Archives for category: Harlem Success Academy

Bloomberg News reports that Néw York City’s public employees’ pension fund is considering an investment in a hedge fund managed by one of Eva Moskowitz’s key backers.

“The board of the $54 billion pension for civil employees, including lunchroom workers and other school aides, plans a vote Tuesday on whether to invest in Joel Greenblatt’s Gotham Asset Management LLC, according to a copy of the executive agenda. Greenblatt is co-founder of Success Academy, New York’s biggest charter-school network. Its director, Eva Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman, helped block Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid to cut aid to charter schools.”

Gary Rubinstein deconstructed the claim made by the NYC charter industry that 143,000 students are “trapped in failing schools.”

As Rubinstein shows, a billionaire-backed group called “Families for Excellent Schools” decided arbitrarily that any school where less than 10% passed the new Common Core test was a “failing school.” He points out that only 30% “passed” the Common Core tests (including charter schools, which had the same pass rate as public schools). If Families for Excellent Schools had used a 20% pass rate instead of 10%, he notes, then FES could have bemoaned the “Forgotten Three-Quarters.”

Rubinstein discovered that 90% of the parents in the 371 schools arbitrarily labeled “failing” would recommend their school to other parents. Obviously, the parents don’t believe their children are “trapped.”

The claim about “children trapped in failung schools” comes from a “report” by the Walton Family-funded “Families for Excellent Schools.” This is the same group that hastily raised and spent $5-6 million last year to stop Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to charge rent to charter schools using public space. With money spent so freely on the airwaves and in Albany, Governor Cuomo adopted charter schools as his cause (only 3% of the state’s students attend charter schools). With his support, the Legislature passed a bill requiring NYC to provide free space in public schools to charters and to pay their rent if they located in private space.

On November 28, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Academy charter chain in Néw York City. Moskowitz claimed that the neighborhoods with the most charter schools saw the greatest gains for their public schools. She called the expansion of charter schools a “windfall” for public schools.

This seems counter-intuitive since charters often have fewer (or no) students with disabilities and few English language learners or disruptive students. This means that the local public schools have more of the students who require extra resources. Thus, the “windfall” is hard to discern.

Fortuitously, young scholar Horace Meister decided to check the data.after working at the Department of Education headquarters for more than a decade, he knows how to analyze the numbers.

 

This is his analysis:

 

The Wall Street Journal recently decided to publish an essay signed by Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City. In the essay Ms. Moskowitz defends the role of charter schools in public education. Obviously the editors at the Wall Street Journal did not bother to fact-check her writing, so we will do their work for them.

 

Ms. Moskowitz attempts to defend charter schools from two accusations 1) that they cherry pick students and that 2) this cherry-picking has negative consequences for local public schools and the students who attend them.

 

Although she raises the cherry-picking issue she never fully addresses it. We will not let her get away with that. Ms. Moskowitz brags about how many students at Success Academy are eligible for free lunch. She forgets to compare this to the averages at the local public schools. We will do her work for her and for the editors who should have insisted that she do this.

 

 

The 2014 Progress Report data, used to compare the performance of all New York City public and charter schools, was released last month. These data show that Success Academy in Harlem serves 9.5% fewer students receiving free lunch, 18.5% fewer students on public assistance, 64% fewer students who live in temporary housing, 46.8% fewer English Language Learners, 44.6% fewer special education students, and 93.2% fewer of the highest need special education students than the average for public elementary and middle schools in District 5 in Harlem.

 

Whether on purpose or by accident, it is clear that charter schools are cherry-picking students. This may be because they spend most of their marketing budgets, which are vast and had been subsidized by the public schools for many years, on outreach to only specific students. This may be because they refuse to enroll students, even those who win the lottery, if they do not attend pre-enrollment summer school or meet other criteria. It may be because students who misbehave are suspended or expelled at sky-high rates. It may be because the parents of students with challenges do not bother to apply. Whatever the causal explanation, charter schools serve a select student population.

