Well isn’t this nice: public school teachers in Newark got a solicitous email today from Success Academy–delivered to their Newark Public Schools email accounts–encouraging “excellent teachers and school leaders” to apply for charter school positions in middle schools in Harlem and the Bronx. (The following was copied and pasted directly from the email, but the “learn more and apply” link attached to the email directs here.)
ARE YOU READY TO JOIN THE MOVEMENT?
Success Academy is the largest, highest-performing charter school network in NYC, providing a world-class education in some of the city’s most underserved, low-income neighborhoods. In addition to English, Math, Science, and History, our groundbreaking middle school core curriculum includes Computer Science, Chess, and Fitness. With a program centered on critical and creative thinking, we ensure our scholars are prepared for success in high school, college, and life.
What sets Success apart?
· Scholars rank in the top 1% in math, top 7% in English, and top 2% in science among all schools in the state
· All teachers receive over 400 hours of professional development and unparalleled support
· Experienced teachers have the opportunity to become Leadership Residents developing curriculum and teacher training programs
We are growing rapidly and seeking excellent teachers and school leaders for our middle schools in Harlem and the Bronx.
For those unfamiliar, Success Academy is a charter chain founded by former NYC council member Eva Moskowitz, a Harlem native and graduate of New York City’s Stuyvesant High School. In Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, Steven Brill describes Moskowitz’s educational experiences at Stuyvesant and her reflections about those experiences:
Stuyvesant is New York’s star high school, from which an outsize portion of students, like Moskowitz, cruise into the Ivy League. But to Moskowitz, many, if not most, of the teachers were anything but stars. She thought half of the teachers were incompetent and vividly remembers math and science classes where “the students, who were all gifted, literally carried the class. The teachers were cruising on the students’ talent,” she says. “I remember one of the kids taught the rest of us physics, while the teacher sat there drunk…it was easy to be a teacher there.”
Oddly enough, and despite what Moskowitz herself describes as an education she got without any help from teachers, Moskowitz still managed to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins–and now she makes almost $500,000 per year as CEO of the Success Academy chain. (So student success really isn’t about teachers at all? Teachers aren’t important? It’s really about social or socioeconomic status? It’s really about privilege? It’s really about intellect? If Moskowitz could learn despite incompetent and drunk teachers, can’t anybody? Or is Moskowitz just some sort of superior species? I’m confused.)
So as if on some sort of noble crusade for justice, Moskowitz decided to open Success Academy–a network of schools that the CEO claims was designed to ensure that all children have access to a great education. Here’s Success Academy’s mission:
Our mission starts with building world-class public schools — engaging, academically rigorous, economically efficient — and proving that all children from any background can thrive in a truly great school. But equally important, we are dedicated to serving as a catalyst for other reform initiatives across the country, and changing the public policies that prevent so many children from having access to the American dream.
Public schools? The American Dream? Stop right there.
The implication inherent in Success Academy’s mission statement is that traditional public schools actually keep children from realizing the American Dream: you know, the idea that anyone, regardless of background or status, can be successful in America.
And the operative word there is “anyone.” It’s curious that Success Academy purports to advocate for “children from any background”–yet, as Diane Ravitch notes, Success Academy does not serve New York’s neediest students and has high attrition rates among the students that it actually does accept:
They are not the most disadvantaged kids in New York City. Harlem Success Academy schools have half the number of English Language Learners as the neighboring public schools in Harlem. The students in Success Academy 4 include 15 percent fewer free lunch students and an economic need index (a measure of students in temporary housing and/or who receive public assistance) that is 35 percent lower than nearby public schools.
Moskowitz’s Success Academy 4 has almost none of the highest special needs students as compared to nearby Harlem public schools. In a school with nearly 500 students, Success Academy 4 has zero, or one, such students, while the average Harlem public school includes 14.1 percent such students.
Moskowitz said, referring to the students in her schools, “we’ve had these children since kindergarten.” But she forgot to mention all the students who have left the school since kindergarten. Or the fact that Harlem Success Academy 4 suspends students at a rate 300 percent higher than the average in the district. Last year’s seventh grade class at Harlem Success Academy 1 had a 52.1 percent attrition rate since 2006-07. That’s more than half of the kindergarten students gone before they even graduate from middle school. Last year’s sixth grade class had a 45.2 percent attrition rate since 2006-07. That’s almost half of the kindergarten class gone and two more years left in middle school. In just four years Harlem Success Academy 4 has lost over 21 percent of its students. The pattern of students leaving is not random. Students with low test scores, English Language Learners, and special education students are most likely to disappear from the school’s roster. Large numbers of students disappear beginning in 3rd grade, but not in the earlier grades. No natural pattern of student mobility can explain the sudden disappearance of students at the grade when state testing just happens to begin.
It’s curious that a network of “public schools” would exclude so many children–but it’s clear that Moskowitz has a very important illusion of “success” she needs to maintain. (And by “success,” I mean “high test scores.” Read here about Upper West Side Success Academy telling a parent that the school can’t serve her special-needs child–or here about teachers being forced to focus almost exclusively on test-prep.)
Need even more evidence that Success Academy doesn’t operate as a traditional public school? A Manhattan judge ruled that NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli can’t audit the chain. Yes, Moskowitz is so invested in Success Academy’s illusion of “success” that she’ll file lawsuits to keep her financial business under wraps. (She’ll also cancel school, load all her kids and teachers on to buses, and force them to participate in demonstrations to support her cause…but that’s another story.)
So I suppose it isn’t surprising that Success Academy is recruiting in Newark, especially since hundreds of teachers will soon be unemployed as a result of the massive layoffs State Superintendent Cami Anderson announced in February.
But what’s particularly ironic, and supremely disturbing, is that charter expansion in places like New York City, Chicago, Newark, and Camden is what’s causing the massive layoffs in traditional public schools. It’s chains like Success Academy that direct funds away from district schools, leave the neediest students without resources, and force staffing reductions in and closures of real public schools. And Success Academy has the nerve to recruit in an area being destroyed by the very policies and practices charter chains promote?
Kudos to the Newark teachers saying “NO” to Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy–and to those choosing the “unsubscribe” option at the bottom of the email.