16.12.05

ON THE AIR. The Friday, December 16 Extension 720 will feature Express Messenger Milt Rosenberg interviewing Express Messenger Joanne Jacobs, who will be describing and later taking 'phone calls about Our School, her story of Downtown College Prep, a charter school in San Jose. (The show will be on air 9 pm to 11 pm Central on WGN Radio, 720 on your AM dial, clear channel Everywhere East of the Rockies, or on the WGN website.)

This review gives some sense of what the faculty was getting into.

The staff, young and largely inexperienced, was thrown into the educational equivalent of a boiling cauldron without protective gear. DCP students read far below grade level; educators hoping to teach advanced-placement math found their students didn't understand fractions. It was frustrating.

Moreover, most students didn't understand the process of education. As Jacobs awkwardly writes: "Some hadn't done homework ever."

(Awkwardly? Reads like a proper Milwaukee locution to me.)

Another review pulls no punches about what the school did differently.

"Progressive" educators should not read further unless smelling salts are at hand. Enough "protofascism" (one critic's words) exists in DCP's academic and disciplinary policies to make a touchy-feely educator faint dead away. There is no pretense of the students being at the same level of the teachers, and no condescending sugarcoating of the intensity of the work. Homework is assigned in every class, every day. Students who are still learning English aren't immune from academic probation. English students who haven't done their homework must march "the walk of shame" to update their homework charts in the front of the classrooms. No 11th-grader earns promotion to their senior year without having the GPA and test scores indicating they're eligible for Cal State (for which scholarship funds were raised).

Hoodies are confiscated; rough language is cause for a discipline referral; any student caught with drugs or alcohol is expelled (three strikes applies only in baseball - at DCP, only two referrals are necessary for a disciplinary meeting). One girl gets pregnant her first year; she is allowed to return, but is not allowed to bring the baby on campus for other girls to fuss over, and never mind free daycare. One teacher proudly displays a card, written by a student, that says, "Our teacher makes us suffer." In another classroom hangs an old WWI poster, aflame with images of crashed warplanes: "Consider the Possible Consequences If You Are Careless In Your Work."

You mean setting high expectations and holding students to them ... leads to high performance?
I hope this book's true purpose is to convince truly progressive education reformers to reject the current system and strike out with new charter schools, because that's what it's sure to cause.
Indeed.

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