Archives for category: Harlem Success Academy

This comment was posted today. I don’t usually disclose the names of writers unless they disclose it themselves. I googled the author and she is real.


Having worked for Eva from 2006 to 2012* I got to know Paul Fucalaro and saw him in action. I saw him belittle and undercut teachers, and browbeat students with merciless drill. Since Harlem Success was not open in 2002, his methods preceded Eva’s adoption of them. If the Queens School you mention was PS 65, its principal was also brought on board for HSA”s start. Mr. Fucalaro is a large man, not subtle or gentle in his methods, probably significantly scary to young children. Avuncular maybe, but a little sinister too. Early on, ( 2008, 9?) he and I were asked to evaluate a young teacher who was up for re hire. She was one of those young people who genuinely love children and interacted with them intuitively and effectively. She was also knowledgeable in science, the subject she was being hired to teach. We both walked out of our observation agreeing how impressed we were. The next thing I knew, she had been fired. The word in those days when people were let go was that they ” didn’t get the school culture.” We now know that means they wanted to treat children as human beings rather than “test taking machines,” or robots who cannot question, talk, play, laugh, or, God forbid, enjoy learning.
If tests were NOT used as a measure of success, or Success, it is doubtful Eva would have gotten this far. Not until schools, charter or otherwise, are judged by their success as places of learning, creativity and joy, and the scourge of test prep and drill is gone, will real teachers, not taskmasters like Mr. Fucalaro, feel welcome in them.

Annette Marcus


* I worked on setting up an inquiry based science curriculum for Success Academies. It was fairly free of test prep until 4th grade. When Eva extended HSA into MIddle school and wanted students to take high school regents exams in 6th and 8th grade, I quit.

Since Eva Moskowitz explained in the Wall Street Journal that the iron discipline at her school was devised by a veteran teacher named Paul Fucaloro, I decided to google him.


The first thing that popped up was this reference to him in an article about the high test scores of Success Academy charter schools:


Because the state’s exams are predictable, they’re deemed easy to game with test prep. But in contrast to their drill-and-kill competition, Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. But the holiday push wasn’t the only extra step that Success took to succeed last year. After some red-flag internal assessments, Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal—four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on. Fourth-grader Ashley Wilder thought this “terrible” at first: “I missed Flapjack on the Cartoon Network. But education is more important than sitting back and eating junk food all day.” By working the children off-hours, Moskowitz could boost her numbers without impinging on curricular “specials” like Ashley’s beloved art class.


The day before the scheduled math test, the city got socked with eight inches of snow. Of 1,499 schools in the city, 1,498 were closed. But at Harlem Success Academy 1, 50-odd third-graders trudged through 35-mile-per-hour gusts for a four-hour session over Subway sandwiches. As Moskowitz told the Times, “I was ready to come in this morning and crank the heating boilers myself if I had to.”


“We have a gap to close, so I want the kids on edge, constantly,” Fucaloro adds. “By the time test day came, they were like little test-taking machines.”



Then came Juan Gonzalez’s article in 2014 describing Eva’s move from Central Harlem to Wall Street offices, where the rent will be $31 million over a 15-year period. We learn too that Paul’s salary as director of pedagogy jumped from $100,000 to $246,000.


Then I read an article about the “miraculous” transformation of an elementary school in Queens, financed by Wall Street hedge fund manager Joel Greenblatt, working with the same Paul Fucaloro; the key to the dramatic rise in test scores was adoption of the scripted Success for All curriculum. That was in 2002. I searched some more and found that on the latest state tests, the same school did not do very well. Despite the hype, it was ranked 20th among 36 schools in the same district in New York City. Virtually 100% of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The school is struggling. Greenblatt and Fucaloro have moved on to Success Academy charters.


(The original name of the chain, which is a category on the blog, was Harlem Success Academies; the word “Harlem” was dropped as the chain moved into other neighborhoods across the city, like Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, a solid middle-class community.)

Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Success Academy charter schools, the uber-“No Excuses” chain, explained in the Wall Street Journal why her schools do not tolerate daydreaming in class.


Even five-year-olds must learn to sit quietly, “track” the teacher, pay strict attention to the teacher at all times, and follow every rule. We learned from John Merrow’s recent report on PBS that children of five or six may be suspended from school repeatedly for breaking the rules of strict order and obedience.