 

Ms. Moskowitz argues that the data show that public schools in districts with more charter schools had improved test performance over the years as compared to districts with fewer charter schools. Her evidence is of such poor quality that, were it not for her obvious ideological agenda, it is hard to explain how a former professor with a PhD could make such elementary errors. Some errors are of methodology others seem to be outright falsehoods.

 

One falsehood is Ms. Moskowitz’s claim that District 5 in Harlem now ranks higher in proficiency on New York State English and Math exams than District 29 in Queens. She says this can only be explained by the fact that Harlem has more charter schools. But her whole premise is bogus. Again, looking at the Progress Report spreadsheet, elementary and middle schools in District 29 in Queens have an average proficiency rate in English that is 68% higher than District 5 in Harlem. In Math the schools in District 29 in Queens have a proficiency rate that is 75% higher than District 5 in Harlem. Not surprising given the lower poverty rates in Queens, but also contrary to Ms. Moskowitz’s claims.

 

Is there a correlation between the proportion of charter schools in a district and improved public school performance? Ms. Moskowitz does not answer this question, although she pretends to. Instead she makes unsubstantiated claims. Charter schools often go into neighborhoods and districts that are gentrifying.

 

Success Academy, with its expansion into Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Lower Manhattan, despite community opposition, is particularly notorious for employing this tactic. Harlem, the neighborhood that Ms. Moskowitz spends the most space discussing, is a prime example of a gentrifying neighborhood. It is equally likely that changing demographics can account for improving test scores, not the spread of charter schools. Ms. Moskowitz does not bother to control for this and obviously the editors of the Wall Street Journal did not care to ask her to. Why bother if she is saying what they want to believe?

A mysterious group called “Families for Excellent Schools” has been f.ooding the airwaves in New York with multimillion dollar ad buys on television, touting the wonders of charter schools and the horror of the “143,000” children trapped in failing schools. The ads show minority children and families, giving the impression that these are the “families for excellent schools.”

In a tour de force of investigative reporting, Mercedes Schneider followed the money. There she is, in Louisiana, stripping away the mask of the millionaires and billionaires pretending to be “families for excellent schools” in New York City. Guess who they are? Not the families in the ads.

Some are named Broad; some are named Walton; some are named Moskowitz.

What a surprise.

New York City parents charge that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies are underenrolled and should be placed on probation instead of awarded 14 new charters.

Here is the parents’ press release:

PRESS RELEASE
EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:30 PM, WEDS OCT 8, 2014

CONTACTS:
Brooke Dunn Parker
646 543 4492 brookedunnparker@gmail.com
Noah E. Gotbaum
917 658 3213 ngotbaum@cec3.org

Empty Seats, Phony “Waitlists,” and a Shocking Lack of Oversight: Newly Uncovered Charter Enrollment Data Sparks Parent Leaders to Demand Moratorium on ALL Charter Approvals Until SUNY & Charters Are Audited; Insist on Immediate Probation for Out-of-Compliance Success Academies

Data Shows Failure to Meet Mandated Enrollment Targets at More Than Two Thirds of Success Academy Charter Schools—and No Consequences from the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees Charged with Charter School Oversight

Local public school parents have unearthed evidence that more than two-thirds of Success Academy charter schools were under-enrolled in 2013-14, rendering the charter chain’s oft touted claims of “high demand” and “waitlists” demonstrably false. Four of the schools were so profoundly under-enrolled that SUNY, which in its role as overseer of the state’s charter schools is charged with closing schools that fall below 80% of their targeted enrollment, would have been legally obliged to take action. Yet none of the under-enrolled Success Academies were even placed on probation—a clear dereliction of duty on SUNY’s part.

This revelation is particularly egregious as it coincides with today’s expected rubberstamp vote by the SUNY Trustees to approve 17 more charter schools, 14 of which are new Success Academies.

In the face of this evidence of massive under-enrollment and of SUNY’s lack of accountability, elected parent leaders from the city’s Community Education Councils are gathering on the steps of Tweed Courthouse together with fellow public school parent activists*, City Council Education Chair Daniel Dromm, and additional City Council members to publicly address the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees with an important question:

Why are you authorizing the opening of more charter schools, and in particular Success Academies, when the evidence shows that Success cannot even fill seats in its existing schools?

