Gary Rubinstein is a high school math teacher and blogger. He has been following Success Academy charter chain, which has been nationally acclaimed for its high test scores. In his latest post, Rubinstein examines the case of a student who thrived at Success Academy until the pandemic, but struggled when the school switched to remote learning. Read the story and answer the question, was she treated fairly by her school?

He begins:

A few months ago I published the first part of this series where parents of current or former Success Academy students can share their stories. As I hoped would happen, another frustrated parent found that post and contacted me with his own disturbing story to tell.

Success Academy is known for its high 3-8 standardized test scores and its extreme rigidity. In a way, the rigidity is part of what causes them to have such high test scores. They demand compliance from their students and from the families of those students. When a student or the family of a student is not conforming to the expectations of the school, that student or family are going to be harassed, humiliated, and punished until they either fall into line or ‘voluntarily’ transfer to another school.

The heartbreaking saga of a girl I will call ‘Carla’ began pleasantly enough eight years ago when she was accepted into Success Academy Springfield Gardens as a kindergartener. From kindergarten through fourth grade, she thrived at the school. Her fourth grade report card grades were mostly the highest or second highest category, except for writing where she was struggling….

In fifth grade, she started having problems academically, though not catastrophically, and then as we all know, the pandemic hit and schools in New York went remote for the next year and a half. For the end part of fifth grade and all of sixth grade, Carla struggled to learn remotely. She had various connection issues and would wait in zoom waiting rooms endlessly. She was really traumatized by the pandemic year and was eager to return to in person classes for her seventh grade year.

But she was still suffering the effects of the 18 months of remote learning. She was having mental health issues and was seeing a therapist about them. At school she was failing several classes. Carla is a very hard working student and someone who really tries her best and her parents work very hard to support her needs and to keep on top of what assignments Carla was missing. Everyone knows that Success Academy has one trick in their playbook which is to make students repeat grades for failing courses. So Carla managed to improve most of her grades but she still failed two subjects, writing and science and was told that she would have to pass those two courses in summer school or she would have to repeat the entire seventh grade.

How Success Academy can make such a threat is incomprehensible to me. For elementary school grades it makes more sense, but in a secondary school setting, why not just retake the courses that you failed? But that wasn’t the threat, it was that she had to pass both courses with a 70 or higher or she would be repeating the entire seventh grade, including all the classes that she had passed.

Please read the rest of the post to learn what happened to Carla? Was it fair? Was it just? What do you think?