She also makes the claim, off-handedly, that the attrition rates in her schools are lower than those of district schools, but this is doubtful.

Norm Scott is an education activist and retired teacher who was the cameraman and producer of “The Inconvenient Truth about ‘Waiting for Superman.'” He blogs regularly. In this post, he writes about his personal theory that Eva Moskowitz is the Nurse Ratched of American education.

He writes:

For those not aware, Nurse Ratched, as Wikipedia states, “is the head administrative nurse at… a mental institution where she exercises near-absolute power over the patients’ access to medications, privileges, and basic necessities such as food and toiletries. She capriciously revokes these privileges whenever a patient displeases her. Her superiors turn blind eyes because she maintains order, keeping the patients from acting out, either through antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drugs or her own brand of psychotherapy, which consists mostly of humiliating patients into doing her bidding.” Nurse Ratched engages in an epic battle with rebel inmate Randall McMurphy (Jack Nicholson in the movie). In polls, Nurse Ratched came in 2nd to The Wicked Witch of the North as the most evil female character in movie history.

I saw a Halloween photo of a teacher dressed as the Wicked Witch of the North wearing an Eva Moskowitz mask. This was not an exaggeration. People have termed conditions for some children at Eva’s schools as verging on child abuse.

Moskowitz has staunchly denies that students were pushed out, counseled out, or pressured to withdraw.

But Scott adds this point:

A comment left on my blog by an anonymous parent stated: “They decided to start with younger and younger kids, so the communication of abuses would be harder to decipher. They decided to tell the parents one thing, and do another to the child. I once stood in the hall and listened to a dean yell so violently at a student (behind closed doors) that I couldn’t even discern the infraction. The child was thoroughly convinced he had committed a sin so unspeakable based on her threats, that he was too afraid to report the incident to his parents, hoping that she wouldn’t either. When you get detention for squeaking the rubber soles on the floor, or coughing. or sneezing in a disingenuous way; when you are taught that asking for help when you are told not to talk, is a level 4 “disrespect of a teacher” your world begins to change. Twilight Zone comes to mind.”

Twilight Zone or asylum?

Gary Rubinstein took a close look at the Success Academy charter school that kept a list of “scholars” who had to go, get pushed out because they were not the “right fit.” What kind of troublemakers were these children? Babies, actually.

The following appeared in the New York Times:

“Ms. Moskowitz said the school, which then went through second grade, had severe disciplinary problems. Mr. Brown [the principal] previously said in an email that he believed he could not turn the school around if the 16 students remained.”

Gary writes:

“When I think of a school in need of ‘turnaround therapy,’ I picture a school of veteran unionized teachers that has supposedly been ‘failing’ for decades. This school was in its second year when it was in need of being turned around. And the total number of students in the school was about 200, with about 70 kindergarteners, 80 first graders, and 50 second graders. All of these students have been at the school for their entire schooling and all had Success Academy teachers. I have trouble believing that this school needed a radical turnaround plan and if it really did, what does that say about the reform mantra that ‘great teachers’ overcome all if the great teachers at Success Academy were not able to maintain control of 200 5, 6, and 7 year olds?”

To get the real inside scoop, read the reviews of this school by parents, quoted by Gary on this post.

The parent of the 10-year-old boy who was interviewed by John Merrow on PBS filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that Eva Moskowitz violated her child’s privacy rights under the federal law FERPA by disclosing her child’s confidential disciplinary record tithe media. 