The parents assembled are calling for:

· a full and independent investigation of SUNY to ascertain that the charter authorizer is adhering to the law

· an independent audit by the NYC Comptroller of the enrollment, attrition, suspension and expulsion rates, particularly for high-needs students, at all charter schools to determine how widespread missed (legally mandated) targets are

· a moratorium on all new charter approvals, renewals, and expansions until the above investigation and audits are completed

· immediate probation for the four Success Academies under-enrolled by more than 20% (as is mandated by their charter agreements and by State law).

Kari Steeves, who self identifies as “Class Parent for Rm. 308,” described what drove parents to undertake the research, write a letter to the trustees and comptroller, and spend days organizing to get the word out: “We are real parents, on our own time and impetus, speaking for what NYC public school parents really want. We don’t want seats at a charter school, and these numbers show neither do the vast majority of parents. Charters are being foisted upon us without community input or request, and their low enrollment, especially as compared with the overcrowding of our schools, shows that we want the resources devoted to making room for all kids at public schools.”

Public school parent Brooke Parker, whose research through the School Construction Authority’s “Blue Book” brought the enrollment data to light, remarked, “This is just the tip of the iceberg. SUNY has knowingly withheld enrollment data for charter schools from the taxpaying public—even though taxpayer dollars bankroll charters. If we had open access to enrollment information, I am convinced that we would find that even more charter schools have been allowed to open, remain open, and even expand despite their inability to meet enrollment targets. That’s outrageous. And illegal.”

Naila Rosario, president of Brooklyn’s Community Education Council 15, added, “I was already concerned that marketing might be what was creating so-called charter ‘demand.’ After all, our bus stops and subway stations are plastered with ads for charters; our mailboxes overflow with their glossy brochures. Now it seems that even with all that marketing, Success couldn’t fill its seats. By contrast, the waitlist for my child’s school, like those of many other district public schools, is ridiculously long and REAL.”

The discovery that SUNY has concealed important enrollment data and authorized out-of-compliance charter management organizations to open still more schools is the latest in a string of abuses of the public trust. Just last week, a Daily News reporter revealed that the charter authorizers had allowed a Michigan-based charter operator to overcharge the city by $250K for rent for a single Brooklyn school. And there has long been evidence that charters do not serve the students they are required to by law, particularly English language learners and special needs students.

Miriam Farer, who serves on Upper Manhattan’s Community Education Council 6, declared, “I applaud the parents who dug up this information, but let’s get real. It is not the job of parents and reporters to keep SUNY honest. I join with other public school parents and community leaders to demand that Comptroller Scott Stringer investigate the SUNY charter school authorizers, whom we believe to have violated the public trust by failing to safeguard precious education tax dollars. We also demand a moratorium on new charter school approvals, renewals, and expansions until SUNY has proven that it is not breaking the law and all schools are equitably funded.”

Some highlights from the research (sources on attached Fact Sheet):

• Of the 18 Success Academy charter schools open in the 2013-14 school year, more than two thirds (13) were under-enrolled.

• On average, schools in the SA network were under-enrolled by 7.6%

• In 2013-14 school year, 4 of SA’s 18 schools were severely under-enrolled—by 22%-33%:

Success Academy Charter School – Ft. Greene: -29%

Success Academy Charter School – Crown Heights: -22%
Success Academy Charter School – Hell’s Kitchen: -27%
Success Academy Charter School – Union Square: -33%

*including representatives from WAGPOPS!, Make The Road, and NYCpublic

###

Earlier this year, Eva Moskowitz and the Wall Street hedge fund managers who support her NYC charter chain, Success Academy, thoroughly defeated Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor thought he could limit the expansion of her charters, even thought he could charge her rent for the use of public space, but her backers launched a $5 million negative advertising blitz against de Blasio.

Governor Cuomo, the recipient of nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from backers of Miskowitz’s charters, pledged his loyalty to her. The Néw York legislature quickly passed legislation guaranteeing her the right to expand, forbade the city from charging rent to charters, and required the city to pay the rent for private space for charter schools.

