The Eduttante’s Balls

Eduttante: /ˌedjuˈtänt/
A shill or paid spokesperson advocating strict no-excuses charters for the urban communities in which he or she does not live. Related terms: educolonialist, whiteousness.

Today we meet a new character in our fast-paced edu-drama: the eduttante. This individual is among the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the academies of excellence and innovation that are rapidly setting up shop in our urban centers. Often paid for his efforts (and rather well at that), the eduttante is a fierce devotee of military-style ‘no excuses’ charter schools—as long as they are for other people’s children. The eduttante’s own spawn seem to thrive in a somewhat, ahem, less restrictive environment. 

But where can we meet this fast-talking, quick-stepping lover of rigor and outstandingness? Reader: I invite you to accompany me on a quick trip to Massachusetts, USA, where the eduttantes are out in force, engaged in the annual ‘Liftin’ O the Cap’ dance. Newly fattened with an infusion of Walmart $$$ (signified with this helpful w), the good men—and they do seem to be mostly men—of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Associationw and the Pioneer Institutew are in full flight, finding new ways to remind us every day that in Massachusetts “chahter” rhymes with “smahter.”

The ‘e’ is for excellence
No schools inspire greater reverence among the eduttante set than the Edward Brooke chartersw, a rapidly expanding mini empire with lots of excellence, plenty of expectations and absolutely no excuses. In other words, it is just the sort of school where the eduttante would send his children were he to send his children to a militarized test prep academy where eye rolling and teeth sucking (teeth sucking???) will earn you an immediate community violation. But of course he never does. Barry Finegold, the Massachusetts State Senator who co-sponsored legislation that would raise the cap on the number of urban charters, is rumored to send his own children to the pricey, private and standardized-test free Pike School in Andover.

Fracking for excellence
The eduttante understands, however, that the fierce urgency of readying students for college readiness requires any means necessary. We might think of Brooke’s hyper-disciplinary culture and 25% suspension rate as the equivalent of “fracking”: unpleasant when viewed close up, but necessary to tap the layer of high test scores trapped within. In fact, eduttante Jim Stergios, chief of the libertarian Pioneer Institutew, ‘gets’ that libertarianism has no place in a world where excellence literally hangs in the balance. Along with plenty of test-prep, students at a Brookes school enjoy a heaping helping of what Andrew Hartman calls “the pedagogy of surveillance.” Personal liberty, whateva!

The above chart, by the way, comes from the Edward Brookes student handbook. Of its 80 pages, 3/4 are devoted to either test scores or disciplinary infractions and their consequences. As the eduttante knows, however, extreme measures and excellence go hand in hand. Brother Stergios: the eduttante’s balls are in your court—take it away!

@edushyster reading at grade level, college readiness = not talking points. They’re the central question.#GetOutOfTheWay

— Jim Stergios (@JimStergios)February 16, 2013


Get out of the way indeed…

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  1. Kudos to the EduShyster premium reader who pointed out that the ritzy test-free Pike school and the tough love, no excuses Edward Brooke charter school may have something in common after all: diversity. There is one African American staff member at Pike; Edward Brookes has 2 among its 58 teachers.

  2. Have you ever been to the schools you bash so freely? What do you offer as solutions to the fact that about 7% of low income kids graduate from college? Clearly you think charter schools are akin to Satan, but what should the educational community do to change?

    1. Math teacher! I’ve missed you… Alas, I fear that you are onto me–the gig is up. You’ve sniffed out the fact that I am a defender of the status quo, adult interests and low expectations. Except that I am not any of those things. My position is clear: I am a fan of schools and programs that do a lot for all students instead of a little for a few. Whenever I hear about a miracle school, one achieving miraculous results with the exact same students that our union-stifled public schools are failing, I do a little data digging. College graduation rates happens to be one of my favorite subjects. I don’t seem to be able to find a single college-prep academy, in Massachusetts or elsewhere, that can provide data on the success rates of the students they’ve prepared for college. In fact, my data digging indicates that students at MATCH and City on a Hill in Boston are actually LESS prepared for college than graduates of the Boston Public Schools. I don’t think charter schools are akin to Satan (I don’t think s/he would do well at all in the ‘no excuses’ culture. But I do think that the relentless overhyping of these schools does parents and kids a disservice. Ps: If you’d like to write something for my blog write to me at I love company!

      1. So I’m curious, what are you FOR? It’s pretty plain what you’re against. Which schools in the Boston area are your favorites?

        For the record, I teach at Brooke Roslindale (and have for the past 6 years). I would send my two girls there in an instant (though the odds are slim that they’ll get in off the lottery); it is way more likely that they’ll go to a local Boston Public School in Roslindale (where I also live).

        I’d welcome you to visit my classroom any time, any day. Last year, a group of math teachers from the Rogers Middle School (BPS) visited us. One of the teachers wore his BTU shirt to the school. Not sure if that was a recruitment effort or an unsubtle dig at us non-unionized teachers. In any case, by the end of the day, he was working with one of my students, telling me how he his preconceived notions about our school (militant, test-prep-y, you name it) were wrong and how he was going to try to bring ideas back to his administration. This year, his principal has been recruiting our teachers to help out at their school over April break.

        The thing is, when teachers on both sides of the fence get together and actually see what’s going on behind the walls, there is way more in common that either side would believe based on the snark spewed in both directions. And my belief is that it really comes from the same place – teachers in district and charter schools really want what’s best for their students and work hard at that every day.

        I just wish folks like you and Jim Horn over at schoolsmatter would stop spewing vitriol for 5 minutes and actually step foot inside one of the school that you attack. If you still think it’s hell, so be it,

        1. Mathteacher, I’m sure your school is fantastic.
          Just so I’m clear: the students at your school are chosen by lottery, right?
          Is it an involuntary “lottery” like the draft in Vietnam?
          Or is it voluntary–meaning parents sign up to be in the lottery?
          I’m just asking because I know that if my school were filled with kids who actually signed up to win a spot there, I bet I could do all sorts of wonderful things.

          Your school might be thriving, but it is doing so at the expense of the public schools and the unlucky kids who didn’t win the lottery. Way to go.

          Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.

          1. Cupcake,

            My school IS a public school, just not a district school.

            Do you spend time attacking district schools like Boston Latin (exam/grade based) or Boston Arts Academy (portfolio/audition based) as destroying your school. What about the Kilmer (where a disproportionate number of kids are not free/reduced lunch and White)? Or the Hernandez or Mission Hill or Fenway (also lottery based, like, oh yeah, most schools in BPS)? If not, you should set aside some time to do that.

            Currently most of our students start in K2, so I doubt they’re all amped up to get a spot in our school. Some don’t know how to hold a book the right way or tie their shoes when they arrive.

            When we used to start in 5th grade, I bet you could count one hand how many of the students “chose” the school. They didn’t want to face the homework (they actually had to do), the longer day (they actually had to attend), the uniform (that was going to be enforced), and the rules (they didn’t think they had to follow). Most were pissed that their parents chose the school…

            …and why did the parents choose the school? Mainly, because they were unhappy with what they were getting in the district. Or, they saw our school as a better alternative. Not sure how that’s our fault.

            Oh, and those unlucky kids who didn’t win the lottery? Yeah…that’s why we’re trying to open more schools. To give parents who want their kids to go to a school like ours the chance to do that.

          2. Whatever, Mathteacher.
            You teach at a charter.
            All the wonderful things you think you are accomplishing are not your doing; they are made possible by the engaged parents who fill out the lottery application.
            Sort of like a private school…only using public funds and excluding thousands of children whose parents pay into those funds.

  3. Cupcake, sorry, what was I thinking. I forgot – the kids just teach themselves, are inherently motivated, never step out of line, and bring me apples every day, and they can do that because their parents filled out a piece of paper. Don’t judge what you haven’t seen…

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