right, why can't you?" And it probably made me feel good at the time.

Ugh.
posted by clawsoon at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2016


Also my sons grade ten science teacher just taught their first class in costume doing a one man play he had written about the history of chemistry. Seems like the good teachers also have more fun, plus my son remembered tons of info about chemistry when he came home.
posted by chapps at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't remember where I read it... it isn't a thought original to me... but I once came across the idea that behind every bad boss/supervisor, there is an authoritarian grade school teacher. So many people form their conceptions of What It Means To Be In Charge when they are interacting with adult strangers who are given complete power over their day. And a child can have 5 great, inspiring teachers, but that one, in grade 2 or grade 3 or grade 1... that one is the one that will cause the damage, impress the negative upon the mind.

Realizing that actually has helped me a lot when dealing with petty tyrants in small stakes situations. But obviously, this can be handed down adult to child across generations. This video is a witness to this. I bet that teacher had that one teacher in her past who used public shaming and verbal abuse to scare the students into conformity. And now all those children have encountered theirs. I hope it is the only one they encounter.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Success Academy: When Tiger Parenting Isn't Enough™.
posted by fedward at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


This sort of thing really raises my blood pressure. I can think of quite a few "educators" from my K-8 that taught me jack shit, and simply stood back while horrible abuse was perpetrated right in front of them, for years. Upon myself, and upon other students I saw.

I don't have it in me to be violent with any of them, but should I ever meet any of them in a dark alley, I will make it my personal little mission to quietly, simply convince them that they can be assured that their lives did more harm than good, and that they should go wander into the desert to die from their shame.

I wouldn't cross the street to piss on them if they were on fire. Looks like Success Academy is doing a bang-up job, just like my teachers did.
posted by chimaera at 9:45 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Those interested in the subject of abusive teachers may want to look at the "Haidbauer incident", which goes over the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's misadventures. The dynamic between social expectations and individual psychology can be very fraught in a school setting. If a teacher is not naturally inclined to impose order, there may be a tendency to over-exert authority in order to appear competent.
posted by No Robots at 9:47 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think this teacher would be a great fit at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, whose new President (an asshole venture capitalist from Bain Capital) said of struggling students:

“You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

right before he fired two professors (one tenured) for disagreeing with him.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:48 AM on February 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


The problem of "bad teachers" requires a pretty comprehensive intervention starting at the college level, going through teacher training, and extending into classrooms and, very crucially, school budgets that allow teachers time for planning, training, mentoring, and breaks.

First, let's not paint all charters with a broad stroke. I've made most of my career in charters, and none of them had this kind of culture.

The reality is, every teacher is a "bad teacher" in the first few years -- meaning smart, well-meaning, caring people need time to develop their craft, and that takes practice upon practice and reflection leading to more practice. We need to treat teacher training like we treat doctor training. Hard supervision during a "residency" before being allowed to do it while not heavily supervised -- and yes it needs to start at the college level in training programs. Yes, it's important to learn about lesson development, and learning theory, and methods, but it's even more important to practice it in the reality of a working classroom. In my state, teachers are only required to teach for 12 weeks as a student teacher for licensure. Even the most intuitive, natural teacher needs more time than that to be decent in the classroom, let alone a good teacher who moves learning forward for every child in the room.

This video is disturbing. Children need to be in a learning environment that celebrates error and risk taking.

The calm person in that video being sent to the calm-down chair is startling.
posted by archimago at 9:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Why is anyone surprised at this? This is an unusually blatant example, but school — whether public, private, or charter — has always been authoritarian, and any institution that grants unaccountable power will inevitably foster cruelty in some people. Often, the cruelty is even by design. If other schools are better, it's because parents have both the power and the desire to push back against dictatorial teaching. Here however, there apparently isn't much pushback, and the (apparently widespread) authoritarianism may be exactly what parents want.

I have a theory — perhaps economic insecurity is driving parents to call for more and more pressure in school hoping it will ensure their kids a better future. It's my understanding that working-class schooling has always emphasized discipline and procedure more than middle and upper-class schooling, so maybe those values are drifting upward, and what we're seeing is the violence of economic insecurity refracted through a school.
posted by Wemmick at 9:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just wondering, and this may be a completely monstrous idea, but: webcams in the classrooms? Give every parent a login.
posted by aramaic at 9:52 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


aramaic, I think putting a webcam on anyone for 8 hours (or 6 hours, or whatever), or even 1 hour if they don't have a choice, is kind of cruel. Maybe if teachers had a "backstage" area where they could hang out, and then come into the classroom for short stints to be "on stage". Actually, maybe that would be a good way to make sure students got the best version of the teacher most of the time.
posted by amtho at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of daycares that have live webcams all day. I don't see the huge different for an elementary school.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


The reality is, every teacher is a "bad teacher" in the first few years

I agree with your proposed protocol, but there is a real difference between "bad" (as in unsure, not as effective as might be possible) and abusive.
posted by Miko at 10:04 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Webcams in classrooms will teach children that they're being watched all the time and could stifle creativity. We don't need more people growing up as victims of the surveillance state.
posted by gucci mane at 10:05 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Putting aside everything else (which you shouldn't, but let's pretend you did), I've seen enough Supernanny to know it's just plain bad practice to confuse a place you go to calm down with a place you go to be punished. The entire point of something like a "calm down chair" is to separate "you are being punished" from "you aren't being punished, but you need a safe place to deal with your upset feelings."

SUPERNANNY.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:08 AM on February 12, 2016 [34 favorites]


Flannery Culp: our kids would get along. Another blunt one out of my kid's mouth this month was this exchange:

DOT: Soooo... what did you learn in school today?
DOT, Jr: I learned it will be a while before the other kids in class catch up with me.

There was not a drop of arrogance when he said that, btw. It was more matter-of-fact and resigned.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:08 AM on February 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Sad to say...a not-inconsequential number are motivated by the relative sense of power and control they get from being in charge of smaller people. It is a sickness within the profession and one rarely talked about overtly in professional development (although "classroom management" is a huge training topic).

After working 11 years as a teacher (getting around to many schools as a sub), I have found that "classroom management" is actually the topic that is most studiously avoided in professional development. It never gets much attention. When I talk to aspiring teachers in masters & credential programs, I ask about this, and they tell me that they generally get little or no training on this subject because they're expected to learn it during their student teaching (apprenticeship) phase.

The truth is that more training in classroom management would go a long way toward preventing freak-outs like this, because these incidents usually happen when the teacher is continually at a loss to handle things & just freaks out.

