March 15, 2021

Paul Thomas: The Crumbling Facade of “No Excuses” And Educational Racism

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This week, Chicago’s largest charter chain sent a letter of apology to its alumni. It’s a surprising admission of guilt for a no excuses school:

The email calls the discipline and promotion policies “assimilationist, patriarchal, white supremacist and anti-black,” according to the email sent to alumni on Monday. “We were disguising punishment as accountability and high expectations. We did not fulfill our mission to ALL students,” the email continues.

Paul Thomas, on his Radical Eyes for Equity blog, reflects on the history of “no excuses” charter schools and how they reflect an embedded racism throughout education:

“No excuses” ultimately fails for many reasons—being trapped in “blame the victim” approaches that normalize an unspoken white and affluent standard against which marginalized populations of students are judged, and harmed.

“No excuses” has been compelling because in the U.S. we are prone to seeing all problems as individual and not systemic. But it has also been compelling because education reform has always been tragically drawn to silver-bullet solutions and the shiny mirages seen as “miracles.”

Let me stress here that currently “no excuses” has quite a number of equally racist and flawed practices entrenched all across K-12 schooling: “grit,” growth mindset, word gap, Teach for America, grade retention, and the poverty workshops of Ruby Payne.

The post is, as is typical of Thomas’s work, thorough and thoughtful. You can read the entire post here.

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