Success Academy’s Incredible Hypocrisy

Eva Moskowitz wants to continue to expand her Success Academy chain of “no excuses” charter schools, but is concerned that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will not automatically and enthusiastically endorse her plans as was customary under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Following the model of her successful Albany rally last Spring that led to a state budget forcing New York City to pay rent for all charter schools, charter enthusiasts plan a rally for Thursday, October 2nd in Foley Square at 9am which they are dubbing “Don’t Steal Possible”.  I have seen organizers on social media promise as many as 10,000 attendees, many of whom I presume will be Success Academy teachers and students who, like the weekday rally in Albany, will be given time off from a scheduled school day to provide appropriate optics for the event.

“Don’t Steal Possible” refers to network supporters claiming that they are pleading with the de Blasio administration to not “steal” opportunities from NYC’s most struggling students who want to attend a charter school, especially a Success Academy charter school, where their success is “possible.”  Supporters have taken to Twitter with #DontStealPossible (as have detractors)  and both individuals and organizations, including Ms. Moskowitz herself, have repeated similar talking points about how their mission is driven for NYC kids “trapped” in failing schools:

The 143,000 kids that they repeatedly mention refers to a “report” from charter school advocacy group “Families for Excellent Schools” that cited 371 DOE schools where student performance on the 2013 state examinations did not pass 10% being labeled as proficient.  The purpose of the rally and of Ms. Moskowitz’s expansion plans is to offer “possible” to all of those students so that they can “escape” from their failed schools.

They really have some nerve.

There are many things galling about using the students at 371 New York City schools that serve mostly impoverished minority families as optics for a plan to expand the Success Academy chain, often into neighborhoods that are not strugglingFirst, the article in the Daily News misrepresents the results of those state examinations, probably willfully.  These were the first examinations to align with the new Common Core standards, and they caused an extreme collapse of scores across the entire state.  Further, the examinations are not pegged to grade level skills in reading and mathematics. Period.  End of discussion.  “Proficient” in the new examinations is not a synonym for “grade level,” and anyone who mixes up those terms is misinformed or a liar.  Carol Burris, Principal at South Side High School, explains very clearly how the cut scores were set:

State Education Commissioner John King asked the College Board to “replicate research” to determine what PSAT and SAT scores predict first-year success in four-year colleges. The College Board was asked to correlate SAT scores with college grades to create probabilities of college success. You can read the report here.

Keep in mind that research shows that the SAT’s predictive power is only 22 percent. High school grades are a far better predictor of college success. The lack of validity of scores, without the context of grades, was not taken into consideration.

The New York study chose the following “probabilities” as the definition of college success:

* English Language Arts:  a 75 percent probability of obtaining a B- or better in a first-year college English course in a four-year college.

* Math: a 60 percent  probability of obtaining a C+ or better in a first-year math course in a four-year college….

….When the cut scores were set, the overall proficiency rate was 31 percent–close to the commissioner’s prediction.  The proportion of test takers who score 1630 on the SAT is 32 percent.  Coincidence?  Bet your sleeveless pineapple it’s not. Heck, the way I see it, the kids did not even need to show up for the test.

Argue, if you must, that the new proficiency standard is the appropriate way to set up how the exams are assessed.  But don’t call it “grade level” or “passing.”  They are neither of those things, nor were they designed to be those things.

Second, Ms. Moskowitz and her supporters are pleading, they say, on behalf of those “143,000 kids,” but there is no evidence from the work of her school network so far that Ms. Moskowitz would accommodate anywhere near all of those students even if her schools had enough seats.  First off, a lottery system, while in theory neutral, already skims from a student population by requiring parents and guardians who are informed enough about the system to actually apply in the first place.  Further, once students enroll in the Success Academy network, they are subject to attrition rates and rates of discipline that far outstrip the comparable DOE schools.  Success Academy 1 had an attrition rate greater than 50% since its opening school year in 2006-2007, and the network sends clear messages to parents that they do not want struggling kids in their schools.  The result, as demonstrated by Bruce Baker of Rutgers, is that Success Academies enroll far fewer students who are coming from high poverty homes, are English language learners, or have special education needs:


Success Academy wants you to believe that they are rallying so that nobody will “Steal Possible” from the students in New York City’s most struggling public schools, but all the data available about their past and current practices suggests that even if many of those students did win lottery seats in a Success Academy, many of them would be pushed out of the school.  Those children are being used to improve the appeal of Ms. Moskowitz’s expansion plans even though probably none of them will be present at tomorrow’s rally.  After all, they have school to attend, and no NYC principal is allowed to dismiss an entire school’s worth of children to a rally to pressure the mayor and Albany.