But classroom management is actually difficult, so we don't talk about it. My experience is that PD usually tends toward topics that are easier to teach and implement.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:19 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


In sixth grade, I wrote a love letter to a boy. My teacher found me writing it, discerned what it was, and read it aloud to the entire class.

My brother said (years later) the same teacher shrieked in his face, "You'll be nothing but a BUM"

Now in our mid-forties, we remember those moments very well. It's good thing we don't live in that same fucking small town, or I would have keyed that teacher's car with great vigor long ago.
posted by angrycat at 10:25 AM on February 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sad to say, though many people in education are motivated by a desire to help students learn to thrive in the world, a not-inconsequential number are motivated by the relative sense of power and control they get from being in charge of smaller people.

Thank you for this, Miko. Like others, I had some nasty experiences with a few Ms. Dials, which had lasting impact. One Ms. Dial in particular evidently enjoyed abusing us. Enjoyed it. I understood that much, very clearly, though I was confused by the fact that this was allowed to go on - that the principal (who was nice, and I knew liked me personally) would smile when passing the person who made me stand in -20 C for half an hour without a coat. Of course, he didn't know, no one did, because kids don't know better than to carry the secrets of what happens in a classroom, or to not question adults.

I know a few teachers socially, today... I doubt any of them would pull a Dial, but some of them definitely aren't lacking in a certain kind of confidence that I mistrust.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:36 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


angrycat: ROADTRIP!
posted by el io at 10:44 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'd just like to add to the confessions/memories that I had a teacher who quietly screamed 'you're going to be brilliant!' at me, and now 30 years later I'm practically a bum.
posted by colie at 10:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


scaryblackdeath -- I absolutely agree that teachers need more practical training in classroom management. Like tons more. However, this video does not show a classroom management problem (unless we missed the part of class that was chaotic). These kids are sitting obediently waiting for instruction. This teacher needs help with emotional management. Or it's what others have said -- this is just what they do there.
posted by archimago at 10:52 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I have a theory — perhaps economic insecurity is driving parents to call for more and more pressure in school hoping it will ensure their kids a better future. It's my understanding that working-class schooling has always emphasized discipline and procedure more than middle and upper-class schooling, so maybe those values are drifting upward, and what we're seeing is the violence of economic insecurity refracted through a school.
Success Academy is targeted at low-income kids, who make up more than 75% of their population. They're an extension of the "working-class schooling emphasizes discipline and procedure" thing, taken to an extreme. But you have to acknowledge that they get massively better test scores than the neighborhood schools to which their pupils would otherwise be assigned, and those kind of test score discrepancies do measure something. And I don't at all blame parents for deciding that they would rather have their kids have an unpleasant experience that results in them getting a basic education than having a better experience (or often a different kind of unpleasant experience) that results in them not getting the basic skills they will need to succeed later on. I don't think that Success Academy is a good solution to the US's urban education woes, but most parents are not choosing between ideal options.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:53 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


This teacher needs help with emotional management.

The allegation is this is not one teacher that needs some help coping with the stresses of teaching, which is what Moskowitz would have us believe, but that this sort of tactic is explicitly taught and encouraged by Success Academy to improve test score outcomes in their students.

I don't know any teachers at Success Academy schools, but I have known elementary school teachers at other, similar-sounding charter school systems, and I am not at all surprised that student-shaming tactics such as ripping up school papers and sending kids to what is essentially "time out" for not answering quick enough is encouraged behavior. At the school district I'm familiar with, many of the teachers hired are fresh out of school and learn quickly that this is what "classroom management" looks like, even for 6 year olds. There is high churn for teachers, which Moskowitz points to as evidence that any teachers who leave and complain simply aren't fit for teaching.
posted by muddgirl at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I did some quick googling, but can't find anything about whether higher test scores in elementary and middle school are actually correlated with something like say, success in high school, or post high school education (after removing disparities caused by economic class, race, etc.).

The schools are too new to have true long-term data, but it's darned well worth noting that despite the scores these kids are getting on the state tests they are relentlessly drilled for and which, conveniently, their own teachers administer, as of 2015, "[t]wo successive cohorts of eighth-grade students have applied for entry to New York City’s selective high schools, like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant, and not one was able to pass the admissions test." (http://dianeravitch.net/2015/04/06/new-york-times-inside-the-high-scores-of-success-academy-charter-schools/) (I don't know if there is a more recent round of results.)

Seeing this kind of behavior held up as necessary to make kids "successes" makes me so angry. I went to both a catastrophically bad public school system and an elite boarding school. The Success Academy approach is basically the polar opposite of the private school experience, and you don't see many of those parents complaining as their children outperform the rest of the country (for lots of reasons, but a good education certainly helps). A teacher who was taped ripping up an elementary school student's work and throwing it at Dalton or Brearley or Spence would almost certainly be fired. But for some strange, mysterious, wholly inexplicable reason, intimidation, absurdly strict discipline, and mindless drilling are considered necessary and appropriate to wring success out of these particular New York students. I wonder why.
posted by praemunire at 11:02 AM on February 12, 2016 [22 favorites]


sending kids to what is essentially "time out" for not answering quick enough is encouraged behavior.

yeah, i used to get in trouble for answering too quickly. and being bored.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:03 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


DIAL "C" FOR CHILD ABUSE!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:14 AM on February 12, 2016


The truth is that more training in classroom management would go a long way toward preventing freak-outs like this, because these incidents usually happen when the teacher is continually at a loss to handle things & just freaks out.

It may have been that I just went to a particularly progressive program and taught in a particularly progressive school, but we had a lot of that - and I'm also referring to the enormous commercial market for that sort of training and credit for ongoing learning. But I agree with the others who note that she's not struggling with overtly bad behavior here which might have driven her to a freak-out. At the same time, what we might be seeing is an effectively terrorized group of kids who live in fear of being put on the spot and being wrong or being publicly embarrassed. That is one way to manage, but not a growth-oriented way. There are teachers who pride themselves on this form of management, which is an authoritarian form of control, rather than a child-centered, authoritative one.

Seeing this kind of behavior held up as necessary to make kids "successes" makes me so angry

I agree. This fundemental assumption needs to be questioned, questioned, and questioned. There is nothing to show us that these improved scores are a predictor of even later academic success, let alone life success (though it interesting does a good job predicting real estate values). We should be looking really critically at the quantitative measurement industry and asking for the science. It is a huge racket, and not something we can prove makes a difference in outcomes.

