AEI More on the phenomenal, ‘eye-popping’ success of Success Academy Charter Schools in NYC If you haven’t yet heard about the amazing, appropriately-named Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, here’s some background: Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools is the largest and highest-performing free, public charter school network in New York City. Admission is open to all New York State children, including those with special needs and English language learners. Students are admitted by a random lottery held each April. Success Academy operates 45 schools serving 17,000 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Across the network, 76% of students are from low-income households; 8.5% are current and former English Language Learners, and 15% are current and
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If you haven’t yet heard about the amazing, appropriately-named Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, here’s some background:
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools is the largest and highest-performing free, public charter school network in New York City. Admission is open to all New York State children, including those with special needs and English language learners. Students are admitted by a random lottery held each April. Success Academy operates 45 schools serving 17,000 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Across the network, 76% of students are from low-income households; 8.5% are current and former English Language Learners, and 15% are current and former special needs students. About 93% of students are children of color.
In the state of New York, there are 2,413 elementary schools and the table above (click to enlarge) shows the top 30 highest performing elementary schools in the state based on New York Elementary School Rankings just released for the 2018-2019 school year and compiled by School Digger. The rankings are based on the Average Standard Score (2019) for each elementary school, and that score is explained here.
What is truly amazing is that of the 30 elementary schools in the entire state of New York (the top 1.24% of schools) with the highest Average Standard Score for the 2018-2019 school year, two-thirds of those top schools (20) are Success Academy Charter Schools. There were four other Success Academy elementary charters that didn’t rank in the top 30, but they weren’t far behind at No. 32 (Success Academy Charter School-Harlem 1) , No. 37 (Success Academy Charter School-Harlem 2), No. 40 (Success Academy Charter School – Springfield Gardens) and No. 45 (Success Academy Charter School-Bronx 3). In other words, 100% of the elementary Success Academy Charter Schools (24 out of 24) ranked in the top 2% of all of the 2,413 elementary schools in New York State (actually the top 1.865%). And when you compare the demographics of the Success Academy Charters Schools above to the other 10 top-ranking schools in the table above, you’ll see that the students attending Success charters: a) are more than two times as likely to qualify for free or discounted lunch, b) nearly four times as likely to be black, and c) 1.4 times as likely to be Hispanic.
Questions: Wouldn’t you think that these Success Academy charter schools would be recognized as academic models for the rest of the city, the state and the entire nation? After all, the students at Success Academy charter schools are performing at the same or even higher level as students in tony, upscale, mostly white and Asian Scarsdale, New York (America’s richest town) whose top-ranked elementary schools is K-5 Edgewood School (ranked No. 31 behind 20 Success Academy charters) and where more than 87% of the students are white or Asian, there are no black students, 0% of the students qualify for free/reduced lunch, the median income is $242,782, and the median home value is $1.34 million! What makes the academic excellence of Success Academy charters even more impressive, especially when compared to schools like Edgewood, is that students at Success Academies are selected at random by lottery in some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City like in the Bronx where 87% of the students qualify for free or discounted lunches! With those kinds of impressive, eye-popping academic results for some of the city’s most at-risk student populations in Harlem, Queens and the Bronx, shouldn’t that proven record of academic success be replicated in all New York City and New York state public schools?
A: Yes, except for a few major obstacles. The Success Academy charter schools are run by Eva Moskowitz, and her network of charter schools hire only non-union teachers, who are paid well but can be fired for non-performance. So the New York City teacher unions hate Eva Moskowitz despite her jaw-dropping “off-the-charts success” at educating black and Hispanic kids in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Likewise, instead of being thrilled that so many of the city’s low-income, minority students are being educated so successfully, the new New York mayor Bill de Blasio hates charter schools just as much as the entrenched teacher unions (who are a main part of his political base of support) and he has been in a ferocious battle to stop Eva Moskowitz and the spread of charter schools.
As Jason Riley writes in today’s Wall Street Journal: “De Blasio Gives Up on Educating Poor Kids: Rather than expanding schools that help minority students, the mayor wants to shut them down“:
The majority of [public school students in New York] can’t do basic reading or math, according to state standardized test results released last week. And the numbers get even more depressing when broken down by race and ethnicity. Black and Hispanic students make up 67% of the system, while whites and Asians are about 15% and 16%, respectively. Only 28% of black students passed the math exam, versus 33% of Hispanics, 67% of whites and 74% of Asians. On the English exam, the passage rates were 68% for Asians, 67% for whites, 37% for Hispanics and 35% for blacks.
