Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ask Eva Moskowitz About The Attrition Rate At Success Academies

From State of Politics:

At 6:30 a.m., Success Academy Harlem Central Middle School scholars will appear on MSNBC’s Morning Joe with their principal, Andrew Malone.

Yesterday the hosts of the Morning Joe Clown Show beatup on Mayor de Blasio over the Success co-location issue.

Today, they let Eva use the program for more pro-Success propaganda.

But one stat never makes it into these mainstream media propaganda fests - the attrition rates at Success Academies:

Many uptown Manhattan parents hope that winning the lottery for a seat at Harlem Success Academy I will put their child on the path to academic achievement. But just because a child gets into Harlem Success does not mean he or she will complete 5th grade there. The school -- part of Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy network -- has a high attrition rate, leading critics to charge that the school may push out low achieving or difficult students.

Harlem Success denies that's the case, and says the attrition can be explained by children moving away--or even skipping a grade. Without better data from the state, it's impossible to say who is right. But one thing is certain: Harlem Success loses a lot of kids between kindergarten and 5th grade.

According to figures on the school's New York State Report Card, 83 students entered kindergarten in 2006-07, the school's first year of operation. When that class reached 4th grade in 2010-11, it had only 53 students -- a drop of 36 percent. Harlem Success also took in a 1st grade class with 73 students in 2006. When that group reached 5th grade, it too had shrunk appreciably -- by 36 percent.
The attrition accelerated as the classes advanced. The 2006-07 1st grade class, for example, did not shrink at all as it entered 2nd grade, but saw one sharp falloff between 2nd and 3rd and another between 4th and 5th.

So far, following classes have not shown a similar decline. The 2007-08 kindergarten started out with 123 students, increased to 127 the following year and then fell back to 117 by the time it reached 3rd grade in 2010-11.

The United Federation of Teachers charges that the school may weed out students before they take standardized tests at the end of 3rd grade. Citing Harlem Success's attrition during a panel discussion on charter schools sponsored by the New York City Bar Association, UFT vice president Leo Casey said, "All of the students who would have brought down the statistics are gone."

In a subsequent email, Casey wrote, "It may be significant that the bulk of the attrition at Harlem Success Academy 1 seems to have come in the tested grades."

Harlem Success boasts extremely high test scores and the network has made them a major selling point.

Asked about the attrition at Harlem Success, a spokeswoman denied the school pushes out students. "Success Academy Charter Schools does not counsel out students or encourage them to leave," she said in an email. Shifts in size, according to the school, come from students moving, skipping a grade or having to leave for other reasons, such as illness.

You can be sure the clowns on the Morning Joe Clown Show did not ask about all the kids who used to be at Success Academies who mysteriously disappear before they have to take the state tests.


  1. Charters unloading kids who don't test well or come from troubled backgrounds? Say it aint so. Sit back and wait for the shrieking clache of denyniks who always rush in when this ugly reality surfaces....

    1. Hard to believe the Morning Joe clowns didn't pursue this story too.

  2. Not singling you out here, but I am continually bewildered by discussions of Success's attrition rate that fail to bring up their no-backfill policy.

    Their attrition rates are not substantially higher than district schools, and I simply haven't seen enough evidence to support the theory that they are actively counseling out a lot of kids. If you were a family that stuck it out for years with the long school days and all the behavioral stuff, wouldn't you scream bloody murder if 4th or 5th grade came along and the school kicked you out?

    Their secret sauce is that they don't let in any new kids after the first day of third grade. Kids who struggle to do the work or have a change in life circumstances leave voluntarily. The highest performers tend to stay. And there's no fear of getting random new kids to come in and mess up the test scores.

    It certainly violates the spirit of the state charter school law, and it possible violates the letter of it, too. It is the charter sector's most precious and dirty little secret: KIPP, Democracy Prep, Harlem Village, and all the other prominent networks got their clocks cleaned on the Common Core tests. Without Success, the narrative of charter superiority would be much harder for the sector to sell to the media. Forget banning co-locations, rent, corporate backing, equal number of special ed/ELLs--the quickest and easiest way to slow Success is to force them to admit new kids to fill seats lost to attrition in every single grade.

    1. You raise a very good point about filling slots, Tim. But there was the Juan Gonzalez piece about the counseling out issue last August:

      Still, as you noted, not letting in anybody after third grade goes a long way toward making sure only the kids they want take the tests.