As it happens, I just caught this radio interview with Erika Christakis of the Yale Child Study Center about her book The Importance of Being Little. It's preschool-focused, but she sends a strong and science-based message empowering parents to question emphasis on testing - especially at so young an age.
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


To almost all of the above: Yes, yes, and yes. But this isn't evil: It's almost certainly good intentions perverted.

It's not like things were all hunky-dory before the charters and the reformers came in. Treating children like that is inexcusable and harmful. But shoving kids through schools where they don't actually learn - as happened to millions of kids in NYC and elsewhere and is still happening - is inexcusable and hugely harmful in its own way.

It's possible that, as suggested above, this teacher is "motivated by the relative sense of power and control they get from being in charge of smaller people." I find it more likely that she took this job out of a sense of love, duty, and caring. The vast majority of jobs are easier.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:31 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


You wouldn't want a school where every teacher is like this, but you would want your child to have at least one or two teachers like this early on in life so that they know the penalty for not being 'on' at the day job is getting a rocket. In the old days this would have been a duster flung from the top of the class.
posted by Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez at 11:34 AM on February 12, 2016


[t]wo successive cohorts of eighth-grade students have applied for entry to New York City’s selective high schools, like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant, and not one was able to pass the admissions test."

Sorry, I should have added, for non-NYers, that the exam schools are far and away the most successful NYC public high schools when it comes to your standard metrics like college placement. They're also, I believe, the most integrated. If you're a NYC public-school parent, a school like Stuyvesant is your goal. So, unlike state test scores, his score on the exam schools test actually can have a real impact on a kid's future. What kind of school priding itself on "objective" measures of "success" can't prepare its kids for the single most important test they're likely to take prior to eleventh grade?
posted by praemunire at 11:34 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


] you would want your child to have at least one or two teachers like this early on in life

Er, no thanks! This is one of those "speak for yourself" moments.
posted by Miko at 11:36 AM on February 12, 2016 [28 favorites]


The problem of "bad teachers" requires a pretty comprehensive intervention starting at the college level, going through teacher training, and extending into classrooms and, very crucially, school budgets that allow teachers time for planning, training, mentoring, and breaks.


Nonono, you're overthinking this. Every year, we just fire the worst 25% of the teachers in the school. That way, in four years, we won't have any bad teachers left.
posted by Mayor West at 11:36 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's almost certainly good intentions perverted.

I'd say it's a number of people's good intentions being leveraged to evil by other, awful people.
posted by praemunire at 11:36 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


You wouldn't want a school where every teacher is like this, but you would want your child to have at least one or two teachers like this early on in life so that they know the penalty for not being 'on' at the day job is getting a rocket. In the old days this would have been a duster flung from the top of the class.

Leaving aside whether or not I want my six year old to learn skills for the work place, this isn't even true! Do you know how many of my coworkers aren't "on"? Do you know how often I'm not "on"? Hell, I'm sitting at my desk writing this comment and not working. No one is coming to give me a "rocket." I'm sure there are jobs like that, but the idea that you need this to learn to survive in the real world isn't true.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:44 AM on February 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


Also, while we're telling horror stories, I'd like to think mine can stand up to the best of them.

When I was 15, and taking a high school comp. sci. class, I had a teacher react to an error I made by outright saying "Never become a programmer. If you do, make sure you never tell anyone you had me as a teacher." Come to find out, this horrific excuse for a human being had been teaching at that same high school long enough that she had delivered a similar message to my mother 30-something years earlier, when she was a student at the same high school. Whatever minor slight Mom had inflicted on her, it caused this woman to pull strings so that despite graduating as valedictorian, Mom received no honors or scholarships. Thirty years later, I showed up, a foot taller and with different colored hair and eyes and a different last name, and she figured out who I was and decided the she was still aggrieved.

Much cackling was also had over that obituary.
posted by Mayor West at 11:46 AM on February 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


Please deliver my rocket to my house as I will not be able to drag it around on the subway.
posted by dr_dank at 11:48 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]




Sorry, I should have added, for non-NYers, that the exam schools are far and away the most successful NYC public high schools when it comes to your standard metrics like college placement. They're also, I believe, the most integrated.
No, not unless by "integrated", you mean "Asian and white." They are utterly unintegrated. Black and Latino students are 70% of the kids in New York Public Schools and 12% of the students offered admission to the selective schools.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


My boss told me this week that she sent her kid back to school before he was fully recovered from walking pneumonia because, in that district, apparently they have a policy of not sending homework home. If you are out from illness, you have to come to school early/stay late to do the make up work. And he's in middle school, so there's an insane amount of homework. He begged to go back although he was still sick and weak because he didn't want to go through the hassle and stress of early/late school days for weeks to catch up.

And all that in service of something that the metrics indicate is before grade 7, pretty much pointless (and only somewhat useful in grades 7-9). And all of that with caveats about type and what it's offsetting, which I would say recovering from fucking pneumonia trumps.
posted by phearlez at 12:14 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


However, this video does not show a classroom management problem (unless we missed the part of class that was chaotic). These kids are sitting obediently waiting for instruction.

If she is managing her classroom with fear-inducing tactics, then yes, there is a problem.
But I agree that she is not flipping out because the children are misbehaving.
No excuse.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:18 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


it definitely starts to get obscure in how abusive teachers were beneficial or not.

the algebra lady? reactive on my part. sure, because, eff you, lady. it worked well in my case since I had the strength and brains to fight back.

but then my calculus teacher? was kind of a real dick personally. but professionally he had mad skills and was all 'get 100% or go home' and that was kind of annoying and oppressive, but he was willing to go over results and talk about why. which ultimately led me to always getting 100% and probably got me to the full-ride scholarships I needed. so, being a bit tough, in the right way, can help?

but later my Group-Theory professor? was over-sympathetic to the point that she got so very sad I would not go along with the thesis she suggested. it almost cost me my degrees - which was even more stupid because I could have simply taken a couple easier classes to make up for it. but my Number-Theory professor was sympathetic in better ways and carried me through that nonsense. ok, wow, yeah, Math Is Hard.
posted by dorian at 12:22 PM on February 12, 2016


It's worth noting that there are only about 5,000 slots a year for those specialized schools. Middle school attendance is 167,000, excluding private and charter schools. Private school membership in the northeast is 15% of the general population, so assuming normal distribution, so that's 65,500 eighth graders, assuming normal distribution. I'm getting about 7% of the middle school population by those metrics. Not being in the top 7% of the entire middle school population of NYC is not evidence of bad teaching.

