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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'No excuses' model rebounds: 'A lot of anti-racist practices don't work'

"No excuses" charters that relaxed discipline rules and expectations in the name of "anti-racism" saw achievement fall sharply, reports Vince Bielski on Real Clear Investigations.


KIPP DC student

KIPP, the biggest charter network in the country with 275 schools, "buckled under the pressure from progressive staffers, alums, and advocates to drop their No Excuses practices," he writes. In 2020, co-founder David Levin  issued apologized in a public letter for discipline practices that “perpetuated white supremacy and anti-Blackness.”


KIPP dropped “Work Hard, Be Nice” as its slogan, because critics said it bolstered "a myth that hard work leads to success even in the face of racism."


KIPP DC had been an "academic powerhouse," outperforming district-run schools in math and English, writes Bielski. Last year, KIPP DC trailed far behind the district, with only 13% proficiency in math and 18% in English.


Anaka Osborne, who is black and Filipino, quit as a teacher when standards were lowered. “Students were making minimal effort and were passed along,” she said.


“When schools lower the bar for black and Latino students, that in itself is racist.”

Achievement First, a network of 41 schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, "outperformed the public schools in their three states by double-digit margins" in 2019, writes Bielski.


Achievement First students

But the network adopted an anti-racist agenda, and decided test scores would be a lower priority than social and emotional learning. Scores plunged.


Network leaders replaced the discipline system with "restorative justice" practices, a former senior leader said. “Students can basically do whatever they want, and nothing really happens to them,” said the source, who resigned because he opposed the changes. “The less experienced teachers have seen their classrooms descend into chaos.”


“Well-intended educators embraced a lot of antiracist practices that don’t work,” says Sue Walsh, a former school leader turned consultant. “And a goodly number of them are rethinking those moves and coming back to No Excuses.”


Some charter networks have stuck with No Excuses, but "evolved," writes Bielski.


Ascend Learning took to heart criticisms that no-excuses students aren't prepared to be independent learners in college, its former CEO Steven Wilson said. The network made changes to give students more “agency and voice,” relaxing supervision starting in middle school but keeping high expectations.


In Columbus, Ohio, three United charters outperformed the public schools in their neighborhood on state tests by at least 20 percentage points, an enormous gap," in 2019, writes Bielski. Despite "tough pandemic times, two of the United schools widened their lead" by 2023.


“We outscored them because we work hard and stuck with our mission of high expectations even though it is not super popular,” says Diana Wakim, chief advancement officer at United.


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17 Comments


Mike Armand
Mike Armand
Jun 13

Charter schools get to cherry pick their students, and if they don't perform kick them out. Public schools don't have that option

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Joanne Jacobs
Joanne Jacobs
Jun 14
Replying to

That's why I mentioned it. But, nationwide, charters predominantly serve lower-income black and Hispanic students: 70% vs. 53% for district schools. All schools of choice serve students whose parents made an active choice to select a school, so they are advantaged in that way.


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superdestroyer
Jun 12

Charter schools learn the lesson that every other school learns: One can have high standards along with high failure/drop out rates or or one can have lower standards with higher success rates. However, one cannot have both. Charter have not magic method that can achieve high success along with high standards no matter how many advocates claim so.

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superdestroyer
Jun 17
Replying to

Of course one is going to keep up the insults because that is the only response. No one looks clever by nitpicking others without provide assertations let alone evidence.


And one only has to look as far as KIPP to see the charter who claim to have the secret formula. One of the first questions that should always be asked when it comes to education is "does it scale?" Almost all ideas on education reform from charter, to school choice to homeschooling fall apart on scale.

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Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
Jun 12

Wow, no way. Next thing you'll hear is that communities are safer with fully funded and supported public safety. Oh well, boujie white liberals have since moved on to "Free Palestine!" as the next thing they can pretend to care about. Hey what's a trail of crime casualties and deeper failure in mostly poor urban communities if that's the price the good affluent white people need to feel good about themselves. Time for another lawn sign!

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m_t_anderson
Jun 12

Anti-racism is very much like racism. But lemon fresh!

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