Blue Man Group Progressive School Under Fire

The Blue Man Group’s venture into running a charter school is not going well according to Tara Palmeri of the New York Post. The Blue School, situated in the Financial District, started life as a play group in 2006 set up the theatre troupe and their wives. It was awarded independent school charter status in 2009 and provides services from kindergarten through third grade. In contradiction to the reported troubles they are adding fourth grade next year.

The Blue School is progressive. It does not have a set start time; children turn up when they (or their parents) feel like it and the children themselves decide their own curriculum.

“It’s all fun and games until you realize your second-grader can’t read,” a parent wrote on Urbanbaby.com.

And parent Marina Brolin added, “I think they don’t push [reading] as much.”

Problems started being reported earlier this year when parents complained that their children weren’t prepared for private school admission tests. Of course, this isn’t all the fault of the Blue School. The parents chose to send their children to the $32,000 a year school knowing that it was a progressive school. If they didn’t investigate how well it fit their child or provide home support then they have to share some of the blame. Self-directed learning for kindergartners doesn’t seem like something one just assumes will be a natural fit for all children.

“A majority of my Upper East Side clients, if they took a look down there, their heads would explode,” said education adviser Terri Decker of Smart City Kids. “Literally, their brains would be on the pavement.”

While Decker was perhaps attending a progressive school while learning the meaning of the word ‘literally’, the point is simply that there appears to be confusion among parents as to what exactly a progressive school does, how it differs from conventional schools and what effect these differences have in real terms.

There will also be a new position created next year to pave the way for Blue School kids to get into other independent schools, like Horace Mann and Calhoun School.

“Parents are understandably anxious about being patient if their child is developing at a slightly later time,” said Steve Nelson, head of the Calhoun School, who advised parents to remain calm.

In the meantime incoming head Allison Gaines Pell has promised to focus on teacher attrition. She is a public school veteran who founded the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters.