‘No-Excuses’ and ‘Progressive’ Schools Are Training New Teachers Very Differently About Race
By now, you’ve probably heard something about the no-excuses charter school movement. It’s the high-discipline model favored by urban charter networks, such as KIPP and Success Academy, that serve high Black and hispanic student populations. Students are often held to exacting discipline and conduct standards, which these schools claim is necessary to achieve the high test scores for which they’ve become known.
By contrast there’s the progressive model made famous by Waldorf and Montessori schools but which has been adapted for a wide range of suburban schools populated by white students. This model takes a page straight from John Dewey. Here, students don’t sit in orderly rows, hands folded on their desks, tracking speakers with their eyes. Instead, their lives at school are much more self-directed and centered on the students as individuals.
Around the country proponents of both models are working hard to train new teachers in their respective pedagogies, through programs known as teacher residencies.
“Teacher residencies are the new reform du jour of teacher education,” explains Victoria Thiesen-Homer, a postdoctoral research fellow at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation, who embedded herself in a no-excuses and a progressive residency school for her new book, “Learning to Connect: Relationships, Race, and Teacher Education.” These programs are modeled on medical residencies and place teachers in practice for an entire year—much longer than pre-service prep programs at traditional colleges of education.
Thiesen-Homer joins us on the EdSurge podcast this week to discuss her research, how residency programs work, the types of teachers they create and how the programs address race and relationships in the classroom.
As Thiesen-Homer explains, teacher residencies are ultimately designed to increase diversity among the teaching force. But at a time when race and relationships are at the forefront of American social, political and education discourse, the approaches to race and relationships varied considerably.
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“It was a really interesting time to be studying this because right before I entered these different programs, Michael Brown and Eric Garner were murdered by police, and this was the foundation of the Black Lives Matter Movement,” says Thiesen-Homer.
“When I entered these programs I got to see how they were responding to this very real social reckoning around race and society. The no-excuses program chose to ignore this comment on society. One of their primary goals was to prepare students to navigate existing society, and the school structure mimicked that without questioning it.”
“The progressive program approached race in an exploratory way. They said, ‘Let’s talk about race and racism and privilege and police brutality and what’s going on in society right now. Let’s analyze the causes of racism.’ They became more aware of what’s going on, and they became more critical of dominant culture. But they were not given any tools for how to act on this or how to adequately serve students of color. The end results was that [teacher] residents felt they wanted to become change agents, but as one resident told me, they didn’t know how to do so.”
For the full conversation, listen to the audio version on the EdSurge Podcast.