Are there stats on what other schools Success Academy students get into, or their college placement?
posted by corb at 12:26 PM on February 12, 2016


The reporter interviews some parents.
To be clear, since I missed it at first and was confused at the universally positive reaction that these parents had to the video, that's from the Success Academy YouTube account. As the NYT says:
A group of parents gathered by the Cobble Hill school’s principal defended Ms. Dial and said the video did not reflect their experience of the school.
So, apparently not a random sampling of parents that the NYT found.
posted by daveliepmann at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not at all random. And I can't help thinking that all of these parents sound white.
posted by archimago at 12:42 PM on February 12, 2016


As a parent what can you do?

Homeschooling is looking better and better.
posted by theorique at 12:52 PM on February 12, 2016


No, not unless by "integrated", you mean "Asian and white." They are utterly unintegrated. Black and Latino students are 70% of the kids in New York Public Schools and 12% of the students offered admission to the selective schools.

Though I haven't looked at the stats lately, I believe most of the rest of the high schools are even worse in that regard, though. A lot of white NYC parents who are willing to try sending their kids to a public elementary or middle school change their tune when it comes to high school. If you, as a black parent, want your child to attend a racially-integrated public high school at all (and some parents don't care about this, which is an entirely reasonable position, but, very unfortunately and for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the inherent merit of black students, integrated schools tend to do better overall than segregated black ones), the exam schools are your best bet.

Not being in the top 7% of the entire middle school population of NYC is not evidence of bad teaching.

If one's entire position is that one's extreme tactics are necessary to produce some form of "objective" "success," and indeed you are arguing that you are achieving that success, and you cannot even put one kid into the top x percent of the test that most NYC parents (at least among those who have the luxury of time and energy to invest in planning out their kids' educations) have an eye on, then, no, you are not succeeding even according to the terms you set for yourself. Roughly (and I think there's some variation by year) 20% of all NYC students who take the admissions test are offered seats at the schools, and, as noted above, about 12% of black and Hispanic kids who do are. Even considered against their own racial cohorts (most, if not all, are black or Hispanic), Success Academy students are not even achieving proportional representation in that group, much less overachieving. We're still talking a fairly small number of students at this point, so there is probably some role for sheer luck. But it calls into question Success Academy's claims of overachievement.

Are there stats on what other schools Success Academy students get into, or their college placement?

I don't think the first class that started with them is through high school yet.
posted by praemunire at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Mrs. Barrett, my 3rd grade teacher slapped me across the face because I made my O's from the bottom rather than the top. And slapped me around for being near sighted until she figured out why I couldn't read from the blackboard.

She packed a wooden paddle for formal corporal punishment and gave out more spankings and more parties than any other teacher at Eastside Grade School.

And I remember the time when Cherry Ican'trememberherlastname, the prettiest girl in 3rd grade, went up to tell Mrs. Barrett she was feeling sick but instead threw up all over the paper she was grading. *Slap* Right across her face -- slapped for getting sick inappropriately, I guess.

Most of the teachers in my grade school would be doing serious time in prison were they teaching as hands on today as they did back then.
posted by y2karl at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]




Any school that can select its students and then brags about their "success" should be ignored.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Officially, the select students via a random lottery. Unofficially, they seem to do things to push out students they don't like. Drowning the bunnies, as it were.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:09 PM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thanks, roomthreeseventeen, that's very handy. Anyone who's curious can filter to high schools and try zooming in on, e.g., Harlem to get some idea of how shockingly segregated the schools are up there. (The exception is City College, an exam school.)
posted by praemunire at 1:09 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Officially, the select students via a random lottery. Unofficially, they seem to do things to push out students they don't like. Drowning the bunnies, as it were.

OH yeah, big time. They keep the kids in school until the budget goes in and they get funding, then they find that the kids "aren't a good fit" or just give them terrible grades. I work closely with my daughter's school principal (at a NYC public school; I write grant applications for them) and she has spoken at length about the influx of students into the school from charters the day after the first grading period. The principal of course has to deal with increased student numbers with a budget not equipped to handle them.

what a shitshow.
posted by gaspode at 3:24 PM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's also worth pointing out that the "random lottery" is also a selection system, since it is opt-in - which automatically selects for children with engaged parents.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:27 PM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I recently met some folks at a data science conference event who worked for the state department of justice here in NC, and they were pondering how to predict crime recurrence - they talked about predictors such as gang tattoos and etc (I can't remember everything they said but it wasn't super awesome sounding). I asked "why not predict the opposite? Why focus on negative outcomes? Isn't there something positive you can target instead? How about people that leave prison and never come back - isn't that preferable?" They hadn't even thought about that. It was a complete mind shift for both of them.

Sometimes we measure the wrong things. And then shit like this happens.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:39 PM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


I wrote and deleted a bunch of things because I wanted to say something more than "this is completely horrible" but it is. This video created a reaction in me that's similar to how I felt when I saw that video of the officer throwing a child out of their chair last year.

Emotional abuse is still abuse. No idea what that child was supposed to be learning. Also I listened to some of the reaction video of the parents and that was pretty shocking as well, they seemed cool with it. One parent said that they picked up their child's paper and erased things on it and said "do it right!"

WTF?
posted by sweetkid at 3:48 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Webcams in classrooms will teach children that they're being watched all the time and could stifle creativity. We don't need more people growing up as victims of the surveillance state.

When I was at CES, the number of vendors selling webcam home systems was in the double-digits, and at every briefing, the pitch was "You can keep an eye on your kids and shut down any errant behavior before you're even home!"

Kids don't need to go to school to get socialized into a surveillance state. They can merely grow up in a "smart home" where their very movement from room to room, their afternoon snack, and their TV selections are all remotely monitored and managed by Mom & Dad.

(As for this incident and the story: Check out Mikki Kendall's Twitter stream and the #stopharmingstudents hashtag, which highlights Success Academy's other greatest hit, children so scared to take a bathroom break during tests, they wet themselves and continued with the test.)
posted by sobell at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


oceanjesse: I asked "why not predict the opposite? Why focus on negative outcomes? Isn't there something positive you can target instead? How about people that leave prison and never come back - isn't that preferable?"