PBS NewsHour Clarification | Press | PBS NewsHour


PBS NewsHour Clarification | Press | PBS NewsHour

On October 12, 2015, the PBS NewsHour aired a report from veteran education reporter John Merrow, based on nearly a year of reporting, about suspension pol

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PBS NewsHour Clarification
October 20, 2015 at 5:56 PM EDT
On October 12, 2015, the PBS NewsHour aired a report from veteran education reporter John Merrow, based on nearly a year of reporting, about suspension policies of young children and one successful charter school network in New York City. The NewsHour stands by the report. 
However, the CEO of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz, has since raised objections to two specific issues in Mr. Merrow’s report. She protests that she was not given the opportunity to respond to one family’s comments in the story and she asserts that Mr. Merrow’s reporting about attrition rates is incorrect.
Mr. Merrow’s report was not about any particular child, but about suspension policy. The reporting included conversations with nearly a dozen families about their young children’s suspensions from Success Academy, as well as other sources, including one within Success Academy. Most of these sources were unwilling to go on camera. 
In their interview Mr. Merrow asked Ms. Moskowitz for her response to the information he had gathered from these sources, and she was given ample time to respond.
Only one family was willing to talk on camera, but the mother was not willing to allow Success Academy to release her son’s school records. Ms. Moskowitz should have been given a chance to respond to this family’s comments. The NewsHour regrets that decision.
Ms. Moskowitz also disputes Mr. Merrow’s reporting on Success Academy’s attrition rate. This is a complicated area because charter schools, including Success Academy Charter Schools, calculate attrition differently. Mr. Merrow addressed these disparities by comparing similar time frames and methods for calculating attrition. He used both public numbers and internal documents to calculate a comparison of attrition rates. 
One of the charter schools in the report calculates attrition by the names of individual children over a 365-day calendar year, from the beginning of one school year to the beginning of the next school year. Success Academy’s data is based on the number of children over the school year, not the calendar year. Mr. Merrow reconciled those numbers fairly and thoroughly.
The fundamental point of Mr. Merrow’s report is about the policy of suspensions of young children. It accurately documents that Success Academy suspends students as young as five- and six-year olds at a greater rate than many other schools, which Ms. Moskowitz does not dispute. Mr. Merrow’s report also explains that Success Academy Charter Schools are achieving superior academic results and are popular among New York area families. 
While the NewsHour regrets the decision to include that particular mother and child without providing Ms. Moskowitz with an opportunity to respond, the NewsHour stands by the report.

Leo Casey, executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, notes that numerous authorities warn about the adverse effects of suspending students from school. He notes that Eva Moskowitz, by contrast, believes that suspending students teaches them important lessons and makes it less likely that they will need to be suspended in the future. She belittles the New York City public schools for reducing suspensions.

Casey compares the suspensions that Success Academy charter schools reported to the U.S. Department of Education to the suspensions that SA reported to the New York State Department of Education and finds that the reported rates are different.

Here is the executive summary of the Shanker Institute report:

Success Academy Charter School CEO Eva Moskowitz has taken up the issue of school discipline recently, defending the practices in her own schools and criticizing the efforts to reform student discipline in the New York City public schools. A close inspection of available data shows that: first, Success Academy has misrepresented its suspensions to the U.S. Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection, reporting only two suspensions while reporting hundreds of suspensions to the New York State Education Department; second, that when students of the same age groups are compared, Success Academy charter schools suspend their students at roughly seven times the rate of New York City public schools; and third, that the suspended students are overwhelmingly African American and Latino. Moskowitz’s attacks on New York City public schools reform efforts is designed as a shot across the bow of the U.S. Education Department and U.S. Justice Department, which has advised that excessive suspensions of students of color is a violation of U.S. civil rights law.

Moskowitz defends suspensions as a valid disciplinary tool and mocks the public schools for minimizing suspensions:

The New York City public school policies that Moskowitz derides are part of a national reform effort, inspired by a body of research showing that overly punitive disciplinary policies are ineffective and discriminatory. Based on this research evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and School Discipline Consensus Project of the Council of State Governments have all gone on record on the harmful effects of employing such policies. The U.S. Education Department, the U.S. Justice Department, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, consortia of researchers, national foundations, and the Dignity in Schools advocacy coalition have all examined the state of student discipline in America’s schools in light of this research.1

Their findings? Suspensions and expulsions, the most severe forms of school discipline, are being used excessively in American schools, often for such minor infractions such as “talking back” or being out of uniform. Further, these severe punishments are being applied disproportionality to students of color, especially African-American and Latino boys, students with disabilities and LGBT youth.

