Archives for category: Harlem Success Academy

Only one charter chain gets special treatment in New York City, and that is Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies.

Principals have beenr told they had 24 hours to clear and clean the space where her schools will co-locate rent-free. The city hired hundreds of workers to get the space in order.

The 1 million children who attend public schools are second-class citizens.

Eva’s 7,000-10,000 students are extra-important and privileged. After all, Eva not only gets free public space, she may expand and kick out kids with disabilities if she wishes. Her billionaire friends on Wall Street control the legislature. She can hold a dinner and raise over $7 million on a single night.

Really, she should be chancellor and show what she can do to raise scores and work her miracles for all children. Why limit her magic to only those who win the lottery? Let her take responsibility for the kids with disabilities, the English-language learners, the homeless kids–all of them, not just the ones she chooses.

Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News reports that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school celebrated its first graduation from middle school, with disappointing results. Although Moskowitz has boasted for years that her schools had overcome the achievement gap and that all her students are high performers, Gonzalez pointed out two inconvenient facts:

1. The graduating class started with 73 students in 2006 but only 32 remained to graduate.

2. Not one of the Success Academy graduates qualified to enter the city’s eight elite examination schools, such as Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Tech.

Twenty-seven of the graduating class took the entrance exam for the elite schools but none scored high enough to gain admission.

Thanks to legislation recently passed in Albany with the strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Eva Moskowitz announced that she will seek another 14 charter schools, expanding her network significantly. This August, according to her website, she will have “9,450 scholars at 32 schools” in the city. She is applying to the State University of New York, which is a friendly authorizer. The public schools of New York City are now required by state law to give her free space or pay her rent in private space. Thanks, Governor Cuomo!

This is how her press release began:


“June 10, 2014 (New York, NY) — Success Academy Charter Schools announced today that it is submitting applications to SUNY Charter Schools Institute to establish 14 new public charter schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens. Community demand for these high-performing schools reached an all time high this year, with more than 14,400 families applying for fewer than 3,000 open seats. An outgrowth of the charter-friendly legislation championed by Governor Cuomo and other state leaders this spring, the planned schools will provide educational equity to thousands of families in communities currently without viable school options for their children.”

“Chancellor Fariña recently noted that it is important to listen to the community. That is what we are doing in applying for these charters because the community is demanding more high quality charter schools,” said CEO Eva Moskowitz. “These families — representing more than a dozen neighborhoods — are desperate for great schools. Even with 14 more schools, we will not make a dent in the demand we are seeing.”

This article was written by an independent education researcher who requests anonymity. It is unfortunate that the politics of education have become so intermingled with powerful forces that researchers remain silent or hide their identities to escape retribution. In this case, everything in this article is carefully documented.

Lessons Learned:

How the Nation’s Most Powerful Mayor Lost His First Battle Against Corporate Interests and How He Can Win the War

Mayor Bill de Blasio has lost his first battle against the status quo corporate education reform policy machine. In attempting to lessen the influence of charter schools, which often comes at the expense of public schools, he made a number of key tactical errors. This led to the passage of a new law in New York State that now forces New York City to either co-locate every new charter school or pay for its rent in private space. De Blasio was also forced to overturn his decision not to co-locate three Success Academy schools. A review of the tactical errors made can serve as a roadmap for future policy changes that will benefit all of New York City’s children.

Be transparent, and engage communities. Prior to leaving office Mayor Bloomberg had the Panel for Educational Policy vote and approve of over 40 co-locations including 17 charter co-locations. Historically these votes were held in March, but they were moved up to October in order to force de Blasio’s hand. Upon entering office de Blasio should have immediately begun a transparent process of re-evaluating these decisions. Instead he delayed addressing the situation and when he did a single employee at the NYC Department of Education (and former de Blasio deputy at the public advocate’s office) seems to have been primarily responsible for the reviews. Future policy changes should follow a clear process with open avenues of community and stakeholder input.