That's great. Reminds me of the old look where the bullet holes aren't story.
posted by clawsoon at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


These comments make me sad. I can count on one hand the bad teachers I had, and they weren't nearly as bad as any of the ones in these stories. I can't tell if I was just lucky or went to school in the right place at the right time.
posted by toerinishuman at 4:21 PM on February 12, 2016


I went to public schools my whole life and I never had or even heard of a teacher who would rip up work, scream in a kid's face, and deliberately and loudly and repeatedly humiliate them in front of the whole class for not explaining their answer clearly. For a kid of *any* age, let alone a 6 year old. I mean, this classroom was orderly and the child wasn't being defiant or disrespectful, just stumbling and mumbling in their answer. The teacher didn't seem emotionally overwhelmed either, this had a standard operating procedure feel to it.

Really disgusting.
posted by zipadee at 4:26 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


One parent said that they picked up their child's paper and erased things on it and said "do it right!"

Years ago I read a profile of Success Academy in the New Yorker. One thing I recall was that they critiqued the kind of supportive language that most pedagogy for the middle class involves. Everyone is doing a "nice job," everyone is "trying," everything is "great." How would you know you're failing to meet objectives? Part of the philosophy was to take away the fuzziness of the boundary between "Wrong" and "right" - a boundary that perhaps more privileged students and educators have the luxury of de-emphasizing. In the philosophy it was important that students know, for real, when they got it right and when they got it wrong - it was a stand against the kind of thing Michael Gerson quotably called "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It does sound really harsh and may not be necessary, but I think that is the thinking behind it.
posted by Miko at 4:29 PM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't think people should touch or alter or destroy a kid's work (or anyone's work) for any reason. Correcting something wrong is one thing, ripping up a paper or grabbing and erasing is really wrong to me.
posted by sweetkid at 4:44 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Kids have such little control over their environment. Even their possessions and meals are provided by someone else. Their work is their own creation, if you want to help them with it let them just keep control over that.
posted by sweetkid at 4:46 PM on February 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Part of the philosophy was to take away the fuzziness of the boundary between "Wrong" and "right" - a boundary that perhaps more privileged students and educators have the luxury of de-emphasizing. In the philosophy it was important that students know, for real, when they got it right and when they got it wrong - it was a stand against the kind of thing Michael Gerson quotably called "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It does sound really harsh and may not be necessary, but I think that is the thinking behind it.

The problem is that at a certain point of the execution & presentation the thinking stops mattering, doesn't it? When I saw this thing about drowning the bunnies I remembered a discussion with a prof in my comp sci about a past instructor who I had liked. He agreed that the fellow had been good, but he had a problem with not ever being willing to continue while a student expressed lack of understanding.

I was kind of surprised by this statement and said isn't that what you want? He said absolutely not. In a classroom with thirty plus people, you want to bring everyone to understanding when you can, but sometimes - particularly in an early major-specific course - you have a student who just isn't getting it t that moment or perhaps isn't ever going to get it. The right thing to do is be able to identify that when it happens and say okay, we're going to need to spend some time on this together in office hours or after class. Then you move on so you do proper service to everyone else in the class.

So is there some truth in the bunny drowning, that sometimes a student just isn't prepared for a class and needs to be referred to college prep or encouraged to get a tutor or simply allowed to fail so they can get a wake-up call that something needs to change? Sure. But there needs to be a way to do it that doesn't cause more harm than good. It's hard to see that video, at least for me, and not see that as an example of finding the most traumatic possible way to deal with the situation.
posted by phearlez at 5:24 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Michael Gerson quotably called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

If I never see this phrase again, it will be too soon. The idea that a major reason that poor kids from families with multigenerational trauma living in collapsing neighborhoods and attending impoverished schools with classmates in much the same situation are not doing better is that not enough is being expected of them is cruel to the point of absurdity. And somehow raised expectations are rarely, if ever, accompanied with the support needed to achieve them.
posted by praemunire at 6:51 PM on February 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


That phrase has a terrible history and has been used to very bad effect.

But it's also basically true: for too long, we pretended that poor and non-white students were destined to do badly. I think there was a little hard bigotry in it too: beliefs about intrinsic ability and whatever. But the point is that if poor students do poorly, it wasn't a story. The racial achievement gap wasn't a story. The school to prison pipeline wasn't a story.

What we forgot is that schools are one of the major methods of reproducing poverty, of taking poor kids and making sure they stay poor. Notice that the abusive teacher was white and her students weren't. She's training them for a future of militant discipline: removing the intrinsic motivations of curiosity and affection and replacing them with fear and shame. She's getting them ready to be bullied by police and prison guards and exploitative bosses.

And nobody will blame her when that happens. They'll just think that "society" did it, even though in this case "society" accomplished its white supremacist goals through a woman who calls herself a professional educator.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:19 PM on February 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yes, my training program was progressive enough that one of the threads of discussion was the way in which schools serve to replicate the class structure. They don't have to. But mostly, they do.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


What on earth happened to "by default unless there are special circumstances send my child to the perfectly good school that they are assigned to up the street or a brief schoolbus ride away"? Why is it preferable for parents to have to jump through ropes to figure out what school their kid is going to ?

Yeah, this scenario--where there used to be nice, orderly schools in every neighborhood that provided a high-quality comprehensive free education to all--has only ever existed in the fantasies of people whose lives have been lived entirely in upper middle class suburbs. We have never lived in a world where, absent special circumstances, poor children of color have had a perfectly good school up the street. The degree and flavor of the badness fluctuates over time, but the schools we send our most vulnerable children to have always been pretty bad, in one way or another. This regimented, high-stakes testing, "gritty" nonsense is just the latest hip, trendy form of bad school.

And in some ways it is less bad than the bad schools where the teachers don't try to teach at all and the kids just run wild all day, or the bad schools where there is corporal punishment, or the bad schools that kids are afraid to go to because the violence and bullying are so severe, or the bad schools where there aren't any books, or the bad schools where there are 50 kids in a class, or any other of the many types of bad schools we've tried. But there have never been perfectly good schools for the families of the kids who go to Success Academy.

So do I think this video shows a teacher doing a good job working with a vulnerable child on this day? No. But do I think this video is absolute proof that charter schools are bad and that we should get rid of them and go back to the system we had before? Also no. Because that system was also bad. And so far, really no one, even with a really big budget, has been able to come up with a comprehensive system of educating poor children (most of whom come into pre-school lacking skills and knowledge that their middle class peers take for granted, many of whom suffer from lead poisoning or developmental disabilities or mental health issues, most of whom have experienced intense trauma before the age of five, most of whom have very few material resources to draw on outside of school) that makes their education perfectly good. Certainly not as perfectly good as it is in the Mayberry pipe dreams of rich white parents. We just don't have an answer to that problem that makes schools perfectly good for the population of kids we're talking about.

