WILLIAMSBURG — The controversial charter network Success Academy plans to open 100 New York schools in the next decade, DNAinfo New York has learned.The charter chain already has 20 schools in the city with another seven slated to open next year, despite fierce opposition from public school advocates in Williamsburg, Hell's Kitchen, Gramercy, Harlem and other neighborhoods.It received a $5 million grant Monday from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to continue its rapid New York expansion, with "as many schools as possible" opening in the next several years, a member of the foundation said."They're trying to grow up to 100 schools in the next decade," said Rebecca Wolf DiBiase, the foundation's managing director of programs who has worked closely with Success Academy since their inception."The current plan is in New York but they'll see where there's a need."...The Broad Foundation — which was Success' first major funder and has now invested $11.4 million in the network Eva Moskowitz started in 2006 — donated the grant after the network's students got exceptional scores on the state's more difficult Common Core standardized test, DiBiase noted.Success students' scores were in the top 1 percent of math scores and in the top 7 percent of English Language Arts scores in all of New York State, a Department of Education spokesman confirmed.
And just how does Success Academy get so "successful" at those test scores?
According to Gary Rubenstein, by attrition - they "lose" students along the way who won't contribute to their high scores.
They also lose teachers to burn-out (about a 50% attrition rate.)
Rubenstein also notes the obsessive test prep they engage in at the schools that contributes to the high scores.
This comment excerpt is from a former Success teacher:
The test prep at Success runs like a machine. The kids get small group instruction all day during test prep–even the principals often stop their administrative duties to teach small groups. They even pull lower grade teachers to teach groups of test preps while assistants lead their classes. I hated that place, but I can’t deny their curriculum is excellent and they know how to do test prep right.
He wonders what else they do besides kick kids out who won't help raise their test scores and engage in obsessive test prep all the year through to get so "successful":
For one thing, I know that Success Academy schools generally have two teachers per class. This is something that would be very costly to scale. Also, though they do hire new TFA teachers, those teachers are never lead teachers, but function more as teaching assistants. This, I think, is a pretty good use for TFAers and I’ve suggested before that all first year TFAers should serve this kind of role. Also, at least according to the commenter who was not thrilled with her experience there, they do seem to have a good curriculum. Another thing I should note is that I am less skeptical of a school where they start in kindergarten than I am with a KIPP middle school that starts with kids in 5th grade. Early childhood education is something that I support, and the success of Success is an example of this helping.
Rubenstein concludes that Success Academy's test scores successes do not overcome the downsides to what they have to do to get those scores:
Still, I’m not convinced that what they have gained in their high test scores outweighs what they have lost, particularly 50% of their original kids at the first school, and 30%, so far, of the kids who are now fourth graders.
In general, these good test scores, I think, should make the ‘reformers’ more nervous than elated. From my perspective, I don’t think that the scores are devastating to my cause. I don’t think they really prove that there are super teachers out there who can get the ‘same kids’ to excel, even if it is just on standardized tests, since I’m not convinced they are truly the ‘same kids.'
Here's the thing - as Eva Moskowitz looks to ramp up her Success Academy franchise, the things that makes her schools so "successful" now - the creaming of the high scoring kids, the attrition rates, the teacher burn-out rate, the obsessive test prep - get harder to do on a larger scale.
Rubenstein writes how the gloss is off KIPP, Democracy Prep, Harlem Village Academies and other once highly-touted charter schools that saw their test scores plummet this year when the Common Core test scores were released.
Moskowitz has managed to keep the gloss on her school franchise through her monomaniacal obsession with test scores - everything at Success Academy schools revolves around making sure the schools have high test scores - but will that system work if she tries to add 100 more schools to her franchise system?
And even if it does, at what cost?
What kind of humans are they churning out from this punitive school system where the value of a child is proportional to the score they get on their state tests?