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Brooklyn Ascend Brought to Earth by Former Teacher, Part 1

Ohanian Comment: OK, so most everything I post now is "Outrage of the Day." That's because assaults on public schools--on the teachers and parents in those schools--have escalated so much--and there are so many of them--I don't have time to post lesser outrages.

Note who praised Learning on the Job: When Business Takes On Public Schools :

Steven Wilson spent years developing a business model that aimed to overcome the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of urban public schools, and finally launched a company to run charter schools under contract. Sobered but still hopeful, he here gives a fascinating account of how his model, and that of six other private education organizations, have worked so far, and analyzes what they can do in the future to improve public education.
--Nathan Glazer, author of We Are All Multiculturalists Now (20060210)

Sage yet passionate, battle-scarred but optimistic, Steven Wilson has produced a magisterial appraisal of America's early experience with the privatizing, outsourcing, and reinventing of public education. This illuminating book offers a much-needed and timely set of lessons, challenges, and opportunities.
--Chester E. Finn Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Education

Learning on the Job is a fair-minded, thoughtful, and deeply informed analysis of private education management organizations, which are assuming an increasingly important role in American public education. Steven Wilson has emerged from the trenches to give a balanced and perceptive critique of their promise--and their problems too.
--Diane Ravitch, author of Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform

By 2005 only 240,000 of America's 60 million school children attended public schools run by education management organizations. Few, if any, of those organizations were yet in profit and the educational gains their schools had made were bitterly contested. In Learning on the Job, Steven Wilson offers us a timely and convincing analysis of why this happened...There are real insights here, not just into the short-termism of entrepreneurial interest but also into the structural weaknesses of American public education. His book is enjoyable, clear, and fair-minded: on any basis, a major contribution to an important debate.
--Michael Duffy (Times Educational Supplement )

Refrain[s] from cant and puffery...[Wilson has] much good advice for others who might want to try starting their own schools.
--Jay Mathews (Washington Post )

[A] lucid and engaging analysis...[Wilson] proves to be a perceptive analyst of the industry. (Education Next )

In the book, Finn, Glazer, and Ravitch are acknowledged as "friends and colleagues who have taken the trouble to help me think through portions of the book or comment on early versions of the manuscript."

Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion is promoted by:
"Doug Lemov knows that teachers can create powerful learning environments that will help all students make dramatic progress. With Teach Like A Champion, teachers across the country will be better prepared to wake up on Monday morning and help their students climb the mountain to college. This book provides more evidence that highly effective teaching is learnable--that many more teachers can draw from the tactics of their most successful colleagues in order to realize educational equity." -WENDY KOPP, chief executive officer and founder of Teach For America

"Every teacher should own at least two copies of Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion. One for home and one for school, so that they are never far from the roadmap to excellence that lies within. Lemov pulls back the curtain to reveal that the apparent wizardry of the most successful teachers is really a collection of clearly explainable and learnable techniques. This will certainly be one of the most influential and helpful books that any teacher ever owns."-DAVID LEVIN, co-founder of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program)

"Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion is a breakthrough book that is both visionary and comprehensive. If you are a teacher who wants to increase the academic success of your students, you should read this book. If you are an administrator with the same goal, you must get this book into the hands of your teachers!" --LEE CANTER, author of Assertive Discipline

"Doug Lemov has captured in one place the specific, practical techniques used by the best teachers in some of our country's best urban schools. Any teacher, principal, or policymaker who is interested in what it takes on a classroom level to close the achievement gap should read this book." --DACIA TOLL, co-chief executive officer of Achievement First

Below is from Jim Horn's excellent blog at Schools Matter. NOTE: Thinking Sue Welch from Building Excellent Teachers was more likely Sue Walsh from Building Excellent Schools, this is who I provided hot links for (below). Here is their Board of Directors.

Curriculum: SABIS is the curriculum used by Ascend schools. "It is a highly structured curriculum that covers a broad range of subjects which lead step-by-step from kindergarten to 12th grade with the goal of preparing children to take four to five Advanced Placement classes."

Increasingly, this kind of child abuse is hard to read. I can't imagine living it.

Everyone who knows anything knows that KIPP can only remain a billionaire's choice boutique option for segregating urban children who are desperate enough that they will forego their childhood and suffer years of repeated indignities for a chance at an education, which amounts to a miseducation built upon unceasing test prep and a behavioral catechism more suitable for a penitentiary than a school.

Unfortunately, the total compliance and total surveillance model of KIPP has inspired a number of high-flying knock-offs like Brooklyn Ascend and its two sister schools in Brooklyn, which use the familiar chain gang methods to denigrate, demean, and destroy the spirits of kids, all in the twisted and debased name of equal opportunity for children who are captive to poverty. Social justice in blackface is the only adequate way to describe this caricature of equal education.

Little do parents know what goes in these corporate madrassa hellholes, and little did anyone else know until a former teacher stepped forward to call a spade a spade. Her name is Emily Kennedy, and it wasn't until she read the "tremendously disturbing" book by Ascend's founder, Stephen Wilson, entitled "Learning on the Job: When Business Takes on Public Education," that her unsettled feeling about the goings-on at Brooklyn Ascend began to come into sharp focus. In Emily's initial email to me, she said that "my experience at Brooklyn Ascend has been nothing less than depressing, demoralizing, and at times even shockingly upsetting."

As we were arranging an interview, she sent me this email with some of those disturbing details as her year at Brooklyn Ascend was winding up.

by Emily Kennedy

Just so you know a little bit more about what I have experienced at Brooklyn Ascend, here are some highlights from my year:

In December, after giving our third graders a mock exam and realizing that their test scores were not looking very good, our administrators decided to do a third-grade "restart," in which they rearranged the classes and schedules so that the lowest performing "scholars" were all in one class (my class). [Emily was hired as special needs teacher.]

Third grade teachers were required to return to work over Christmas break (including New Years Eve) for special "training" in "Teach Like a Champion" techniques [the book by Doug Lemov that has replaced teacher preparation and professional development in these chain gangs: Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College]. During this training, a lady named Sue Walsh from Building Excellent Teachers instructed us on what our first day back with the kids would look like: four hours (8-12pm) of teaching nothing but procedures. When I asked if perhaps we should do something to make it at least a little more "fun," she told me that fun was absolutely not an "appropriate objective."

In order to boost test scores, science, social studies, and Spanish were removed from the schedule of the low-performing group. Instead, we were required to teach an additional reading and math block during this time.

Scholars [the word that has replaced children] in the low-performing group were required to attend after-school-tutoring sessions for more test prep. So, after going to school from 7:30 to 4:30, they needed to stay an extra hour for more test prep - in addition to completing the hour of homework that we are required to give each night. (8 year olds!!) Needless to say, I had many kids falling asleep in class and having frequent stomach aches. Our school director -- a TFA grad -- thought that if we brought more of the "j-factor" to our classroom (joy factor) that they would be more motivated. To him and other Doug Lemov zealots, this means doing cheers like "Pick of your pencil and YOU WILL BE REWARDED!" in between long independent work sessions. . . .

Small-group guided reading (when we were once able to choose books that the kids would really enjoy) was replaced with small-group test-preparation sessions, where teachers were given scripted lessons and packets that mimic the reading comprehension portion of the New York State test.

All lessons from February break onward were based on specific skills that our "data analyst" determined for us by looking at results from the mock exams.

During the testing weeks, we had "pep-rallies" each morning in which they kids had to do chants about how they were going to ace the tests.

I could go on. I am so angry that this is what our country is allowing education to become.

— Emily Kennedy, with extra documentation by Horn & Ohanian
Schools Matter blog





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