Archives for category: Harlem Success Academy

There is a website called Glass Door,where employees rate their employers.

The most startling reviews have been posted by teachers (former and current) at Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain in New York City.

The last one, posted October 18, is titled “Flee, everyone else is.”

As you read other reviews, they are similar.

The last time this happened, Glass Door was suddenly flooded with rave reviews.

Take a look as soon as you can, before the trolls and sock puppets arrive.

The Show Me Institute, a free-market think tank in Missouri, has invited Eva Moskowitz to share the story of her ability to produce high test scores at her Success Academy charter schools on November 3.

Will she tell them about excluding students with disabilities and students who can’t read English? Will she tell them about booting out students who are behavior problems? Will she explain what it means when a school doesn’t “backfill”? Will she explain how her policy of not backfilling produces a steadily shrinking cohort? Will she talk about the high teacher turnover? Or the harsh disciplinary methods that produce compliant students? Will she ridicule public schools, which accept the students she excludes or kicks out? Will she tell them that her schools receive tens of millions of dollars of subsidies from hedge fund managers and other financiers?

Of course, Missouri has Rex Sinquefeld, the billionaire who hates public schools, so maybe Missouri charters will get the extra money they need to set up no-excuses charters that employ Eva’s secrets. Sinquefeld manages more than $300 billion in funds and is a co-founder of the Show Me Institute. He wants the state to abolish the income tax and replace it with a regressive sales tax.

Note that Eva’s bio in the announcement says that she “has returned to her roots in teaching,” but the only time she ever taught was in higher education, not exactly a model for no-excuses charters.

On September 28, Eva Moskowitz closed her Success Academy charter schools for the day so her students, teachers, and families could attend a political rally. Alan Singer wonders why this is permitted? The students, the staff, and families are used as pawns to advance Moskowitz’s political goals. Certainly, the children don’t need more charters. They already attend one. They can’t attend two or three. Eva is using them for her own benefit.

Who pays the bills? Families for Excellent schools. They are not the families of the students. They are billionaires and hedge fund managers whose excellent schools are private and have a tuition of $50,000 or more. You surely won’t see them hanging out with the children at these political rallies.

Face it: the kids are pawns being cynically used to advance adult interests.

Why is it legal?

Politico reports that Eva Moskowitz fired Mercury, the PR firm that also represented Michigan Gov Rick Snyder during the Flint water crisis. 

This the third PR firm hired and fired by Success Academy. 

How many public schools have the funds to hire a top-shelf PR firm? 

Nancy Carlsson-Paige was able to view the Success Academy video of a teacher teaching reading to a small group of very young children, probably five- or six-year-olds. It is called “Circle Time Reading.” Gary Rubinstein posted the video a few days ago, before it was taken down by Success Academy. I saw the video before it was removed. The teacher speaks in a very loud voice and constantly interrupts the reading to correct children’s posture or their failure to “track” her with their eyes. Maybe it will be reposted. If it is, I will let you know.

Carlsson-Paige, an expert on early childhood education, wrote the following critique of the video:

Review of the Success Academy Video: Teacher Reading to Young Children

This is a very poor example of a literacy experience for young children. Caps for Sale is a classic story loved by young chldren. This teacher interrupts the story constantly to reinforce a behaviorist method of classroom management. She repeats how the children should sit; she praises, corrects, and warns them. The children are distracted from the flow of the story and their own ability to make meaning of it.

Meaning is the driving force in learning to read. Sometimes a skilled teacher will interrupt a story once or twice in order to make sure children understand it, but never to distract children from the story. This teacher’s interruptions take children out of the story, preventing them from experiencing a deep interest in it and the great joy that can be found in reading good literature. The kinds of interruptions the teacher makes also distance her emotionally from the children. For young kids, learning and relationships are intertwined; they thrive and learn best when their relationships with teachers are based in trust and caring. There is no evidence in the video of a caring connection between this teacher and the children.

This teacher seems to lack knowledge about how children learn, how they make meaning of print and learn to read. Her apparent goal is behavioral control and compliance. Her lesson is teacher-centered and has little to do with what concepts might be building in the minds of the children.

