The discipline fix

By Tom Quiner

Two sets of school systems.

A tepid 20% of the students in System One are able to pass their state’s math tests.

A robust 95% of the students in System Two are able to pass the same tests.

Which system works best? It is self-evident: System Two.

Which system does Hillary Clinton support? System One.

Why? Because the teacher’s union opposes System Two, which is the charter school approach, which frees educators from the bureaucracy and union work rules which degrades our kids’ educations.

Ms. Clinton used to support charter schools. She reneged in order to get the endorsement of a powerful teachers union.

The results stated above for ‘System Two’ refer to Success Academy Charter Schools, New York City’s largest network of free charter schools.

What is the secret to their approach? After all, they aren’t cherry-picking their students. The lucky students attending their schools are there by the luck of a lottery.

So how do they do it? Discipline.

Freed from the bureaucracy, freed from the smothering union strictures that can force principals to hire teachers they’ve never even interviewed, charter schools can discipline like teachers use to do it in the olden days.

The founder and CEO of Success, Eva Moskowitz, said their approach isn’t rocket science. Writing in the Wall Street Journal this morning, she said it all boils down to some simple techniques she learned from a teacher named Paul Fucaloro, who taught in New York public schools for four decades:

√ “Paul’s students had to sit with hands clasped and look at whomever was speaking (called “tracking”).

√ They couldn’t stare off into space, play with objects, rest their head on their hands in boredom, or act like what Paul called “sourpusses” who brought an attitude of negativity or indifference to the classroom. Paul made students demonstrate to him that at every single moment they were focused on learning.

√ He also had more sophisticated techniques. He’d call on students randomly rather than ask for hands, so students had to prepare an answer for every question he asked.

√ He made students repeat or comment on what their classmates said to make them listen carefully to one another.

√ And he’d never repeat what a child said, as most teachers do, because—besides wasting precious time—it suggested to students that they didn’t have to listen to one another, only to the teacher.”

Union politics are especially hardball in New York, as you can see in the video report above on this subject. It is a local and a state issue in New York, and Clinton is nationalizing the issue.

She explained her newly discovered criticism for charter schools:

“Most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation. … For many years now” Clinton has “supported the idea of charter schools,” though “not as a substitute for the public schools.”

For the record, charter schools ARE public schools, but they are competition for union-led schools who underachieve when compared to their liberated peers in the charter system.

Charter schools serve more kids in poverty than even public schools, according to Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. As for the Success Academy, Ms. Moskowitz’s schools have a lower attrition rate than the non-charter schools in the district. For the record, Moskowitz is a lifelong Democrat.

Hillary Clinton isn’t the first candidate to put politics ahead of integrity; expediency ahead of effectiveness; or power ahead of the most vulnerable in our society.

In light of compelling data in support of charter schools, a Hillary Clinton presidency would be another setback for our kids.





  1. Tom Maly on November 13, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Read the article by Ms. Moskowitz in the WSJ this A.M. POWERFUL article. kudos to Ms. Moskowitz for buying this approach and providing hope to many children by sticking to it. Thank you for highlighting it today!

    • quinersdiner on November 13, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      What is encouraging is knowing that there are solutions that can help the needy. What is discouraging is the Democratic Party puts the powerful ahead of the needy.

  2. Lori on November 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    I taught for a charter school for 6 years. Despite being the state’s largest public school, local schools and teachers acted like they didn’t know we existed. We were not union supported.

    We certainly DID take students from varied backgrounds and were not allowed to “cherry pick”. Our school was Title 1 funded and most students qualified for free or reduced lunch. And I have no data to support this claim, but we believed that many local public schools tried to encourage their special education students to come to us, thereby reducing the number of services they would need to provide, as well dropping those test scores from their averages.

    Like all schools, there were wonderful things and negative things about my school. Some of the “positive” examples you cite in your post above are not things I would want for my own children (sitting with hands folded on a desk all day is not an ideal vision I have for young children).

    However, one belief I hold strongly as a certified teacher and a homeschooling mom, is that parents and students deserve school choice. No school should be threatened, but encouraged, by the success of another. We should collectively stand and cheer when we hear success stories about children.

    There are parents who do not have many options for school choice. Charter schools provide options.

    The day that anyone takes my parental freedom away is the day I will become an expat. Parents, not politicians, will go to the ends of the earth to do what is best for their kids. Competition in the marketplace is part of the American way. It should be no different for schools.

    • quinersdiner on November 13, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Powerfully stated, Lori. Thanks for weighing in.