Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Moskowitz Academy to Parents--Miss Work or We Kick Your Kid Out

All the details, of course are over at Chalkbeat, which might as well be called Moskowitz Minute by Minute. Can you imagine saying such a thing to a parent? Yet Eva Moskowitz has no problem with it. Come in on June 5th or we assume you aren't coming next year.

June 5th was a Tuesday this year, and a working day for a whole lot of New Yorkers. I guess, though, if I were one of the few parents who slogged through Moskowitz Academy all the way to high school, I must have felt it was important. I mean, it would take a lot for me to leave my kid, for years, in a program where test prep was more important than bathroom breaks.

That's ironic, because of so much talk about college and career readiness. The United States lags well behind most non-third-world countries in terms of basic human decency, but OSHA has particular rules about bathroom breaks. (If you run into Donald Trump, please don't let him know this.) Unlike Moskowitz Academies, employers have to have bathrooms available, and they have to allow employees to use them. Moskowitz Academies, were they public schools, would be in violation of chancellor's regulations. Of course, were they workplaces, they'd be in violation of OSHA rules. Then there's that whole human decency thing, but they seem not to place much of a premium on that.

Nowhere is that more evident than in this compulsory meeting thing. In one of the crappy corporate charter films, charters that deny basic human needs are presented as Superman. You know, we public school teachers suck, and all we care about is ourselves and our luxurious 89 Honda Accords. But charters are here to save all the underprivileged people who can't afford private schools, you know, the ones Bloomberg sends his kids to so they don't have to mix elbows with the people he claims to care about.

Now here's the thing--in New York State, unless you've got a contract that says otherwise, you're an at-will employee. If you, and/ or your spouse, work a minimum wage job at Taco Bell, you could be fired for missing a day. Like Eva's charter school teachers, low-wage employees are pretty much disposable and replaceable. So it's entirely conceivable you could be faced with either losing your child's place in the Moskowitz Academy or losing your job. There's a choice no working parent ought to face. But there are no excuses in the Moskowitz Academy. (Unless, of course, you happen to be Moskowitz.)

Evidently her high school is a mess. It turns out that high school kids do not respond well to minute enforcement of petty rules. You can imagine how shocked I must be, having taught high school kids for only the last few decades. I may, in fact, re-examine my policy of making rules for no good reason and either leaving back or expelling students who fail to follow them.

“What if I have all As? Are you going to hold me back because I’m wearing the wrong shoes?” a student asked, according to a video of the sit-in reviewed by Chalkbeat.

Those are tough questions. I've been teaching 34 years and I have never heard questions like that. You know why? Because I do not, in fact, make rules for no good reason. I don't hand out a page of rules on the first day, even if my department has one all printed and ready to go. I have one rule, which I explain as best I can to my ELLs:

We will treat one another with respect.

That's pretty much it. I'm not going to ridicule you if you didn't do your homework. I'm not going to fail you if you understand the material having missed a bunch of it, likely as not because your grandma makes you get up at 2 AM to help her deliver Newsday. I'm not going to make fun of how you dress. Evidently the principal of Eva's high school made the egregious error of moving in that direction:

Malone’s strategy was to offer more freedom than was typical in the network’s lower grades. Some Advanced Placement classes pushed students to complete research papers, not focus purely on test preparation, former teachers said. Students recalled he allowed them to wear colorful headscarves featuring African prints, even if they weren’t technically in line with the network’s dress code.

Oh my gosh it's the end of Western Civilization! Fear not. Eva dumped his ass. No idea whether he still works for Moskowitz Academies, but there will be no more of that nonsense in Eva's high school. The rationale is that in college no one will tell you what to do. Therefore you will be micro-managed throughout your high school career. Somehow, by being entirely dependent upon carrots and mostly sticks throughout Moskowitz Academy, you will be magically 100% self-sufficient by the time you hit college. Do you see how that works? Me neither.

Even by reformy Chalkbeat's account, the very few students who made it all the way through the Moskowitz Academies had a really hard time. Does that mean they're rethinking the high school program? Does it mean they're gonna tone down the bullying that seems to work so well on 6-year-olds?

“I could have said, look, I’m going to throw in the towel,” Moskowitz told them, adding, “I didn’t abandon you. I’m here.”

Nope. No excuses. She fired the principal, but she's here, making almost a million dollars a year for whatever this thing is she does. What incredible dedication it must take to lavishly compensate yourself while punishing others for whatever goes wrong. I guess if we're preparing our kids to be minimum wage Walmart associates this is a good program. If we really want self-driven, independent thinkers, this is the last program we should place our children in. There's a reason why 80% of those who begin don't make it through this program. 

I'm not sure why a 20% success rate is anything to brag about, particularly when they're looking to leave back even more students for missing a few homework assignments. But hey, I exclusively teach kids Moskowitz wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, so I guess I must be part of the problem.
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