Be bold. Universal Pre-K is a bold move. But policy changes must not stop there. Instead of deciding to overturn only three co-locations, which left him vulnerable to accusations of a personal vendetta, de Blasio should have stopped every single one that did not meet community needs. Instead of stacking a new space-sharing committee with charter supporters de Blasio should assign them seats based on number of students served (6%) rather than number of dollars in the bank accounts of their backers. A lack of boldness and a reluctance to make waves has also interfered with attempts to re-organize Tweed (the NYC DOE’s headquarters). Besides the departure of a sole deputy Chancellor all the officials in Bloomberg’s DOE are holding onto their positions. This may explain why, as of yet, there have been no changes to the test-centered promotion policy, no changes to test-centered school accountability metrics, and no changes to the test-centered teacher evaluation system. Without significant changes to the ranks of central office managers, progressive educational reforms will have no chance of success.

Communicate the values, figures, and facts used in making policy decisions. Bloomberg was a master at this. He used numbers to bludgeon opponents into submission. Although careful analysis and review of the data showed that many of the numbers were false, the charts in the powerpoints at every press conference lulled the media. In the empty space created by the lack of communication on the part of de Blasio’s City Hall, others stepped in to address some of the falsehoods that de Blasio’s political adversaries were spreading. Eva Moskowitz, the $475,000 CEO of Success Academy, was the loudest and boldest of the de Blasio attackers. Her claims, made on national television, were debunked, but not by City Hall.

We know that countering lies with the truth works because Success Academy has recently changed its multi-million dollar political advertising campaign. They no longer claim to have the highest 5th grade math test scores in New York State. They now claim to have a school with the highest 5th grade math test scores in Harlem. Even this claim does not pass the smell test. There are 32 school districts in New York City. Out of those 32 districts Harlem is but one neighborhood (not even a full district). There are four Success Academy schools in Harlem. Out of those four schools we are asked to focus on a single one. There are three elementary grade levels where students are tested. Of those three grade levels we are asked to pay attention to only one. There are two main subjects in which students are tested, English and Math. Again we are asked to consider only one. The data in fact show that even on this narrow view there are four schools in Queens and four schools in Manhattan that have higher average 5th grade math state test scores than this Success Academy school. And they got these scores without kicking out 50% of their students as Success Academy does.

As de Blasio comes to terms with the constraints that the New York State Legislature recently imposed on his decision-making around charters, he must not accept defeat. He must initiate a conversation about the practices of the charter sector in New York City. He must use his bully pulpit and ask the legislature to address the questions that charter school advocates refuse to confront.

*How will charter schools be held accountable for suspending large numbers of students leading to those students leaving the school?
* How will charter schools be mandated to stop their selective attrition approach whereby they keep the high-performing students and kick out the low-performing students (making comparisons to schools with natural patterns of attrition unfair)?
*How will charter schools be forced to address their unwillingness to accept the neediest students?
*How will charter schools be subject to basic oversight regulations going forward (such as the grading of their state exams by a 3rd party)?

Now is not the time to run and hide. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to have an honest discussion about the charter sector.

