February 25, 2009
If you lead a charter school that's about to be closed for poor performance, how do you fight back? Well, you might misrepresent successful schools on the editorial page of your local newspaper. Sounds bizarre that but that's the tactic employed by Michael Mayo, executive director of Uphams Corner Charter in Massachusetts, whose charter has been revoked by the state. He tries to excuse his school's low test scores by taking a swing at paternalistic schools--and David Whitman's characterization of them in Sweating the Small Stuff--in the Boston Globe and wildly misses. According to Mayo, "In some of these schools, students don't speak from the moment they get off the bus until they get back on again" and others order students to "shun" those who are disobedient. We're not sure which schools he may have in mind but he's not describing any of the six profiled by Whitman. KIPP instructs students to talk only to teachers as a disciplinary measure but that's a far cry from Mayo's description. Nor do we suspect that any schools that would actually implement such short-sided strategies would enjoy long-term success. Further, he accuses these paternalistic charters of overdoing "compliance and routine" while sacrificing meaningful "robust relationships," "nurturing boundaries," and "enormous support." We're stumped; can you give us a page number reference, Mr. Mayo? Too bad about your school--and we don't doubt the number of challenges you faced. Boosting student achievement in the face of grinding poverty is no simple thing. But it can be done without turning schools into Mr. Gradgrind's classroom. Read Whitman's book and you'll see what we mean.
"Lessons from a 'failed' charter school," by Michael K. Mayo, Boston Globe, February 22, 2009