A Narrative Inquiry of Charter School Social Work and the “No Excuses” Behavior Model

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Allison Balogh


Neoliberal education reform has resulted in a growing number of charter schools across the country, many of which are concentrated in low-income communities of color (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2014). Charter schools serving these demographics often practice a “no excuses” pedagogy featuring two components: (1) universal, precise behavioral expectations and (2) systematic rewards for compliance and penalties for disobedience (Golan, 2015; Goodman, 2013; Whitman, 2008). This article examines overlooked consequences of the “no excuses” model by presenting a narrative inquiry involving 3 social workers from charter schools in Harlem, New York. Individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted about professional background, roles and responsibilities, the school community, and the political context of charter schools. The collective narrative that emerged from this framework describes how participants have met their concern that a “no excuses” model creates traumatic or unsupportive environments for marginalized students with evidence-based advocacy. This article serves to foster the community of charter school social workers who wish to critique the “no excuses” model within their schools and on a broader scale.

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Balogh, A. (2019). A Narrative Inquiry of Charter School Social Work and the “No Excuses” Behavior Model. Columbia Social Work Review, 14(1), 19–25. https://doi.org/10.7916/cswr.v14i1.1855