The Wire: the philanthropic sequel

Af_endeavorLast week, with the end of the HBO series, The Wire, I wondered what to do next.  It seemed to me that the only way to honor David Simon’s accomplishment was to work on the problems he illuminated.   

Or we could put this another way: To watch The Wire and not to do something was to miss the point entirely.  This is entertainment with the force of social action.

Several long-term actions are appropriate, but I wanted to identify someone or some institution now working to "airlift" kids out of the appalling dangers that confronted and eventually claimed the character on The Wire called Dukie. 

Readers of the March 10 post made several suggestions, all of them worthy.   I was impressed particularly by experiment called AF Endeavor.  AF is short for Achievement First. 

Achievement First is a non-profit charter school management organization that operates a growing network of high-performing, K-12 public schools in Connecticut and New York. AF was founded in 2003 by the leaders of Amistad Academy, a nationally acclaimed charter school in New Haven, CT.   The mission of Achievement First is to deliver on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all of America‚Äôs children.

The Achievement First model posits 9 principles.  I recite these below, excerpting heavily from the AE website.  You can find the full text here.   

1.  Sweating the Small Stuff

In most urban schools, teachers and leaders "pick their battles," only addressing the most egregious instances of poor behavior.  […] All Achievement First schools share this obsessive commitment to extraordinarily high student behavior, using the PIC principle (persistence, insistence, and consistence) to ensure that every student is meeting AF standards.

2.  Focus on Attendance

3.  College Focus

Many who teach in urban schools either do not believe their students are truly college material or believe that if they "just reach one student" they will have succeeded. The message of the high-performing schools is just the opposite.

4.  Values education

Our culture revolves around the twin pillars of  being nice and working hard…

5.  Teachers Know and Care

The advisors serve in loco parentis while the students are at school, and they work hard to develop meaningful relationships with all the students in their advisory.

6.  Uniforms

All the great urban schools have some form of a dress code or uniform, and all Achievement First students wear an extremely fashionable AF school uniform.

7.  Parents as Partners

8.  Joy Factor

Too often, educators create false dichotomies, claiming or intimating that as the level of rigor, challenge, and structure rises, the level of fun, engagement, and joy will naturally decrease. AF teachers believe the exact opposite.

9.  Building character

No program, speaker, book, or curriculum will magically produce good character. Rather, schools need to make sure that the countless student-teacher and student-student interactions that take place every day are character-enhancing.

I would hope that I would see the point of these principles in any case.  But six years of The Wire make them irresistibly sensible. 

If you want to make a donation, go here.

If you want to get involved in other ways, go here.   


McCracken, Grant.  2008.  After The Wire: what to do about Dukie.  This blog sits at the intersection of economics and anthropology.  March 10, 2008.  here.


Thanks to David Simon and the other creators of The Wire for getting me off my ass and moving me to action.   

2 thoughts on “The Wire: the philanthropic sequel

  1. Janison

    Principles look sound, I particularly liked Parents are partners. I still believe that the parent is the biggest factor in the childs education not only providing financial support but providing guidance.

    An inspiring site for entrepreneurs, the Young Entrepreneur Society from the A great documentary about successful entrepreneurs.

  2. Candy Minx

    Great post Grant. I like how you’ve voiced a strong aspect of watching the series…how many of us feel “What can we do?”…

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