As you may recall from just a few days ago, the New York Times obtained and published video of a Success Academy teacher dramatically ripping up a student's work and telling her to do it over. The video and accompanying story went viral.
But the Times wasn't just Internet shaming an individual teacher for her behavior. It was making the case that ripping up student's work was a common practice at Success Academy schools:
“Five of the teachers interviewed… described leaders at multiple Success schools and a Success supervisor in the teacher training program that the network runs with Touro College endorsing the practice of ripping up work if it was deemed not to reflect sufficient effort. The purpose, they said, was to get students’ attention and demonstrate urgency. At some schools, there was even a term for it.” “It was ‘rip and redo’…”
According to that interpretation, teacher Charlotte Dial wasn't just losing her cool at a moment that happened to be caught on video. She was doing what she'd been taught to do. In which case this GIF of teacher Charlotte Dial ripping up a student's work is an illustration of something that someone, somewhere, taught or told her to do:
But is that true? Spoiler alert: nobody knows.
The phrase "rip and redo" is dramatic and memorable. But there's nothing about rip and redo that's easily found on the web -- no course syllabus or materials endorsing the practice. Nobody seems to know, and everyone who might tell us seems not to be aware of or approve of the practice.
At a now-infamous press conference, Success Academy's Eva Moskowitz disavowed rip and redo: "It is not our policy to rip up student work,'" she's quoted as saying. "It is our policy to insist that children re-do. We make no apologies for the need to re-do work when it's not done."
Asked again about the practice a spokesperson from Success responded: “As we have repeatedly said, this practice is not and has never been part of our program.”
But in an email, the folks at Touro also disavowed the practice: "The practices discussed in the [NYT] article are absolutely not part of our curriculum, and Touro neither condones nor approves of them."
The Times says that rip and redo was being taught by Success trainers, and it's not hard to imagine that kind of scenario. After all, school districts and big charter networks can exert tremendous influence over what's taught to its teachers and by whom. In some cases, teacher training providers can be asked to include specific materials or to hire specific instructors as adjuncts.
But Tauro says that's not the case: "Success Academy staff enroll at Touro College on a cohort basis and matriculate in our Graduate Education master’s program. Full time and adjunct Touro faculty deliver our programs. We pay our faculty."
And NCTQ's Sandi Jacobs isn't so clear that Touro would necessarily know what is going on in each and every of its courses, even if it hired all its instructors. "It is generally our sense that it is up to the individual instructor to teach whatever they want," she said in a phone interview.
"I don't know how they would know" whether all its teachers were or weren't teaching rip and redo. "We don't generally see that programs are coordinated in such a way that anyone could say what is going on in an individual course."
So the mystery remains. Someone out there -- a rogue Touro instructor or Success supervisor -- has apparently been teaching "rip and redo" to Success teachers. But both Success and Touro disavow any knowledge of the practice, and the Times doesn't appear to have any concrete evidence that it is as widespread as has been claimed.
A version of this post was originally published at The Grade.