As a result of these data, the U.S. Education Department and U.S. Justice Department issued guidance to schools, based on their finding that discriminatory uses of suspensions and expulsions were in violation of Title IV and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Since this guidance came from the federal agencies that are charged with the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, it added the force of the law to the powerful moral arguments for addressing the problem of discriminatory discipline. School districts and schools, public and charter, took notice. The more progressive minded, such as the new de Blasio administration of the New York City Department of Education, began to reform their disciplinary practices in accord with these regulations. As a consequence, the suspensions and expulsions from New York City’s public schools have been dramatically reduced.

It will be interesting to see if the new Secretary of Education John King, himself a leader in the “no-excuses” charter movement, will require Success Academy charters to abide by Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

I get the impression, reading Peter Greene’s latest post, that he doesn’t think Eva Moskowitz deserves an apology from John Merrow or PBS.

He says she has created an empire of her own, and she can’t brook any criticism.

Success Academy works for some kids, but not for all kids. That is, if you think that the ultimate measure of a school is test scores, she has them. Public schools are supposed to work for all kids. Granted, there are magnet schools and special schools, but there are supposed to be public schools where no one is turned away, no one is counseled out.

Eva says that the little boy–age 5 or 6–was a very bad behavior problem. Peter–and many readers of this blog–think that he couldn’t handle the pressure.

Peter finds documentation for everything John Merrow said about attrition rates.

Moskowitz also demands a retraction for the reporting of a high attrition rate, claiming, “Our attrition rate is actually lower than the average for either district or charter schools.” This is an exceptionally ballsy claim. You can look at these charts from Democracy Builders, a pro-charter group in NYC, showing that for eighty-eight students starting in third grade, Success ends up with thirty-one in eighth grade. In 2014, the Daily News reported that the first graduating class at Harlem Success was just thirty-two of the original seventy-three– and despite their awesome test scores, none of them qualified on the entrance exam for the top high schools in the city.

Maybe those kids were just a bad fit for Eva’s academy.

A teacher in a New York City charter school sent me this article.

He said he was fed up with the claim by charter boosters that they are trying to end inequality. Actually, the opposite is true. He also wanted teachers to know about the website where his article appeared: school, because it is written and edited by teachers.

Here is an excerpt from his post:

“According to the New York City Charter School Center, charters serve less than 9% of the 1.1 million children in the New York City school system. Although FES claims that school funding does not affect a school’s efficacy, it seems obvious that Success owes its achievements in part to its incredible wealth. These two organizations command an overwhelming amount of political attention and financial support, all to benefit a very small percentage of the city. Allowing more charters to open may or may not be a good thing, but it’s clear that it will not significantly impact the inequality of New York City schools.

“Now this may all be old news to people who pay attention to this sort of thing. But the first thing that bothers me about this rally is that Success and FES must be well aware that their work will not significantly affect these “two school systems” that they so resoundingly condemn. Even if we let alone the fact that FES has drawn this division in the public schools for a rhetorical purpose and accept their definition of the problem, it’s obvious that charters like Success only introduce a new form of inequality into the system. That the benefactors of this new network are mostly low-income students doesn’t take away from the fact that the organization functions as a separate entity with better access to philanthropy and political protection than the “tunnel to failure” schools. In this sense, charters are actually the cause of a separate and unequal system; the kind of system that this rally is pretending to fight.

“And yet, Success and FES have mobilized teachers and families with false information and an incomplete portrayal of their role in our unequal society. This leaves me with a few questions. What does it mean for a privileged school to use the voices and bodies of their families to push an agenda that contradicts the message that these families have been told they are supporting? What does it mean for a charter school to use disadvantaged families to further expand their privileges? What does it mean for a school to pretend to support equality while it pushes an agenda that only benefits the few?

“(And of course I’m leaving aside a number of very important concerns. The verdict is still out on whether or not the public should support policies to expand charter schools. It’s also not clear that this particular school, Success Academy, really does have great schools by anyone’s standards other than their own. A lot has been written about the school, and the most reliable report from Kate Taylor portrays what many would feel is not a school they would call great. I’m also ignoring the fact that charter schools, whose selection process affects their population, should not be lazily compared with public schools who have no selection process. Or whether it is ethical for a school that receives public funds to close for the day and pay to bus it’s teachers and students to a political rally. These concerns are worthy of deeper investigation, but that must be for another post.)”


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