With few exceptions, the curriculum was characterized by a narrow interpretation of state standards at the expense of all other material. Students rarely learned local history or current events. Instead, science and social studies were relegated to ancillary classes in the elementary school and reduced to the accumulation of vocabulary and lists of facts at the middle school. Teachers stopped introducing new material a month prior to state assessments in order to begin review.
This curriculum was delivered almost exclusively through direct instruction — what TFA corps members refer to as the “five step lesson plan,” and educator and philosopher Paulo Freire calls “banking education,” wherein students are treated as passive and empty receptacles into which information can be deposited. In nearly every lesson Sondel observed, teachers stood in front of students to introduce new content or an isolated skill, after which students were asked to parrot, practice, and then perform their newly acquired knowledge on worksheets and multiple-choice assessments. There were no student debates, projects, or science experiments.
In a literacy lesson, for example, a teacher started by reviewing the definitions of figurative language. The teacher then projected on the Smartboard sentence after sentence, poem after poem, and, finally, a short story while students raised their hands and waited to be called on to identify idioms, similes, and personification.
After this series of questions and answers, the students sat silently at their desks, read four short passages, and identified figurative language on multiple-choice questions. The students were not asked to read the poem, analyze the story, or discuss the purpose of metaphors. After the lesson, upon being asked if students practice this skill in their independent reading or writing activities, the teacher responded, “You know the problem with that is then they have a difficult time identifying metaphors on the test.”
Via Jacobin. The description of “charterization” after Katrina in the far more even-handed Between Private and Public still provides an insidious subtext to the move in New Orleans, which, as the book notes, was in motion before Katrina and merely used the disaster as an opportunity to launch charterization at a city-wide social experiment level.
Still, I’m skeptical that the pedagogy described here is really all that different from how many schools — public or charter — operate. I’ve seen comparable lessons in most schools I’ve ever visited, especially “in the month before the test,” which is a lost month for what I assume are the majority of public and charter schools.
The SLANT model and, more importantly, the more extreme behavioral control at these charters is something that does seem unique to (some) charter systems, though, and these practices should be seen as nothing less than cruel and unusual punishment in most cases. Using writing as punishment is something that sends me into total apoplexy, while bathroom-based “classroom management” simply triggers my “there oughta be a law” reflex.