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What Happened To The Middle School

51tfab4smbl__sl500_aa240_Paul Tough's new book about the Harlem Children's Zone is fantastic over all but mysteriously underplays one of the newsiest elements of the story: what happens to the middle school.  Described in one of the final chapters, this turn of events isn't fully addressed in the book and has also been ignored by the mainstream media (including the New York Times for which Tough works). Toughs' decision not to give greater consideration of what seems like a major issue for HCZ is disturbing, as is the papers' failure to report what was going on at the time it happened (during 2006-2007).   -- John Thompson, Oklahoma City high school teacher.


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For those of us who don't know what actually happened, can you point us to a more complete account?
Steve A

In the autumn of 2006, Bill Clinton spoke at the Harlem’s Children Zone, but the readers of the NYT received no hint that Canada’s all-important middle school experiment was in trouble and that he had rejected the advice of veteran educators, fired the principal and replaced all but seven of the teachers. In January of 2007, Prince Charles visited the Harlem Children’s Zone, but NYT readers got no hint that the experiment in the middle school was on its last legs. In July of 2007, Barack Obama promised to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone in twenty cities, but readers were not told that Canada had pulled the plug on the middle school experiment. Obama is attempting to balance both the Bolder Broader Challenge and the EEP, and the experience of Canada’s middle school may be the single most important piece of the puzzle. It addressed the crucial issue of whether charter schools, being free of the union and using the leverage of NCLB-type accountability, can do more than raise test scores in elementary grades and whether they can produce increases in student performance in the tougher challenge of neighborhood middle and high schools.

I can understand why Tough would want to save this great story for the dramatic conclusion of his wonderful book, but there are additional considerations. Advocates of market-driven, data-driven accountability need time to a) develop functional accountability regimes, and b) figure out solutions for high-poverty neighborhood secondary schools, as opposed to selective schools like KIPP. To do so, they need to emphasize the good news and minimize the bad news.

In my opinion, they have received more than their fair share of help from the editorial decisions of the New York Times.

That's the big story. But here's the smaller story. The middle school couldn't get a handle on discipline, as was recommended by two principals. Canada did not want to suspend chronic discipline problems. (they had identified 29 chronically disruptive students.) They still lost 1/3 of their students through attrition. So its ironic that they shut down the whole experiment of trying to avoid creaming like KIPP does.

I don't blame Canada. Mistakes happen. I don't really blame Tough. My complaint was that the Times didn't see this as a story that was fit to print in a timely manner.

John, where exactly are you getting the false information that KIPP creams? I understand that it's a helpful accusation for those who are interested in insisting that poverty can't be overcome (let's hear it for the status quo! nothing can be done!), but beyond supporting the interests of the ironically named "Broader Bolder" group, there seems to be little evidence of that, except perhaps in a couple of KIPP schools.

What happened to Russo? You alright man?

Hall Monitor

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