Third, if this was really a movement to tell the public and officials to “Don’t Steal Possible,” then one would assume that there would be causes involved that aided all of our city’s children, not just the ones that win charter lottery seats and are then allowed to stay at those charters.  Again from Professor Bruce Baker of Rutgers, Albany has manipulated its base state funding formula in ways that have shorted New York City somewhere between $3-4000 a YEAR per CHILD below previous calculations of state aid.  That amounts to $3-4 BILLION in state aid ANNUALLY that Albany has kept from reaching New York City.  Across the entire state of New York, the Gap Elimination Adjustment has deprived the average school district of $3.1 MILLION annually, and Governor Cuomo aggressively pursued and got a property tax cap so that districts cannot choose to make up the lost money locally.  Consider how much “possible” has absolutely been stolen from public schools in New York City and across the state by these policies, and then ask if Families for Excellent Schools and Success Academy’s wealthy backers in the financial industry will rally to change them.  The answer is, of course they won’t.  Those same donors and Ms. Moskowitz’s own PAC have donated generously to Andrew Cuomo’s campaign.

And this is the hypocrisy.  Ms. Moskowitz is going to excuse her teachers and students from a day of school to rally in alleged support of all of those kids she claims are “trapped” in “failing” DOE schools, and there is no doubt that an unacceptable number of our most vulnerable students are indeed in schools that struggle.  But there is NO evidence that Ms. Moskowitz wants all or even a bare majority of those students in HER schools.  There IS plenty of evidence that the most vulnerable children to reach a Success Academy find it very difficult to remain there, and there is incontrovertible evidence that Ms. Moskowitz and her financial backers support the reelection of a Governor who has choked schools of money for his entire first term in office.

“Don’t Steal Possible”?


UPDATE:  Courtesy of Mindy Rosier, a special education teacher in a co-located school, the Success Academy in her building has changed their normal Wednesday half-day to today, and the school is providing buses that met at 7:30am to take people to Foley Square.  The event is being billed as a “parent rally,” but with school at half day for the event, there is little doubt that many children will be accompanying them:

SA change of calendar SA bus


Filed under charter schools, Funding, politics, Social Justice

28 responses to “Success Academy’s Incredible Hypocrisy

  1. Excellent piece Daniel! Will definitely share this!!!

  2. Peter

    Please don’t steal possible. They are planning to sell it.

  3. Pingback: Daniel S. Katz on Eva Moskowitz’s “Incredible Hypocrisy” | Diane Ravitch's blog

  4. Is Success actually closing schools for this rally like they did for the fight against De Blasio, and/or have they issued a formal policy on the subject of letting teachers and students attend? I can’t think of a legitimate justification, but I am very curious about whether they’ve ignored critiques or responded to them.

    • Their Twitter account is promising 10,000 people at this rally. I don’t think they’d make that pledge unless they intend to deliver on it!

    • Good morning Ben and Daniel. I have the answer and it still isn’t right. Normally, SA has a half day on Wednesday’s. Yesterday, they had a full day so that children will not miss any school time this morning. Buses are leaving from my school building at 7:30. I am sure like last March’s rally, water and tee shirts will be given out. After the rally, kids will be bused back and school is scheduled to resume at 12:30. How nice that they can simply rearrange a schedule like that. I posted their Newsletter on Twitter.What I want to know, is that since thi is labeled as a Parent Rally, then why are kids being bused in??? (It says that on the Newsletter.) Ben, you reminded me last night about that article I shared with you last night. Daniel, this one is for you 🙂
      Where parents and students forced to rally?


