No Excuses: Race and reckoning at a Chicago charter school

No Excuses
A documentary from American Public Media explores how a Chicago charter school that promised low-income students better access to college began to reconsider its hyper-strict, “no excuses” approach.
Illustration by Rachel Sender for APM Reports

Producer DJ Cashmere spent seven years teaching Black and brown students at a Noble Street charter high school in Chicago. At the time, Noble followed a popular model called "no excuses." Its schools required strict discipline but promised low-income students a better shot at college.

After DJ left the classroom to become a journalist, Noble disavowed its own policies — calling them "assimilationist, patriarchal, white supremacist and anti-black."

Coming up at 9 a.m. on Monday, MPR News with Angela Davis shares a new documentary from American Public Media, “No Excuses: Race and Reckoning at a Chicago Charter School.”  DJ, who is white, revisits his old school as it tries to reinvent itself as an anti-racist institution. And he seeks out his former students to ask them how they felt about being on the receiving end of all that education reform, and what they think now about the time they spent in his classroom.

Host and Producer:  

  • DJ Cashmere is a journalist whose print work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Village Voice, Chalkbeat and The Hechinger Report. His radio work has aired on Marketplace Morning Report and he currently serves as a producer on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. DJ, who is white, taught in K-12 schools in Chicago for eight years before becoming a journalist. He currently lives in New York with his family.

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