Chalkbeat NYC highlights Ascend’s culture in article exploring shift from No Excuses discipline

By Kay Moffett April 19, 2016

Ascend was featured prominently in a March 7, 2016 Chalkbeat NYC article about charter school networks rethinking the No  Excuses approach to discipline. Ascend’s Chief Executive Officer Steven Wilson explained that the network has “moved sharply away from a zero tolerance discipline approach,” believing that “a warm and supportive environment produces the greatest long-term social effects.”

The article notes the origins of the No Excuses discipline philosophy in the charter sector as a reaction against chaotic urban school environments that impede academic progress. Many charter networks adopted a highly structured, rule-based culture to provide students a calm, orderly environment in which to focus and excel.

Ascend found that the harsh zero tolerance policies led to conversations among educators, parents and students focusing inordinately on “behavior as opposed to learning,” according to Brandon Sorlie, chief academic officer at Ascend. Ascend educators concluded that the approach to discipline was obscuring a laser focus on intellectual growth and academic excellence, which led the network to re-evaluate its approach.

Today, Ascend combines a highly rigorous, rich liberal arts education with a supportive culture that fosters student agency, autonomy, and intellectual vibrancy. The network has adopted a restorative approach to discipline, where the focus is on community responsibility and problem-solving instead of punishment. The article describes a recent incident at Brooklyn Ascend High School where a student addressed his peers, answering questions and apologizing, because he had put an inappropriate image on their computer desktops. As part of the school’s restorative approach, he also participated in a family meeting and wrote a reflection. An English teacher at the high school remarked that in a No Excuses environment, the student would likely have been suspended.

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Photo credit: Stephanie Snyder