The research cited below can get us started. charter schools have high suspension rates and shrinking cohorts of students suggesting that charters suspend and expel challenging students and as a result their test scores increase. reviews data from “state of the sector” report on NYC charter schools. Charter schools in NYC serve a less needy student population (fewer ELL students, fewer students with disabilities, fewer students in poverty), have higher teacher and principal turnover, and have declining middle school enrollments. Harlem Success and Harlem Village charter schools serve more privileged student body than the district in which they are located and have very high (up to 68%) attrition rates “Using 3 recent years of data from the New York State School Report Cards and analyzing the charter population at the school level, the authors found that English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter school populations across 3 academic years.” reviews above study. Points to some issues (such as including less than reliable high school data) with their finding that charters serve a proportionate number of free-lunch students finds that charter schools in NYC serve a more privileged student population, spend more money per student, and have smaller class sizes. UFT study finding that NYC Charters ”serve significantly fewer than the average of the City’s poorest children, and 10 to 25 percent fewer of such children in the charters’ own neighborhoods. Charters serve on average less than four percent of English Language Learners (“ELL”), rather than 14 percent of such children in the City’s district public schools (the “district schools”). Less than 10 percent of charter pupils are categorized as special education students versus a citywide average of more than 16 percent in the district public schools. In addition, despite their concentrations in highly diverse neighborhoods, charters as a group admit substantially fewer Hispanic and/or immigrant students. As a result, charters contain a heavier concentration of African-American students than is true in the City as a whole or even in the neighborhoods charters are supposed to serve.” Also raises questions about the financial practices and “outsize “management fees”” and the transparency of charter schools. UFT study finding that NYC charter schools do not serve the same percent of students with disabilities as non-charter schools and serve significantly fewer of the higher need students with disabilities. Daily News story claiming that charter schools serve same students as public schools in districts 7 and 23 is false. There are in fact 500% fewer high needs special education students, 50% fewer ELLs in charter schools. KIPP has fewer of the highest need special education students although the media claims otherwise compares Democracy Prep Charter School to co-located district schools and finds that the charter schools serves over 30% fewer students with disabilities with self-contained special education students and fewer students eligible for free lunch. it seems likely based on the data that charter schools are removing students from testing cohorts and that might account for some of their test outcomes claims that the New York City Department of Education attempted to conceal information that should be available to the public regarding the numbers of students with disabilities served by charter schools. And “is failing to provide the most minimal oversight of the education of students with special needs in NYC charter schools.” links to data on characteristics of students served by NYC charter schools. Notes that “virtually none of the information available for district schools is also available for charter schools” on schools’ public web pages.” looks at the performance of the Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Finds that “In 2010-2011, HVA had 55% free lunch and 13% reduced lunch. The district, that year, had 74% free with 5% reduced. In 2010-2011, HVA had 3% LEP vs. 11% for the whole district. In 2010-2011 38% of the students at HVA were suspended for at least one day while 7% were suspended for the whole district. Student attrition at HVA is huge. For example, the 66 5th graders in 2007-2008 have shrunk to just 16 9th graders in the 2010-2011 school year. This is a 75% attrition. In that same time, the district that the school is in went from 904 5th graders in 2007-2008 to 1313 9th graders in 2010-2011. That is a 45% growth.” Also notes “staff turnover was 2007-2008 53%, for 2008-2009, 38%, and for 2009-2010, a whopping 61%. By comparison, the teacher attrition for the entire district in 2009-2010 was just 19%.” Not a single student took the New York Sate Trigonometry exam. more on Harlem Village Academy Charter School. cites research showing that charter schools do not educate the same type of students as district schools. For example, KIPP charter schools in NYC serve fewer poor students than the district middle schools. tracks high attrition rate in NYC KIPP school. “58% of district schools got an A or a B in 2010, compared to only 34% of charters. In Districts 4 and 5 in Harlem, more than half of district schools got either an A or B (27 out of 53), compared to only 8 out of the 21 charters in those neighborhoods.” “Based on the data charters reported to the state last year, the city-wide difference in poverty between charters and district schools almost doubled — from 2.5 percentage points in 2008-09 to 4.3 percentage points in 2009-10. In addition, poverty at public schools rose 2 percentage points from 2008-09 to 2009-10, while at charters the increase was only a tenth of one percent. Across the city, 15 percent of district students were English Language Learners, while in charters, English Language Learners made up only 5 percent of students.” discusses evidence of creaming at Democracy Prep charter school at both the initial application stage and later on as students are dropped from the school’s roster. “no excuses” charter schools have very high suspension rates which, in some cases, violates legal regulations. the populations of Democracy Prep Charter School and its co-located public show that their populations are dramatically different with the charter school having fewer poor, limited English proficient and special education students average attrition rate for charter middle schools examined is 23% between 5th and 8th grades. Students appear to be removed from the school rather than being left back a grade. As students are removed from cohort proficiency on state exams goes up. an examination of charter school data shows that they “have smaller classes… spend much more than surrounding district schools … serve much less needy student populations than surrounding district schools… have 4th grade students with relatively “average” to below average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar population… in some cases, have 8th grade students with high average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar populations… where data were available, have value-added scores which vary from the citywide average in both directions, with KIPP being the lowest and Uncommon schools the highest (in the aggregate). Notably, Uncommon Schools also have consistently smaller class sizes and the fewest low income students.” study of KIPP doesn’t fully account for high attrition rates at KIPP middle schools and other external factors that influence student outcomes. demographic comparison showing that KIPP middle schools in NYC have fewer poor students than other district middle schools. charters in NYC have fewer poor students and fewer English Language Learners than district schools.