So I have very mixed feelings about this conversation. Because we absolutely need to be talking about how to prevent kids from being further traumatized at school, and how best to equip teachers to teach important life skills to the kids who are most in need of formal education. But when we criticize this one teacher, or the system that employs her, I just think to myself, "compared to what?" And the answer is usually, compared to any other plausible alternative, all of which are bad. And that is an impossible, awful situation to be in. But I just think it's important to point out that this is not an easy public policy problem that we can solve by going back to our fantasies of what the past was like. We can't compare this story to the hypothetical, 1950s nostalgia of high-quality universal public school that served the educational, social, and emotional needs of the highest needs students. Because that system has never existed.
posted by decathecting at 10:20 PM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


But I just think it's important to point out that this is not an easy public policy problem that we can solve by going back to our fantasies of what the past was like.

Charter schools aren't bad merely because they produce classroom atmospheres like this, though. At least as presently constituted, they're bad because they actively work to destroy teaching as a dignified profession in which experience is valued and teachers are guided by their professional judgment. They're bad because they're a wedge and promotion mechanism for metrics of student success that measure very little but wind up putting a lot of money into corporate pockets. They're bad because they serve in other ways to siphon funds off into the corporate world. They're bad because they skim off students with better resources from the neighborhood schools and thus leave those schools even worse off.

My personal experience alone would not let me indulge in any nostalgia about pre-charter-school days, so I do take your point, but I don't think allowing scavengers and leeches (I mean the higher-ups, not the idealistic young adults they sucker in) to have their way with the system will actually improve it.
posted by praemunire at 11:32 PM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


My concern is always about how this kind of teaching steamrolls any kids who are the least bit different from the expected norm. As a kid I had a teacher say "class, this is the kind of presentation you give when you just don't understand the material." I had a teacher who used to get the whole class to laugh at me when I was asleep in class. I had a teacher tell me I was unemployable, another teacher tell me he would personally make sure I didn't pass the class if I didn't do things his way. And so on.

None of them had the slightest inkling that I might have had severe mental health issues. None of them took anything I exhibited as a sign that I might have been a person in need of serious help and intervention, instead treating them like personal insults for failing to engage with their material. I can only imagine how frustrating teaching is, but students aren't a uniform bunch, and you'd hope people are trained to recognize duress in their pupils. I ended up dropping out of high school at my school's suggestion, and I remember running into one of my teachers on the way out of the office the day I dropped out. She smiled and wished me luck.

There's a part of me that wants to march into my old school and tell them, like Capt. Renault did, that now I'm earning a degree at a prestigious university, and isn't that wonderful? But it's not worth it. I hope I never see those people again as long as I live.
posted by teponaztli at 11:40 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


(And yeah, this was public school, but I can only imagine how much worse it would have been at a charter school. I don't care about whether or not education is treated like a noble profession. What I want to know is where they put the kids who don't support the business model they have going. Who don't show them the results they want. Should I think that I would have been treated better in a learning environment designed to draw a profit?

In spite of everything that happened to me, I still think that the idea behind public school is exactly what I want for this country over anything else. Yes, I was mistreated, but from what I understand of the way discipline is enforced in charter schools, it could have been much worse. The fear isn't so much that the alternative should be some perfect fantasy of public education, it's that we're privatizing school and giving lots more kids the kinds of shitty experiences I, and other people here, had. Those kinds of experiences can ruin a child's life, and the fear is that they're becoming the new normal.)
posted by teponaztli at 11:47 PM on February 12, 2016


Yeah, this scenario--where there used to be nice, orderly schools in every neighborhood that provided a high-quality comprehensive free education to all--has only ever existed in the fantasies of people whose lives have been lived entirely in upper middle class suburbs. We have never lived in a world where, absent special circumstances, poor children of color have had a perfectly good school up the street. The degree and flavor of the badness fluctuates over time, but the schools we send our most vulnerable children to have always been pretty bad, in one way or another. This regimented, high-stakes testing, "gritty" nonsense is just the latest hip, trendy form of bad school.

You do not know me or where I am from. I have never lived in "upper middle class suburbs" in my life. We made it work in Charlotte. We got together, we all agreed to give up some things for the common good, and we made it work. Some bigots who knew nothing about history and who cared only about their single special snowflake of a child sued and destroyed it all. But for 20 years (which happened to include the 13 I was in K-12 education), it worked. The problem is that bigotry and selfishness seem to be much more common than concern for the common good.

Apparently, it's much easier to say "I want the best for my child. What's wrong with wanting the best for my child?" and come up with an ever continuing onslaught of new ideas for ways of belittling poor kids and judging them by biased standardized tests than it is to recognize that we will all be happiest when all of our kids get the educations they deserve, even if that means I don't get what I think is "the best for my child".
posted by hydropsyche at 5:16 AM on February 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The teaching assistant who filmed this should be given an award; it was so damned smart of them to ensure this was recorded.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:40 AM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


So do I think this video shows a teacher doing a good job working with a vulnerable child on this day? No. But do I think this video is absolute proof that charter schools are bad and that we should get rid of them and go back to the system we had before? Also no. Because that system was also bad. And so far, really no one, even with a really big budget, has been able to come up with a comprehensive system of educating poor children (most of whom come into pre-school lacking skills and knowledge that their middle class peers take for granted, many of whom suffer from lead poisoning or developmental disabilities or mental health issues, most of whom have experienced intense trauma before the age of five, most of whom have very few material resources to draw on outside of school) that makes their education perfectly good. Certainly not as perfectly good as it is in the Mayberry pipe dreams of rich white parents. We just don't have an answer to that problem that makes schools perfectly good for the population of kids we're talking about....I just think it's important to point out that this is not an easy public policy problem that we can solve by going back to our fantasies of what the past was like.


I disagree with this assessment, it does not ring true to my own experience. I went to thoroughly racially integrated public schools in a not-very-rich area my whole childhood through college, and they were never terrible. They were OK. People were not flailed to success on standardized tests, but they also weren't bullied in the manner shown here. In terms of college entry and the like minority kids in the schools I went to were not as successful as white kids overall frankly, because they didn't have the class resources that the white kids did, but they also weren't disabled/traumatized/non-functional as this paragraph seems to imply minority kids 'naturally' are. They were my classmates and we all did learn together.

