The report, released January 4, details the observations of investigators from the Office of Charter Schools on six of the city’s charter schools, and its recommendations to the Regents (all of which were followed). The report shows that most of the schools are neglecting basic elements of decent education, yet in no case were they punished for this, or pressured to change their ways.
One thing is clear from this document: the Office of Charter Schools knows what good education looks like, but just doesn’t think poor, black kids need to have it.
Take critical thinking, for example. It’s hard to think of a skill that more people—from CEOs to anti-war activists—would agree is essential to both success and citizenship. Investigators from the Office of Charter Schools found that critical thinking was missing from several schools, none of which were penalized or closed down. One of these was Achievement First Endeavor in Clinton Hill, a middle school that has nonetheless been allowed to expand into elementary school grades (even though the neighborhood already has several decent public elementary schools). At Democracy Prep, a Harlem charter school where students have been acing standardized tests, “few lessons required higher-order thinking skills or deep analysis of concepts.” Yet Democracy Prep’s charter was renewed unconditionally.
Poor kids apparently don’t need to learn how to have an intellectual discussion. Or any kind of discussion, for that matter. At Democracy Prep, the Office of Charter Schools reports,
All class discussions took the form of the teacher asking questions and the students responding. Students were not observed participating in a discussion or responding directly to each other.
Along similar lines, at Achievement First, investigators observed that in some classes students had no opportunity to express their ideas. At International Leadership Charter School in the Bronx, which the Office of Charter Schools characterized as “academically successful,” the investigators nonetheless reported:
Teachers’ questions asked mainly for recall of information…with minimal questions that required explanation. Students’ responses were generally one or two words. In classrooms observed students did not respond to each other’s comments. Students sat in rows and did not interact with each other except for two instances in which students sat in pairs. Students did not discuss or share their ideas…There was no evidence of analysis, evaluation, or providing students with the opportunity to create a new product or defend a point of view.