Here is the result, as reported in the Wall Street Journal and reposted by blogger Perdido Street.

“Lease documents show the city is paying almost $18,000 in rent for every student at the Success Academy that opened last month in Washington Heights, in the former Mother Cabrini High School.

“The Department of Education descriptions of the 10-year contracts, obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, say the city will pay $39 a square foot in the coming three years for Success Academy Washington Heights and Success Academy Harlem Central; its analysis found a market range of $24 to $27 a square foot for comparable space. The rents will rise over time.”

“The rental fees come on top of $13,777 for every student that taxpayers provide to charters, which are publicly funded and independently operated.”

Says Perdido Street blogger:

“The city’s paying nearly $32,000 a student for Eva’s charters.

“That’s what Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools cost.”

Astonishing.

In case you don’t have enough to read, here is my article in the current issue of The Nation about the success of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain.

Tomorrow Eva Moskowitz will close her chain of Success Academy charter schools in New York City and convene her students, parents, and teachers in a rally that is intended to support her demand for more charter schools. If a public school principal did this, he or she would be in deep trouble. Public schools don’t close for political rallies. Private schools can.

The charter chain has dubbed the rally #don’tstealpossible. They are tweeting to remind the world that if Eva doesn’t get more charters, 143,000 students will be “trapped in failing schools.”

Professor Daniel S. Katz of Seton Hall University here describes Eva’s “incredible hypocrisy,” inasmuch as she has no intention of enrolling 143,000 students, nor enrolling the neediest students. If your child has special needs or doesn’t speak or read English, look elsewhere.

In this post, Daniel Katz, director of secondary education and secondary special education teacher preparation at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, interviews Mindy Rosier about what it is like to work in a public school that shares the same building with one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter schools. Rosier is a teacher at PS 811, the Mickey Mantle School, which serves children with special needs. PS 811 is situated within PS 149 in Harlem, a traditional public school; it serves about 100 children with autism and other special needs. The Success Academy charter school was co-located inside PS 149 in 2006. What is it like to co-exist with SA?

 

Here is a sample:

 

“There is definitely an us vs. them feeling in the air. I’ve been told that they have shiny clean floors, new doors, fancy bathrooms, etc. Meanwhile, we have teachers who have bought mops and even a vacuum cleaner to clean their rooms for they feel what is done is not efficient enough. Near our entrance, we have an adult bathroom. It is for staff and our parents. Success Academy parents as well have used it. For many months that bathroom went out of order. Honestly, I am not even sure it is fixed yet, but after all this time, I really hope so. So we would have to either use the closet of a bathroom in the staff lunch area or use one of the kids’ bathroom when it is not in use. You and I know that had that been an SA bathroom, it would have been fixed by the next day. SA also throws out tons of new or practically new materials often. At first, some of their teachers would sneak us some materials thinking we could benefit from it. They stopped out of fear. With all the great stuff that they have thrown out, they got angry when they found out that teachers from P.S.149 and I believe some of our teachers too would go through the piles and take what we could use. Well, now they only throw out their garbage shortly before pick up so that no one could get at it. Nice, right?”

The New York City Parents Blog compiled the many complaints of parents and teachers about Daniel Bergner’s article about Eva Moskowitz. Bergner interviewed many critics, but he quoted only two: me and Michael Mulgrew of the UFT.

Unlike the magazine article, the post explains that the main reason Mayor de Blasio rejected Moskowitz’s efforts to expand within PS 149 was that it would cause the displacement of children with special needs, some of whom are severely disabled. It was ironic that the $5-6 million TV ad campaign that Eva’s Wall Street backers ran on her behalf last spring claimed that the Mayor was forcing SA children out of their schools by denying them space, when the reverse was true: Moskowitz wanted to increase the size of her school at the expense of children with disabilities.

The ad campaign paid off for Moskowitz. Many of the same Wall Street tycoons who backed Eva also funded Cuomo’s campaign, so of course Cuomo supported Eva and cut the ground out from under the Mayor’s feet, with the help of the legislature. Eva got free rent, the right to expand in public space, and other privileges. But this was not what you saw in the New York Times article.

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