Valerie Strauss clearly explains who were the losers in the bruising battle between the billionaires and de Blasio: students with disabilities.

Steve Nelson has written a brilliant commentary on the way we judge school “success.”

He begins by discussing the Moskowitz-de Blasio battle and notes that the $5 million attack ads were sponsored by “Families for Excellent Schools.”

He writes:

“This campaign is calculated propaganda. The only “family” materially involved in this organization is the Walton family which, through the Walton Family Foundation, is a major contributor to “Families for Excellence.” The Walton family, along with their billionaire peers the Broad family, the Koch family and the Gates family, are funding so-called school reform efforts like this around the country. The parents and children who appear in these ads may well be sincere, but they are pawns in a much larger game. Charter school operators, particularly Eva Moskowitz, head of the Success charter network, shamelessly use their students to promote their political agenda, as seen in the recent demonstrations in Albany.”

The point of the campaign is to persuade the public that charter schools are better than public schools, which is not true.

Nelson points out that the allegedly “better” schools have selection mechanisms–like Ivy League colleges or selective schools-that recruit selective populations.

He writes:

“All of these comparisons are based on the unquestioned assumption that the success of a school’s students — standardized test scores, SAT scores, college placement — is a direct reflection of the quality of the school. By this measure, Stuyvesant and Bronx Science are superb schools and PS 106 is abysmal; Scarsdale schools are wonderful, public schools in Harlem are awful; Columbia University is much better than City College. This is the way we have been conditioned to judge educational institutions… and it is absolutely meaningless.”

Thank goodness, there is one journalist at the New York Times who sees the big money behind the charter “movement.” It is Michael Powell, who writes a political column.

Michael Winerip used to write a clear-eyed weekly column on education for the Times, but for no reason, his column was dropped, and there is no more regular education columnist. Winerip used to be a scourge of those who love high-stakes testing and privatization. Maybe he disagreed with the predictable editorial board once too often. Now he covers “boomers” or something equally vital.

This is a snippet from Michael Powell’s insightful column:

Speaking of Eva Moskowitz, he writes:

“It’s worth noting this is a nicely gilded crusade. She oversees 20 schools, and is paid $485,000. She is no outlier.

“Deborah Kenney, chief executive of Harlem Village Academies, which runs two schools, has Charles Bronfman and John Legend, not to mention Hugh Jackman, on her organization’s board. Ms. Kenney is paid $499,000.

“Then there is Ian Rowe, leader of the well-regarded Bronx Preparatory School, who receives $338,000. And Our World Charter, a charter school in Astoria, Queens, where the C.E.O. makes a smidgen under $200,000.”

He adds:

“The problem is that the hedge fund chaps who adore charters tend toward the triumphalist. Keep offering more, they suggest, and any parent with a wit will divine the obvious choice.

“They rarely note the downside to these hothouse flowers. At Harlem Village Academy Leadership School, where Ms. Kenney makes her half-million, 50 percent of teachers with less than five years’ experience left last year. Her other school had a 60 percent teacher turnover rate, and suspended 38 percent of its students in 2010.”

And more:

“Ms. Moskowitz’s schools paid $519,000 or so last year to SKD Knickerbocker, a prominent political consulting firm. She gave $254,000 to Education Reform Now, which in its federal tax forms notes that it educated the public on the “harm caused” by the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike.”

But she can’t pay rent.

Now that a judge has ruled that the State Comptroller may not audit Success Academy because it is “not a unit of the state,” the obvious question is: if it can’t be audited, if it is not a public school, why should it get free public space?

You can’t say this often enough.

Money matters in politics.

Forget principle. Think money.

Andrew Cuomo wants to be re-elected Governor of New York with a large majority.

He has raised $33 million.

One of his biggest sources of money is Wall Street.

Wall Street loves charter schools.

Wall Street doesn’t love public schools.

The fact that only 3% of students in New York State attend charter schools doesn’t matter to Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo now wants to take charge of dispensing millions in public funds to charter schools for construction, and he wants to assure them that they can have public space without paying rent. He wants the power to give free space to charters, no matter what Mayor Bill de Blasio says.

The fact that high-flying charters like Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy not only excludes children with special needs but literally pushes them out of their schools does not matter to Andrew Cuomo. Success Academy is for winners, not losers. Children with disabilities don’t belong in Success Academy’s charters.

I have been trying to remember something that his father Mario Cuomo said. I can’t find it. I have googled, and I can’t find it. Mario Cuomo, known for his eloquence, once explained that a parent gives more love and affection to the weakest child, not the strongest one. I remember it well, even though I can’t find the source. It was very moving, spoken by a decent and kind human being, a loving father.

Did he teach this lesson to Andrew? I think not. Andrew is ready to toss the neediest children overboard. They don’t have high test scores. They don’t count. They drag down scores. They don’t matter to Andrew Cuomo. In his eyes, they are dispensable. They are invisible. And the hedge fund managers, so necessary for his re-election, don’t like losers. They like high scores. They like winners.

And that is why Andrew Cuomo has become the lobbyist for the hedge-fund supported charter sector. After all, they did give him $800,000 for his re-election campaign.

Parents and other supporters of public schools will rally today against Governor Cuomo’s attempt to wrest control of the New York City public schools for the benefit of his campaign contributors.

Dan Morris. 917.952.8920.

Julian Vinocur. 212.328.9268.

Media Advisory for Fri. March 14, Noon, Cuomo’s Midtown Office

Rally Against Quid Pro Cuomo State Budget Deal and Gubernatorial Control of NYC Schools

*Parents condemn Cuomo’s pay-to-play budget deal with charter school lobbyists who are bankrolling his re-election campaign and want to undermine New York City’s power over its schools.*

WHAT: Public school parents, community leaders, and elected officials will rally against the budget deal Cuomo clearly orchestrated with the Senate Majority to advance the extremist, anti-de Blasio agenda of charter school lobbyists who are heavily funding the Governor’s re-election campaign. This disturbing Quid pro Cuomo opens the door to gubernatorial control of New York City schools.

WHO: Outraged public school parents, community leaders, and elected officials who won’t stand for Cuomo and the Senate Majority cutting a pay-to-play budget deal with charter school lobbyists.

WHERE: Governor Cuomo’s Midtown office: 633 Third Avenue, between E40th and E41st Streets.

WHEN: Friday, March 14, Noon.

In New York state, the Assembly is led by Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly. In this interview, he expressed opposition to the State Senate’s bill to protect Eva Moskowitz and to assure that all of New York City’s nearly 200 charters get rent-free space in public school buildings. Eva has a chain of 22 charters. Mayor de Blasio just agreed to give her five more, but turned down three proposed charters for her chain. Two of those schools do not exist and have no pupils. The third will have to relocate 194 students.

Silver said about the State Senate’s proposal:

“This whole right of having a building around you — yet there’s thousands of children sitting in trailers in city public schools. Does anybody speak for their right?” Silver asked reporters during a rare visit to the Capitol’s press room. “They don’t have Wall Street billionaires who can put ads on, or contribute to campaigns, and therefore, nobody represents them and they’re doomed to sitting in trailers for the rest of their school career? That’s unfortunate. Some of that money, maybe, from all the advertising, would do well to build some buildings for a lot of students if they actually support them.”

If Silver acts on his views, the legislation won’t pass.

194 children were displaced from one of Eva Moskowitz’s 22 charters. Her chain, which spends millions on marketing, public relations, and advertising can easily afford to rent space for a school for them. The legislation proposed by the State Senate would guarantee
Eva the right to expand in a public school without regard to the children they displace and to stay there rent-free.

On the other side are 1.1 million children in the public schools, who have no billionaires to fight for them. They now depend on Speaker Silver to defend them from those who would bully their way into their schools, take away their art room, their dance room, their resource room for special education kids, their computer room, and any other space they choose.


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