Reading books to children is one important component of an early literacy program. The repetition in the story helps build a foundation for reading. The flow of language contributes to the capacity to predict print. But this teacher undermines the potential value of this as a literacy experience by constantly interrupting the story, focusing children on irrelevant behaviors such as folding their hands, and preventing them from getting the full benefit of a read-out-loud story experience.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Professor Emerita, Early Childhood Education
Lesley University
Defending the Early Years (

Please take this opportunity to learn from the best practices of Success Academy.

As you know, it posted nearly 500 videos. Then it took some of them down after Gary Rubinstein posted one of them. Then they were restored. Then they were all removed.

A reader informed me that one of the videos is back up. It is about teaching middle school math.

Please watch and tell us what you learned.

Gary Rubinstein explains here what happened when he posted about the nearly 500 videos that Success Academy put up on the Internet.

They were there. Some disappeared. They reappeared. They all disappeared.

What’s next?

Gary Rubinstein discovered that Success Academy charter chain had posted about 500 short videos to show what they do in the classroom. Success Academy is celebrated for its phenomenal test scores, far higher than other “no excuses” charter schools. Gary watched several of the videos.

In this post, he discusses a reading lesson for very young children called “Circle Time.” The video is linked. Gary discusses the video and invites readers to comment. The comments by early childhood teachers are interesting.

Gary writes:

“She reminds them how to sit to make this “the most enjoyable story yet” which includes having a really straight back and hands clasped together while tracking the speaker.

There is a lot of “behavior narration” going on, where the teacher constantly points out to the class students who are following directions well. (“Yolanni’s tracking up here.” “Davin brought it right back”) I find it very annoying and I feel like if I were a child it would detract from the story.

The teacher is in complete control. She allows the kids to make some gestures from time to time, but then quickly gets them to return their hands to their laps. I’m kind of scared of this teacher, whoever she is.”

After Gary posted this, almost all the videos were taken down. Then they were restored. Then they were removed again. Curious.

Gary Rubinstein found that Success Academy posted hundreds of short videos that demonstrate their methods. Their test scores are higher than any other charter school in the state of New York.

Watch a couple of videos and see what you can learn.

I can’t promise that the videos are still online. After Gary’s first post appeared, the videos were taken down. Then they were put back online. As of yesterday afternoon, after Gary posted another video, they were all taken down again. Cat and mouse. A curious way to react to those who view SA’s best practices.

Statisticians Mark Palko and Andrew Gelman explain why a relentless obsession with test scores ruins the value of the scores. As their prime example, they refer to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies, where children and teachers live for higher scores. Not only are the children’s names and ranking posted, so are the teachers’.

You remember Campbell’s Law? That’s the axiom that says when you attach consequences to a measure, the measure loses its validity.

They write:

“When a school uses selection and attrition policies that effectively filter out many of the extremely poor, students speaking English as a second language, and the learning disabled, that clearly calls into question test score advantages that such a school might have over an ordinary public school.

“But the problems run even deeper than most critics realize: A look at the data combined with some basic principles of social science suggests that the practices of no-excuses charters are undermining the very foundation of data-based education reform.

“As statisticians with experience teaching at the high school and college level, we recognize a familiar problem: A test that overshadows the ultimate outcomes it is intended to measure turns into an invalid test.

“Back in the old Soviet Union, factories would produce masses of unusable products as a result of competition to meet unrealistic production quotas. Analogously, many charter schools, under pressure to deliver unrealistic gains in test scores, are contorting themselves to get the numbers they’ve promised. They’re being rewarded for doing so. But that monomaniacal focus on test scores undermines the correlation between test scores and academic accomplishment that originally existed.”

They note that Success Academy has astonishingly high test scores, yet for two years in a row, not a single one of their eighth grade students won admission to one of the city’s elite high schools. In the third year, some did (11% of those who took the test from SA).

In a comment on this post, Gary Rubinstein (a blogger who teaches at Stuyvesant High School, an exam school) writes:

“One thing to note, the 11% specialized HS acceptance rate–6 out of 54–is inflated since there were 200 kids who feasibly could have sat for that test but only 54 did.” Of 200 students at Success Academy who were eligible to take the test, 54 did, and 6 gained admission.

It is better to have high scores than low scores, but they should never be the measure of teacher quality or school quality. Making them too important ruins their value.