Can there be an excuse to block a Milwaukee ‘no excuses’ school?

Alan Borsuk:

Don’t want excuses about why things aren’t going better on Milwaukee’s education scene? Well, meet the people who don’t want schools that demand no excuses.

A significant number of the latter are on the Milwaukee School Board. How significant the number is will become clear in coming months.

But it looks like they make up a growing force in deciding what kind of change there will be (or not be).

One of the interesting questions raised by School Board actions in the last two weeks is whether resisting a proposal to open a school will have an impact on Republican legislators in Madison who are considering ideas for taking some power, some schools, or both away from the board.

First, let’s describe “no excuses.” That is a label applied, sometimes in praise, sometimes in criticism, to schools nationwide that pursue ambitious goals with highly structured and strong (sometimes very) discipline. They strongly push, even down to kindergarten, a message that every student, most of them low-income minority kids, will get a college degree.

Basically, the schools stand for accepting no excuses for kids not succeeding. That includes downplaying or dismissing poverty as an explanation for low success rates.

In many instances, the “no excuses” schools have had notably higher rates of graduation and better test scores than nearby conventional schools. But in places such as New Orleans, there has been a lot of blowback against schools that are too demanding and too strict on discipline. Some schools have moderated their practices.