      • Thanks so much for the information. The primary concern I have about such a practice is that kids, many of them very young elementary school kids, are essentially being told that a specific position on a contentious and widely debated issue is correct. I find this practice to be a huge abuse of power by Success; they’re using their influence as an educational institution to manipulate their students as political tools. I would imagine that people would be outraged (as they should be) if the superintendent of a traditional public school district restructured a school week to bus kids to an anti-charter rally.

        The other point I would make is that there are much more important issues debated all the time. Should schools bus kids to rallies about the drug war, voter identification laws, paid sick days, global warming, etc.? Unlike the debate about charter schools, these debates very clearly have a “side” that’s best for low-income kids, but I find it hard to believe that Success would similarly restructure the school day and bus students for them.

  5. Johnny

    Actually, Thursday’s are 1/2 days for students. The teachers get professional during this time. School hours are 7:30am – 4:30pm all other week days, so there’s no time lost. On the day of the rally, class will be held during the 2nd half of the day.

  6. Of course you can!!! You are free to use any pic or post of mine. No need for my permission. I will be posting many more today.

  7. At the rally, they said several times they had 21,000. How they came up with that number? Who knows? There definitely was a showing. My guess between 5,000-10,000.

    • I saw some aerial photos. I have no expertise in crowd estimations, but they would have had to have jammed in very tight for 20K and above.

    • Mindywastetime

      Mindy – Shouldn’t you have been teaching on a school day instead of at the rally? Perhaps you took a personal day off. I often wonder how you have time to teach as you appear to spend a lot of time posting comments all over the web. It would be interesting to see how many of these are during your work hours. They are all time coded so should be easy to figure it out.

      • How clever! Love your username 🙂 Thank you so much for checking up on me. I feel so cared for. Well, FYI, I had ankle surgery this past July and I was home this summer. Usually I teach summer school but unfortunately I was unable to. I also was unable to return this September. My start date was this past Monday. So please, check the time codes. Have fun! By not working yet, I was on the internet whenever I wanted to. (I am on a Prep now, so this reply does not interfere with classtime.) Only within the last month, was I up and on my feet again and the last few weeks was I independent. Yes I was at that rally and I had my trusty cane! As I said, I was not working last week, I returned this past Monday. When the rally was finished, I came home and iced my ankle and then head out to PT which I have 2x a week. I hope my explanation was clear enough for you Ms. Mindywastetime. Normally I wouldn’t respond to trolls like you, but its Friday and why not? I know who I am and I know what I do and I am DAMN good at it. Sorry if my presence and activism concerns you and might even scare you. I actually use my name for I have nothing to hide. You are the coward by using a fake username. You have yourself a great weekend. Hope you find a life during it 🙂

  8. Joe Nathan

    I keep waiting for you to write something critical of the child molesters in the Catholic church – since they run the institution at which you teach. Apparently you have lots of time to criticize inner city public school educators but no time to criticize child molesters.

    • Dr. Nathan,

      I have told you in more than one forum that the purpose of my blog is to discuss public education. Your repeated efforts to goad me into some sort of response to your off topic inquiries and your efforts to implicitly and explicitly malign my character are neither welcomed nor appropriate. Due to your repeated insistence upon trolling my blog (and due to your aggressively insulting behavior towards me on Dr. Ravitch’s blog), you are no longer welcomed to comment on my site.

      This is a shame. I had hoped that you had gotten such adolescent impulses out of your system the last time, but it is obvious that this is entirely within your character. I had never imagined that someone who had the professional skills to be affiliated with an institution as prestigious as the Hubert Humphrey School would be so prone to junior high debate team tactics, but I was sadly mistaken.

      I regret having to block anyone from access to these discussions, but you have now repeatedly demonstrated that your purpose is to try to discredit me in the eyes of readers by your infantile accusations about my character solely because I will not entertain a conversation that is completely off topic for this blog about public education.

  9. Pingback: Ed News, Friday, October 3, 2014 Edition | tigersteach

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