Second, it is worth exploring why so many public schools in the big cities have been unable to establish a clear, fair, and functional discipline and behavior policy. Is it because of long-forgotten court orders? Have public schools become so wrapped up in procedural rights and processes that they can't provide an orderly environment for learning? Deborah, you recall as I do the claims made in the 1960s and 1970s that it was "white imperialism" to impose middle-class values on poor and minority children. Now there is a growing movement to do exactly that. My own view is that schools are by definition middle-class. If they are good schools, they teach the knowledge, skills, and behavior that one needs to function well in work, in higher education, and in life. So, there is a common-sense element to the "no excuses" mantra.
If we're going to engage with what's really going on in "no excuses" school reform, we must have this conversation. In my experience the vast majority of teachers, parents and administrators in urban middle schools would like to have consistent and fairly strict discipline and don't shy away from external motivation. They're not a bunch of hippies, but they clearly feel constrained in various ways. But I can't say exactly what the problems are, why charters apparently aren't bound by them, and what reasonable changes might be made to bring some of these benefits to neighborhood schools (which isn't to say that strict is the only way to run a school).