The irony is that the same social-justice advocates who obsess over [racial] inequality also spurn reforms, such as public charter schools, that help close black-white differences in learning (see Venn diagram above). “City charter schools, now teaching roughly 10% of the city’s student population, markedly outperformed traditional public schools again” on the state tests, reported the New York Post. Fifty-seven percent of charter-school test takers passed the state English exam, and 63% passed the math portion. Moreover, the highest scores in the state, for the third year in a row, came from Success Academy, a New York City-based charter-school network, where the passage rates for math and English were an astounding 99% and 90% (out of 7,405 students), respectively. Even more impressive is that these charter students are mostly low-income blacks and Hispanics, not middle-class Asians and whites.
If the primary goal were student achievement, Democratic politicians like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio would allow these successful school models to proliferate. But the mayor is far more interested in placating his political benefactors, the powerful teachers unions, which oppose charter schools because they don’t control them. To the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and their thousands of state and local affiliates, public education is more about jobs than about kids. Reforms that marginalize or circumvent union members are rejected, regardless of whether they benefit students. Mr. de Blasio may identify as a progressive champion of the underprivileged, but that’s lip service. The reality is that he’s blocking the surest path to the middle class for the city’s poor by relegating them to inferior schools.
Bottom Line: In a saner and more sensible world where students and learning are really the No. 1 priority, the educational establishment (including members of the teacher unions and the NYC mayor) would be “falling all over themselves” to study and replicate the proven educational success of Success Academy charter schools like the ones in Harlem, the Bronx, and Queens profiled above. But in the insane world of New York City where unionized teachers have a stranglehold on public schools, the liberal mayor and liberal teacher unions are waging a war on the city’s successful charter schools like the ones operated by Success Academy Charter Schools. Preservation of the status quo and a continuation of the current failed public school model, and preserving its power, are the primary concerns of the teachers unions and their administrative enablers, which includes Enabler-in-Chief Bill de Blasio.
It’s a perfect opportunity to invoke Perry’s Principle which says that progressives (including teachers unions) really don’t care about or value people (students, parents) as much as they care about and value power over people or just plain straight-up political power. And a slightly modified Perry’s Law also applies here: Competition (and school choice) breeds competence and academic success, while being insulated from competition breeds incompetence and academic failure.
Related: Here’s what the wise Thomas Sowell had to say in 2016 about the Success Academy charters in one of his columns (and featured on CD here), bold added:
We keep hearing that “black lives matter,” but they seem to matter only when that helps politicians to get votes, or when that slogan helps demagogues demonize the police. The other 99% of black lives destroyed by people who are not police do not seem to attract nearly as much attention in the media. What about black success? Does that matter? Apparently not so much.
We have heard a lot about black students failing to meet academic standards. So you might think that it would be front-page news when some whole ghetto schools not only meet, but exceed, the academic standards of schools in more upscale communities. There are in fact whole chains of charter schools where black and Hispanic youngsters score well above the national average on tests. There are the KIPP (Knowledge IS Power Program) schools and the Success Academy schools, for example.
What makes this all the more amazing is that these charter schools are typically located in the same ghettos or barrios where other blacks or Hispanics are failing miserably on the same tests. More than that, successful charter schools are often physically housed in the very same buildings as the unsuccessful public schools. In other words, minority kids from the same neighborhood, going to school in classes across the hall from each other, or on different floors, are scoring far above average and far below average on the same tests.
If black success was considered half as newsworthy as black failures, such facts would be headline news — and people who have the real interests of black and other minority students at heart would be asking, “Wow! How can we get more kids into these charter schools?” But the teachers’ unions are opposed to charter schools — and they give big bucks to politicians, who in turn put obstacles and restrictions on the expansion of charter schools. These include politicians like New York’s “progressive” mayor Bill de Blasio, who poses as a friend of blacks by denigrating the police, standing alongside Al Sharpton.