What I think has been very bad in America is *not* the schools, but the concentrated residential poverty and educational class segregation. If you put a school in a situation where the huge majority of their students live in situations of extreme poverty and instability you are asking for trouble. It is very difficult for a 'pretty good' school, which I think a lot of public schools are, to make headway against that. So from an education standpoint I think that while this isn't an 'easy' public policy problem, the education part of it is maybe not as complex as people want to make it out to be. If you addressed the residential/educational segregation and the extreme poverty situations then I think it would be well within the realm of possibility to build a public school system that did a reasonably good job -- far from perfect, but reasonably good. I think a lot of public schools in the (ever-rarer) category of integrated middle to lower middle class suburbs, etc fit that description. It's the extreme poverty and the segregation that's such a huge issue.

But when you try to maintain the concentrated residential poverty / educational segregation while dumping that problem in the schools to fix, that's when you get an insoluble public policy problem. That's when it becomes tempting to quasi-military bullying and drill sergeant tactics to force kids through all the hoops you want them to jump through.
posted by zipadee at 6:48 AM on February 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


. I went to thoroughly racially integrated public schools in a not-very-rich area my whole childhood through college, and they were never terrible.

I also had this experience and am glad others have spoken up to say they have, as well. It's an achievable dream. What is needed, as noted above, is to rein in the real-estate segregation/redlining effect, break down concentrated poverty, and also, guarantee level funding across all school districts in a state. Local funding is a political third rail, which is why few people ever touch it. Again, it's the middle and upper-middle class' class interests that are protected by this system. But that does not mean that integrated, well-funded neighborhood schools can't work and have never worked. We have many successful models.
posted by Miko at 7:15 AM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I saw the clip, as a veteran teacher my reaction is, "Christ, what a terrible teacher but this happens EVERY DAY all across schools."

From my perspective, the core issue -- setting every other factor aside -- is that teachers are not really supervised. I've worked in inner city schools, rich suburban schools and private schools.

The MOST I've ever been observed in an entire school year is twice. Only TWO times yearly has an administrator walked into my room and observed me teach. This is common practice. No adults are watching to see if I scream at kids or hug them or touch them or shame them or praise them. Nobody. I am assessed based on two pre-planned observations and by how well my students did on state assessments.**

I've worked in places where the teachers LOVE that nobody's watching and I've worked where teachers go out of their way and use our prep time to sit in and watch each other teach. That practice is NOT encouraged by the union, by the way.

It is a huge problem in education. Teachers don't get feedback. Teachers aren't being watched. Teachers are discouraged from developing peer relationships where we can share vest practices.

What I'm saying is I can guarantee you that a LOT of teachers saw this clip and said that they see teachers doing this like this EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

**Years back, a student falsely accused me of hitting him. The principal asked, "Did you hit him?" I replied I didn't, and that was the end of it. She never came into my class to see what was going on in my room. The matter was just dropped.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:42 AM on February 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


we can share vest practices

We only share vest practices when planning our holiday outfits. Otherwise we try to share best practices.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I believe that one of the hallmarks of the Success Academy formula is that teachers are observed, given tons of feedback, and encouraged to adopt the practices of successful teachers. Under this system, this teacher is considered highly successful and is held up as a model for other teachers. The reason that she acted this way is that this is what Success Academy thinks good teaching looks like. It's not because of a failure of oversight or because teachers have tenure and can't be fired or because of any of the usual talking points about bad teaching.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


I, for one, think this is commendable behavior and should be encouraged. It's how I was treated and look how I turned out.
posted by HITLERTRON 5000 at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


If your child isn't getting what is best for them, then by definition, the system cannot be said to be providing the education all students deserve.

The problem with attempts to fix the redlining situation is they have almost all been attempts to equalize the schools - to turn a situation with very good schools and very bad schools into a situation with all mediocre schools. And no one is voluntarily going to take their kid out of a very good school to put them in a mediocre school.

There need to be ways of improving the very bad schools that don't require dragging the very good schools down.
posted by corb at 3:36 PM on February 13, 2016


attempts to equalize the schools - to turn a situation with very good schools and very bad schools into a situation with all mediocre schools.

It's called equality of opportunity. Why assume they would be mediocre? Why assume anyone would be "dragging" the "good" schools down? Those schools are already benefiting from the very different socioeconomic environment the students and families are bringing in the door every morning.

This reaction is exactly why we have this problem: local funding persists despite its structural perpetuation of inequality. I've got no sympathy for this viewpoint. Want an even better school? There are private ones.
posted by Miko at 3:47 PM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


13 years at those supposedly mediocre schools, and I have a PhD from a fancy pants school you've heard of. So I don't think going to integrated schools that weren't being over-funded at the expense of poor black kids hurt me. My parents wanted "the best" for me, but they wanted that for kids who didn't look like me, too. I am proud to have inherited that from them. I would be ashamed if my parents had sent me to a segregation academy while poor black kids attended Jim Crow schools.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:26 PM on February 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well put. Same here, you can call the ivy-league Master's I'm about to complete, or the full scholarship I won to fund my undergrad, "mediocre" if you want, but in truth despite my integrated, underfunded public-school education I find a lot more mediocrity among the offspring of the complacent rich, who have never had to strive as much and yet so often, even with the advantages of schooling, tutoring, and polish, don't do as well.

One reason I oppose inequality in school funding is because it's the equivalent of throwing away raw talent. Brilliance and skill are evenly distributed across the population, not concentrated in the homes and neighborhoods of the rich or middle-class. We all lose when we don't spread out our educational investment in order to maximize the chances that opportunities reach everyone able to rise to them, and that no one falls below the baseline level of achievement that represents a contributing role in society. I've met a few private school graduates who can't claim that.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


The problem with attempts to fix the redlining situation is they have almost all been attempts to equalize the schools - to turn a situation with very good schools and very bad schools into a situation with all mediocre schools. And no one is voluntarily going to take their kid out of a very good school to put them in a mediocre school.

That is the great fear of the middle class parents who stretched to purchase a house in a "good school district" - that, effectively, their "investment" will be forcibly seized from them and distributed among people who did not do likewise. The correlation of school quality to neighborhood quality means that this problem is unlikely to go away unless the government school funding is operated at a state or national level (which presents its own problems).
posted by theorique at 4:16 AM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's certainly the attitude presented by the white parents of kids at Francis Howell High School in the This American Life episode, that somehow they are being cheated because they paid all that money to get into the "right" school district and now kids not from there are getting to go to "their" school. (Although several of them take it a step farther and actually say something to the effect of "I didn't pay this much for a house to have my kids go to school with black people.")
posted by hydropsyche at 4:59 AM on February 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


"I didn't pay this much for a house to have my kids go to school with black people."

