By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
The educational establishment does not want to relinquish control of their failing public school monopoly, so rather than emulate successful charter schools, they are trying to kill them. The Wall Street Journal published back-to-back editorials on the efforts of New York City educators to stifle Success Academy:
If New York City’s 46 Success Academy charter schools were their own public school district, they would be New York state’s seventh largest—and its highest achieving. That’s based on the math and English scores on state proficiency tests released Tuesday, which showed Success Academy students far outperforming most of their peers.
But instead of celebrating student achievement, the chair of the committee that oversees new charter school approvals by the State University of New York, Joseph Belluck, said it would be “very difficult” to approve new Success Academy schools as long as Daniel Loeb remains on its board.
Mr. Loeb, who runs the Third Point hedge fund, has drawn fire for an ill-advised Facebookpost. He wrote that Andrea Stewart-Cousins, an African-American Democrat who serves as the Senate minority leader in Albany, had done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood” because of her support for the teachers unions.
Mr. Loeb’s post was foolish, and he has apologized. But what does it say about Mr. Belluck and New York’s education authorities that he would be willing to deprive black children of good new schools because of a stray comment he didn’t like?
Let’s add some perspective. Eighty-six percent of the 15,500 students who attend Success Academies are children of color. And they are learning: 95% of Success Academy students tested proficient in math, with 84% proficient in English.
Compare this to the performance in traditional public schools in New York City. For the city’s students of color, only 24% are proficient in math and only 29% in English. About a third of the city’s black students score at the lowest end—Level 1—on English and 47% in math. This means they can’t even master basic arithmetic or reading.
This is the real racial scandal in New York City today—or should be. It’s a sign of the city’s misplaced education priorities that having hundreds of thousands of children who year after year test below proficient barely elicits a yawn.
Yesterday, The founder and leader of Success Charter Schools, Eva Moscowitz stuck back against her anti-success opponents:
I grew up in Harlem in the 1960s and early ’70s. My brother and I attended a failing school where we were the only white students. My parents, both professors, supplemented our education at home, but we understood that our classmates were wholly dependent on the inadequate education the school offered. Even at that young age I perceived this as a terrible injustice.
Thirty years later, when I was again living in Harlem and ready to send my own son to school, those same schools were still abysmally low-performing. In 2006, when I opened my first charter school in Harlem, the district schools were still failing.
Today, there is a different story to tell about Harlem, and it is thanks to a school-choice movement that has given rise to dozens of high-performing charter schools. Today, almost half of the students in Central Harlem attend a charter school; in East Harlem, a quarter do.
The results of the 2017 New York state tests were released Tuesday, and my staff has been busy crunching the numbers. They demonstrate how transformative this development has been for Harlem residents. In Central Harlem, for example, the number of students meeting rigorous, Common Core math standards has more than doubled since 2013—from 1,690 to 3,703. Students attending charter schools account for 96% of that growth. Results for English language arts are similarly inspiring.
The highest performing charter schools, like Success Academy, have actually reversed the achievement gap. Black and Hispanic students from Central Harlem’s seven Success Academy schools outperform white students across the city by 33 points in math and 21 points in reading; low-income students outperform the city’s affluent students by 38 and 24 points in math and reading respectively.
Recently, the NAACP called for a moratorium on charter schools, claiming they created a system that was “separate and unequal.” Lily Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, made a similar argument at a summer gathering of her members. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten went so far as to say school-choice and charters were the “polite cousins” to Jim Crow segregation.
Given the incredible academic progress evident among Harlem’s charter-school students—and among low-income children of color attending charter schools across the country—these accusations are breathtakingly cynical, designed to protect a union-dominated system that has failed urban communities for decades.
To justify their arguments, Ms. Weingarten and others propagate the myth that charter-school successes have come at the expense of traditional district schools. But this claim has been disproved again and again. In New York City, for example, a comprehensive study found improved academic performance, safety, and student engagement at district schools with charter schools, particularly high-performing ones, located nearby or in the same building.
This finding is exemplified by Harlem’s District 5. Charter-school enrollment in this district has grown exponentially since 2006, the year the first Success Academy opened. Far from spurring a decline among the district’s public schools, the district’s academic ranking relative to others in the city increased slightly over this period. When charter schools are included in this equation, its ranking spikes an additional 12 spots, from 26 to 14. Neighborhoods like the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, where a growing proportion of students are attending charter schools, should expect to see similarly dramatic improvements.
The reality is that even if the critics’ narrative were true, it would mean little to Harlem’s thousands of charter-school parents. Many of these parents attended the same kind of subpar local schools that my brother and I did, and were raised by parents who also attended them. They are acutely aware of how the education they received severely limited the opportunities available to them. Today, these parents are celebrating test results that tell them the roadblocks have been removed. Their children are on a path to college. Their loyalty lies not with an abstract system of educational governance, but with schools and educators who are doing right by their children.
Ultimately, the bare-knuckled attacks by charter-school opponents are a sign of desperation. Parent demand for a better education is undeniable: 14,000 Harlem children were entered into charter-school lotteries this year, vying for a total of only 3,000 spots; across the city, 48,000 students are on charter school waitlists.
Parents now have the freedom to choose and they are choosing charter schools. It is our responsibility as New Yorkers to give them more of what they want: public schools that are engines of opportunity rather than roadblocks to success.
Ms. Moskowitz is founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools