Archives for category: New York City

Fatima Geidi is the parent of the boy who was featured on John Merrow’s PBS broadcast about the harsh discipline policies at Success Academy charter schools. She writes here that parents should stop being afraid of Eva Moskowitz, the founder and boss of Success Academies, a charter chain of 34 schools.


I have been contacted on several occasions by current or former teachers at SA charters, and they always ask me to keep their names a secret. Even those who have left are afraid. Curious.


After Fatima’s son appeared on television, SA posted his disciplinary record online. The mother said this act violated her son’s privacy rights, as guaranteed by a federal law called FERPA ( Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). She complained to the US ED. After a lengthy delay, SA finally removed the boy’s confidential information from its website.


When Eva appeared at a law school forum, Fatima was one of several former SA parents who questioned and challenged her.


Fatima writes:


“I had a chance to question Moskowitz at the law school event. I told her she abused children’s rights and gas-lighted the network’s parents. Moskowitz said she thought her schools “have a really high level of customer service.”


“Although my exchange with Moskowitz was less than satisfying, I showed my son the video of the speech and my questions. He thanked me for fighting for him and other children, adding “I want to be like you when I grow up.”


“That was reward enough for me.”

Public education advocates were stunned to learn that State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia plans to attend a charter school rally, where 1,000 students, parents, and staff will gather to demand more funding for privately managed schools, which translates into less funding for public schools attended by the overwhelming majority of students in the state. Charter school rallies are political rallies, meant to whip up enthusiasm to increase the number of charters and the amount of funding for these schools. Even Elia’s predecessor, John King–whose teaching experience was in a “no-excuses” charter school–never attended a charter school rally.

Eva Moskowitz is a very powerful woman. She has 11,000 students in her 34 Success Academy charter schools, which get extraordinarily high test scores. She might be universally admired but she picks fights. She usually wins, because she is tougher than anyone else, and she has the backing of the moguls on Wall Street whose financial help Governor Cuomo enjoys.


But now she has picked a fight that is almost incomprehensible. Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted “universal pre-k,” and he invited charter schools to offer pre-K classes. Every school, public or charter, that agreed to provide pre-K signed a contract with the city. But not Eva. She said it was illegal for the city to demand that she sign a contract. She expects to be paid $720,000 by the city without signing the contract that all public schools and other charters have signed. She threatened to cancel her pre-K programs unless she is paid without signing the city contract.


Why? Because no one can tell her what to do. Certainly not the city.


Now Eva has appealed to state officials to force the city to back off and pay her, so she can run the pre-K program without signing a contract like other schools.


A Success Academy spokesman said the network has received applications from 1,800 families for 126 pre-K seats for 2016-17.

Success Academy operates 34 charter schools that enroll roughly 11,000 kids in total. The schools outperform traditional public schools on state exams.

Despite the reportedly high level of demand for Success Academy pre-K seats, city Education Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said Moskowitz must sign on the dotted line to get paid.

“There is simply no basis to conclude that requiring Success to comply with these requirements of program quality would somehow result in Success’ inability to operate its pre-K programs,” Kaye said.

Each of the other 277 pre-K providers — including nine other charter school operators — have already signed the contracts, Kaye said.

City Controller Scott Stringer has also urged Moskowitz to sign the contract, saying in October that “there is no conceivable reason for one charter school to be held to a different standard than every other charter school.”


Eva is counting on the state to defend her right not to sign.


Meanwhile I received a copy of this letter from a teacher at Success Academy, which includes the letter that Eva sent to the teaching staff, urging them to support her defiant stand:


Dear Dr. Ravitch,


The staff of Success Academy received an email from our fearless CEO that I thought might interest you. She addresses the current conflict with the de Blasio administration over pre-k funding, and urges her staff to complain to the mayor and our local officials. It’s still incredible to me how she believes that she can use her staff as political capital without presenting a complete picture of an issue. I haven’t read the contract that she refuses to sign, but by all reports it seems benevolent enough. The funding comes from taxpayer money after all, so it seems fair that the city would oversee the programs it supports. And yet, from her email, Eva would like us to believe that this is nothing more than an attack on her schools. She is obviously using this as way to stoke fear that there is a “larger war on Success Academy and charter schools.” It’s simply ironic to me that someone who is running a school system, where we are supposed to value critical thinking, would present such a one-sided and manipulative take of this conflict.


I’ve copied the text of the email below. I also have screenshots of the email if you’d like further verification. 






This is the letter that Eva sent to members of the staff of her charters:


Team Success:


I am writing to update you about Success Academy pre-k for next year. This first year has been one of tremendous growth for our youngest scholars — and for Success as well, as we challenged ourselves to develop a magical curriculum that engaged and delighted 4-year-olds. The response from families has been so positive that we made plans to expand our pre-k to our Union Square and Bensonhurst schools.


Unfortunately, in the case of Success Academy, Mayor de Blasio does not truly support pre-k for all. The mayor and the Department of Education have again thrown up a roadblock. He has refused to pay us the pre-k funding to which we are entitled under the law unless we allow him to dictate how we run our pre-k program. A critical aspect of charter schools is that we are not subject to the control of the city government. That is what enables a high-quality program.


Success Academy and 24 parents of students in our pre-k program have brought a legal action against the city but it is unclear how long it will take to get a decision. Unfortunately, unless we get a result or persuade Mayor de Blasio to do the right thing within the next two weeks, we will be forced to cancel our pre-k program for the coming year!


Please feel free to express your concern to the mayor directly and to you local elected officials. This would be a terrible shame for families and for staff who have worked so hard to create a truly amazing pre-k experience. This is just part of a larger war on Success Academy and charter schools. On a daily basis, we are forced to fight for kids’ rights to a world-class, free education.


Thank you for all you do for children.




Eva Moskowitz




Gary Rubinstein noticed the lack of media about KIPP charters in New York City. While Eva Moskowitz unleashes media blitzes about the high test scores of Success Academy charters, KIPP is silent. He wondered why.

He checked the test scores of third graders in the city’s 110 charters with a third grade (that started in kindergarten) and discovered the reason:

“In the bar graph below, the 110 schools are sorted from highest percent getting a 3 or 4 on the ELA test to the lowest. The Success Academies are almost all at the far left. The 3 KIPP schools are marked with red bars. The top performing KIPP school was 37th out of 110 with 41.9% getting a 3 or 4. The second best KIPP was 66th with 27.3% getting a 3 or a 4, and the lowest was 90th with 17.2% getting a 3 or a 4. On average, KIPP is pretty much worse than 2/3 of the charter schools in New York City.”

This is nothing to boast about.

On the other hand, I am so sick and tired of charter boasting that I am glad to see it tamped down or disappear.

Michael Elliott is a gifted videographer who has made videos for parents who protest testing. He knows the issues: his own children are in public school in Brooklyn.


In this post, he explains why opt out numbers were very low in New York City, while parents in the rest of the state were refusing to let their children take the state tests. Statewide, more than 220,000 students did not take the state tests in 2015, about 20% of students statewide. In New York City, the opt outs were only 1.4%.


Elliott explains the difference. Students in low-performing schools have the possibility of school closure hanging over their heads. If they opt out, their school might close.


Students in other schools need test scores to be admitted to a junior high school or high school of their choice (and they might not get their choice anyway, since the city has a convoluted system based on admissions to medical schools).


Fear suppressed the New York City opt outs.


Interesting that when you think about the number of opt outs in the rest of the state–excluding NYC–the proportion rises dramatically. Maybe 30% or more of the kids outside NYC opted out. No wonder the politicians in Albany are running scared and trying to allay the concerns of the angry parents on Long Island, upstate, and in the Hudson Valley.

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of Néw York, reports that Givernor Cuomo vetoed an increase for CUNY. This affects the education of the city’s neediest students.

Dear Members,

We got the news at midnight last night that Governor Cuomo vetoed the Maintenance of Effort bill. We had been receiving signals for more than a month that there would be a veto, but we continued to press till the final night.

Governor Cuomo’s veto represents a decision not to invest in sustaining top-quality college education for the working people, the poor and the people of color in New York. His position is now absolutely clear.

Cuomo had the chance with this bill to take an action that had huge bipartisan support and that would have resonated not only in New York City but across the state. He deliberately refused that chance, despite his repeated claims of being a leader in progressive policy. He cannot be a progressive while systematically withholding funds from CUNY.

No doubt Cuomo ‘s defense–which will soon appear in the veto message–will be that the bill would take spending over the 2% cap he has imposed on any increases. But what is the justification for the 2% cap? Nothing. With State revenues up by 5.6% this year, there is no fiscal justification for imposing such a cap. It is simply austerity politics: the decision to transfer wealth from the many to the few and call it “necessity.” And like everything else in this country, austerity policy cannot be separated from the issue of race.

Austerity policy means that we in the faculty and staff have been subsidizing New York State as our salaries have not kept up with inflation, and that students have been forced to facilitate the State’s disinvestment in their education as they pay an ever-greater share of the costs. It means that CUNY and SUNY are prevented from making enhancements desperately needed after decades of fiscal starvation, and that endless tuition increases are demanded just to keep the universities afloat.

You, as PSC members, did an exceptional job of supporting this bill. The bill would not have been passed and sent to the Governor without our collective work. You mobilized to get thousands of messages from members, first to the Legislature and then to the Governor. You collected 40,000 postcards on the MOE from students. You traveled to Albany and organized here in the city.

And the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Senator Kenneth La Valle, deserve our thanks. They went beyond sponsorship to tenacious support.

The union’s work is not wasted. We have made it clear to Albany that the issue of CUNY funding has deep support and that it will not go away. We will not be stopped by one veto. The PSC already has in place our response to the veto and the next steps in our campaign. The fight will continue–and escalate.

With enough depth among our own membership and breadth among our allies, it is a fight we can win.

Barbara Bowen
President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY

Blogger Chaz’s School Daze explains why the NYU study on the “success” of closing large high schools and replacing them with small high schools is bogus.

He writes:

“This week, NYU released a study showing that students fared better with the closing of the many large comprehensive high schools and replaced by the Bloomberg small schools. The basis for the study’s conclusion was the increased graduation rate from the small schools when compared to the closed schools. However, the study is fatally flawed since the graduation rate is a bogus parameter and easily manipulated by the school Principal to allow students to graduate academically unprepared for college and career. Let’s look at how schools manipulate the graduation rate.”

I posted Leonie Haimson’s critique of this Gates-funded study, which relied on the views and insights of those in charge of designing and implementing the policy in the NYC Department of Education.

Chaz points out that the study ignored the pressure on teachers in the new small schools to pass students; the pressure on principals to raise graduation rates; and the widespread use of fraudulent “credit recovery” to hand diplomas to low-performing students.

The data on graduation rates are made meaningless by these corrupt practices. The researchers did not see fit to examine nefarious ways of graduating students who were unprepared for college or careers.

Chaz points out that educators in Atlanta went to jail and lost their licenses for changing grades. Why was there no investigation or prosecution of equally serious actions in Néw York City?

Eva Moskowitz announced she will not challenge Bill de Blasio in 2017.

Her work in education reform, she says, is too important.

She said humbly,

“I’m doing for education, frankly, what Apple did with computing for the iPhone; what Google is doing with driverless cars,” Moskowitz said.

Gary Rubinstein explores the familiar claim that charter schools in New York City are far superior to public schools, when measured by test scores. The media, especially the newspapers, have said this repeatedly, as if it were a proven fact.

Not so fast, Gary says. he checked out the scores of the city’s charter schools, in relation to their “economic need index,” and compared them to public schools with their economic need index.

Only one charter chain stand out as an outlier: Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charters.

Otherwise, the test scores of the charter sector were similar to those of public schools.

Gary concludes:

“It seems pretty clear to me that, on average, the charter schools are not outperforming the public schools, based on how about half of of the charters are above the trend line and half below. Also it is relevant that most of the charters have an economic need index between .7 and .9 while there are a significant number of public schools that have an economic need index above .9. This runs contrary to the charter school supporters who continue to insist that charters serve the ‘same kids’ as the nearby ‘failing’ public school.

“Success Academy are such outliers that I can’t understand why charter supporters who are so focused on test scores are not out there insisting that all charter school resources be sent to expand Success Academy and the ‘yesterday’s news’ charters like KIPP, Democracy Prep, Harlem Children’s Zone, The Equity Project, etc. get shut down for poor performance.”

Jamaal Bowman is principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx, a borough of Néw York City. Knowing that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy was planning a mass rally today, he wrote an article saying that schools need to focus on the whole child not just test scores.

Bowman describes the harsh disciplinary policies at Success Academy schools to the supportive environment at his school. Unlike SA schools, school has very little teacher turnover, very minor student attrition, and low suspension rates.

He writes:

“During a recent conversation with a sixth grader who attends a Success Academy charter school, she referred to her learning environment as “torturous.” “They don’t let us be kids,” she told me, “and they monitor every breath we take.”

Although praised by many for its test scores, the draconian policies at Success are well documented. Students must walk silently in synchronized lines.

In classrooms, boys and girls must sit with their hands folded and feet firmly on the ground, and must raise their hands in a specific way to request a bathroom break.


Most disturbingly, during test prep sessions, it has been reported that students have wet their pants because of the high levels of stress, and because, simulating actual test-taking, they’re not permitted to use the restroom except during breaks.

Regarding the praise for Success Academy’s test results, we must be mindful of overstating the quality of an education based on test score evidence alone….

“As reported by Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News, the first Success Academy opened in 2006 with 73 first graders. By 2014, only 32 of the 73 had graduated from the school.

“What happened to most of that student cohort? Did they leave willingly just because their families were moving? Did they leave for other schools because Success Academy wasn’t right for them? Were they pushed out?

“Further, school suspensions and teacher turnover at Success are disproportionately higher than district schools. Said one teacher in a recent New York Times article, “I dreaded going into work.” Another teacher, when requesting to leave work at 4:55 p.m. to tend to her sick and vomiting child, was told, “it’s not 5 o’clock yet.”

At Bowman’s school, 99% of the students are black or Hispanic.

He writes:

“Although 90% of our students enter sixth grade below grade level, we’ve had success on the state standardized tests, ranking number one in New York City in combined math and English Language Arts test growth score average in 2015.

“But testing is not how we measure success.

“Our mission is to create a learning environment anchored in multiple intelligences. Student voice and passion are embedded into the curriculum. In addition to traditional courses like mathematics and humanities, S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art of Architecture, Mathematics), computer science, the arts, leadership and physical education provide a rich and robust learning environment.

“A favorite course of both the staff and students of C.A.S.A. is “Genius Hour.” Borrowing from the 20% time concept of Google, Apple and Facebook, we give students two 60-minute blocks per week to work on “passion projects.” Using design thinking, students explore issues within their community that frustrate them and conduct research into how to create solutions to identified problems.

“Finally, at C.A.S.A., during the 2014-15 school year, only 2.3% of our students received a suspension. Our teacher turnover rate is 1.5% annually. We also have an average of less than a 1% student attrition rate annually over a six-year period.

“Parents and students of Success Academy schools will rally Wednesday against Mayor de Blasio’s agenda of investing in public schools to turn them into community schools and otherwise improve their learning environments. Their goal instead is presumably to turn ever more schools into privately run charter schools — though it’s unlikely Moskowitz would agree to take over any struggling schools if she had to keep the student body intact.

“Our city needs more public schools that serve the whole child without an obsessive focus on tests. Only then will our children truly feel at home. This is a cause worth rallying for.”


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