You definitely aren't "allowed" to say that because it's racist, which is why you have to speak in code:

- "I don't want the school district to be diluted with low-performing students from the neighboring district X."

- "School District X has a problem with gangs and a criminal element that we don't want in our nice law abiding community."

And so forth. It's clear communication, and yet camouflaged enough that it has plausible deniability if a person should be accused of being a racist.
posted by theorique at 5:24 AM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess I am not sure exactly what you guys are arguing for here? Across the entire NYC public school system, about 80% of students come from low-income families. You could spread the poverty out evenly and every kid would still attend a high-poverty school. Is the idea that you would have an economic desegregation plan that included the suburbs? Given the geography of New York, that's going to mean heavy, heavy commutes, plus I don't know what it does to already taxed transit systems when you add a couple million kids to rush-hour traffic. I think that this discussion is extremely relevant to the New York suburbs, but people who bought a house in a good school district are not super-relevant to the structural problems of NYC public schools.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:25 AM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't think we're arguing, and I think the discussion has expanded beyond NYC.

However, I think it would be interesting to think about ways to get all of the folks who live in NYC but don't send their kids to public schools to reinvest in and reintegrate those schools (or in some cases, integrate them for the first time).
posted by hydropsyche at 7:26 AM on February 14, 2016


Is the idea that you would have an economic desegregation plan that included the suburbs?

I would make education funding flat (or, if there are good cost-of-services reasons, distributed by an evidence-based weighted formula)across the states (at least).

The solutions about who lives where are economic, legal, and political ones.
posted by Miko at 8:52 AM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


When we moved to Harlem in 2008 I was starting to hear about these great new charter schools that were so amazing and wonderful. When we had our first kid in 2010 I was excited because I thought it might mean that we could stay in Manhattan, which we loved, but could not even afford to rent in a school zone with reasonable public schools, and pinning your hopes on getting into the G&T programs is basically the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket and hoping to fund your child's education that way. And 12 years of private school in NYC was not going to be possible.

When our kid was in preschool we started hearing rumors about the high pressure and rigid structure of the schools, and started having second thoughts. For a variety of reasons, we ended up moving out of the Northeast and are now living in a much smaller city where our kids will go to a totally acceptable but not stellar public school, and I'll tell you I was VERY relieved to have that particular set of decisions taken off the table.

Seeing the NYT articles emerge over the last year or so has really been eye-opening, and when I read this last night my husband actually came up from the basement to see what was the matter because I was literally jumping up and down with rage.

It makes me so very angry that my former neighbors and people like them have been sending their kids to those schools thinking that they were giving their kids a better option, a better future, and now it turns out that the schools have apparently drawn their pedagogical strategies from fraternity hazing. It's not so much that this single teacher had an outburst, but that apparently ripping up work and making kids cry seems to be something that is actively encouraged.

I'm going to get on Donors Choose right this minute and send some money to a public elementary school in NYC, which is obviously just a drop in the goddam bucket but maybe the kids will enjoy some new books or some art supplies.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:43 PM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's also worth pointing out that the "random lottery" is also a selection system, since it is opt-in - which automatically selects for children with engaged parents.

This sets up a perfect comparison, since the randomly unselected kids who went to other options should be a perfect counterfactual substitute for what would have happened to the selected kids. I'm a little disappointed that no one has done a follow-up to see if the selected kids did better than the unselected ones.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2016


This is especially hilarious because the last thing school is about is "knowing" how a thing is done. Instead it's about rote learning, pattern recognition, memorisation, and doing what you're fucking told. You don't program a computer to "know" how it displays a webpage, you just program it to do it.

Ripping up a student's work because they can't explain how it was done is like uninstalling Microsoft Office because the Help menu under Word doesn't explain how the monitor makes different colours appear in different pixels.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:38 PM on February 15, 2016


Kate Taylor: Mother of Girl Berated in Video Assails Success Academy’s Response
Ms. Miranda said that while Ms. Dial had apologized to her, the teacher had never apologized to her daughter. She said that a public relations specialist for Success drafted an email for her, asking The Times not to publish the video, and that at a meeting Ms. Moskowitz held at the school on Jan. 20, Ms. Moskowitz asked the parents to support Ms. Dial and to defend the school to the paper. Ms. Miranda said that when she stood up, identified herself and objected that Ms. Moskowitz was asking parents to support the teacher without even showing them the video, Ms. Moskowitz cut her off.

“She’s like, ‘You had enough to say, you had enough to say,’ and she tried to talk over me,” Ms. Miranda said. “So I just really got frustrated, and I just walked out, and the parents that were concerned followed me, and the parents who were against me and for the teacher” stayed in the auditorium.
[...]
Ms. Miranda, 23, said she sent her daughter to Success Academy because she wanted her to get a better education than she had and to aspire to college. Ms. Miranda was raised mostly by her mother, who spoke only Spanish and was disabled by diabetes and heart disease by the time Ms. Miranda was 13. She became pregnant in ninth grade and dropped out of school, later earning her high school equivalency diploma. She has worked as a home health aide and earns money now by babysitting for friends’ children. She and her children are currently living in a family shelter.
Eliza Shapiro: Moskowitz offers rare apology in private memo to staff
"No matter how you view it, this is a tragic situation for the scholar and her mother, and many of us are deeply sorry that we have let her down," Moskowitz said in the memo, responding to a New York Times report that the mother of a Success student who had her work paper torn up by a teacher has withdrawn her child from the school. The Times also reported that the child and her mother, Nadya Miranda, are homeless, and live in a family shelter.

Much of the rest of the memo focused on criticizing the Times, an institution that has rivaled even Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration and the United Federation of Teachers recently as the prime subject of Moskowitz's scorn. But the apology is notable for its bluntness, and for the fact of an admission of responsibility.

In public, Moskowitz has responded to the Times story by lambasting the press, and in particular what she scornfully refers to the "paper of record." She has accused the Times of bias, and has commissioned her recently-hired group of media relations professionals at Mercury to send near-daily press releases calling on the paper to direct more coverage to problems in the city's district schools.

A press conference held on the afternoon the original Times story was published was focused mostly on jeering the press — with the help of several dozen Success parents and staffers — and defending the teacher who ripped up the student's paper. There was only a fleeting acknowledgement of the incident itself, which Moskowitz said was an anomalous outburst not deserving of press coverage.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:37 AM on February 26, 2016


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