What Is the Agenda?: More Propaganda without Evidence

Yet more public relations propaganda about Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood from the Post and Courier—this time with a little extra ugliness not-so-subtly framing the article.

The “no excuses” charter school playbook is in full force as the article opens by focusing on the school’s selection process for teachers: you see, the real problem with schools is teachers who don’t care, who don’t try, and who embody the soft bigotry of low expectations:

“You’d think that those would be pretty simple questions,” Campbell said. “If you’re in education, you should assume that all kids can learn. But there’s a lot of implicit bias in teachers that we’ve found (toward) kids in poverty, kids of color.”

Trigger: “bad” teacher myth.

And then, while suggesting teachers are too often racists, the racism inherent in these sorts of takeover strategies is slipped in; you see, the other problem is poor black children need to be trained:

Brentwood’s high standards start with behavior. Campbell said teachers instruct students in how to walk in the halls, how to act in the cafeteria and even how to sharpen a pencil.

“They get four lessons on the playground before they’re allowed to touch any equipment,” Campbell said.

Trigger: “grit” narrative.

But all this is old hat—the nasty “grit” and “no excuses” model—and the real ugliness is saved for the end:

Founder and CEO of Meeting Street Schools Ben Navarro also addressed some concerns raised by education activists, who have been unsuccessfully filing Freedom of Information Act requests with the district to see all of the funding sources at Brentwood. They have also objected to the school’s special waivers from South Carolina’s teacher employment protection laws. He said his school had more oversight than most others, as Postlewait sits on Brentwood’s executive committee.

“What is the agenda of people doing the attacking? Is it about adults?” Navarro said.

That’s right, lazy bigoted teachers, poor black children in need of character training, and education activists with agendas—that’s what wrong with public education and serving high-poverty minority children.

Actually, methinks he doth protest too much.

If there is an agenda, we should suspect it is with those who haven’t provided the data.

The article gives a hint that Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood is making its grand claims of unusual success based on MAP scores—but there is no way to confirm if those claims and that data are really about anything exceptional.

The real story here is buried in the middle of the article:

Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood also offers what Campbell calls “wraparound services,” including a full-time speech therapist and a behavior interventionist. To maintain a racially diverse teaching staff, Meeting Street recruits teachers at historically black colleges and universities.

Part of the Meeting Street strategy also has to do with money. At Brentwood, Meeting Street Schools currently pitches in about $4,000 per student on top of the district’s $9,900 in per-pupil funding. The district’s partnership with Meeting Street Schools will reach a “sunset” after Burns and Brentwood have both expanded to the fifth grade, at which point the district will have to figure out how to fund the programs itself.

As I have been documenting [1], we know that money makes a difference when addressing high-poverty populations of students, we know that “miracle” schools almost always prove to be mirages, we know that charter schools who claim success usually benefit from student attrition and underserving high-needs populations (ELL and special needs students), and we know that small-scale success may be impossible to scale to all public schools.

What we don’t know is how or if any of this is relevant about Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood.

What we do know is that a lot of press release propaganda continues to roll out while the data that would settle the issue do not.

If “What is the agenda?” is good for educational advocates, it is certainly essential for those positioned to benefit from big claims and hedging on allowing third-party examinations of the full body of evidence.


[1] Don’t Trust Invested Advocates in Edureform WarsQuestions for the P&C about School Closure, TakeoverMore Questions for The Post and Courier: “Necessary Data” or Press-Release Journalism?

One comment

  1. voicesforthevoicelesscoregroup

    How can all children score above the 75th percentile! There either gaming the test or the test is not a valid assessment. Will these kids hold these percentiles as they move to higher grade?

    Maybe it’s magic pixie dust. Where can I buy some for the kids I teach?

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