Editorials

Is this Success?

Success Academy was awash in celebration in June when it graduated its first high school seniors. Founder Eva Moskowitz reportedly shed tears of joy. She had so much to be proud of! Twelve years after opening its first school, the city’s largest charter network was sending all of its first high school graduating class to college. All 16 of them.

You read that right: Only 16 students made it through 12 years of Success Academy schooling. News reports say the Class of 2018 started out with 73 students.

The rate of attrition is startling — and telling. Critics say students who are the toughest to serve are pushed out of Success schools. We’ve seen the video of a Success teacher humiliating a 2nd-grade student. Success Academy parents have gone on the record complaining that their children are suspended for minor infractions, the kind of misbehavior that most public school teachers learn to handle with aplomb before continuing with the day’s lesson. The New York Times reported that one Brooklyn principal had a “Got to Go” list of 16 students that he wanted out. In addition to reports of those pressured to leave, classes inevitably shrink as students quit the school for whatever reason because Success schools do not accept newcomers after the 4th grade, according to press reports. 

Who’s left in the Success classroom? It seems fewer students with fewer issues and higher average reading and math scores. It’s a brutal business model, a winner-take-all system that subverts the idea of public education. The Success approach is more akin to a reality show where someone is booted off the island every week. Even so, Eva Moskowitz is once again demanding more space from the very public schools that serve ALL children. 

As the school year came to a close, the New York Daily News reported that students at another Success Academy high school were circulating an online petition demanding the school revise its summer homework, which required the students to read five books over the eight-week summer break.  The writer of the petition states: “The number of my peers I have seen crying and having panic attacks in the hallways is depressing.”

Their plea is sad beyond words. School should be an awakening to the joy of learning, not a grueling marathon to endure.

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