Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz did not approve of the finding — made by an “ethnographer” she hired to study her rapidly expanding charter school network — that some teachers at the high-performing network might be responding to the enormous pressure placed on them by cheating.
So Moskowitz, Success's combative founder, deployed senior managers to inform the staffer, Roy Germano, that he was banned from visiting schools for the remainder of the year. Moskowitz disparaged Germano to other employees, according to a memo written by Germano in July 2015 and obtained by POLITICO New York, and he was told to halt his research projects immediately.
Germano was fired last August, approximately a month after the report was completed, and is now a research scholar at New York University.
Germano’s reports and memo, along with a trove of other documents obtained by POLITICO — a separately commissioned internal draft risk assessment report, a compilation of exit interviews, and internal Success staffing records, among other documents — paint a picture of a growing enterprise facing serious institutional strain in the form of low staff morale, unusually high turnover, and the kind of stress that could drive teachers to exaggerate their students’ progress.
“It seems possible if not likely that some teacher cheating is occurring at Success on both internal assessments and state exams,” reads the July report by Germano, which was titled “Research Proposal: An Investigation into Possible Teacher Cheating.”
While Germano did not conclusively prove that teachers were cheating, he reports multiple incidents of Success staffers informing him that Success teachers may have prepared students for specific questions on internal tests, allowed students to copy answers from each other, scored their own students higher than students in other classes, and pointed to incorrect answers on exams and warned students to rethink their answers.
He compared Success’s data-driven, high-stakes environment to the state of the Atlanta public school system when a widespread cheating scandal was uncovered there. Germano also suggested that Success introduce measures to spot check and prevent cheating, including regular reviews of exam scoring, interviews with teachers, a statistical analysis to track how often students changed incorrect answers to correct ones, and anonymous reporting channels.
“The credibility of the organization could be greatly undermined if a third party were to detect cheating among our teachers and leaders before we detected and began dealing with it ourselves,” Germano wrote. In that same report, Germano wrote, “there are no rewards at Success for ethical teachers who try their best and fail.”
Moskowitz did not react well to the report's findings, reportedly disparaging Germano, then firing him and banning him from Success.
Many of us have long questioned Success Academies test scores, especially on tests they grade themselves.
This report calls for much more scrutiny into the Success test score "miracle".
You can bet the powers that be won't like that because Moskowitz is the poster child for the "No Excuses!" charter sector.
As with Michelle Rhee and the cheating scandal that enveloped her in D.C., there will be powerful people who look to defend Moskowitz both in and out of public to make sure her scores never get the scrutiny they deserve.
That's why it's up to the press to dig into this story and talk to the teachers and staff, both current and former, to get to the bottom of the story.