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Good to see you again,
Louisiana teacher and blogger Mercedes Schneider highlights an important aspect of this situation that others, including myself, have thus far missed.
( an excerpt from Schneider’s article appears at the end of this post)
The behaviors of this Success Academy child in question indicate that the child suffers from some disabling condition or learning disability—ADD, ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, etc. As such, the child needs specialized care and attention. A specialist has to be brought in to identify the innate problem. Based on that and other input, a program, including an I.E.P. mandating an on-going plan of intervention, must then be implemented.
None of that goes on at Success Academy.
Eva’s only brilliant response to the child’s disability is for her and her staff to suspend, suspend, suspend. She and the others in charge at SUCCESS ACADEMY apparently believe that doing so will just magically “suspend” the child’s innate disability out of existence, as in days of yore, when witches would be hired to cast spells to drive out the demons that caused a child’s troubling mental condition… many of those conditions are what we in the modern world now identify as autism, ADD, etc.
Indeed, based on prior comments to the press, the folks at SUCCESS ACADEMY don’t even believe in the concept of “disability,” or that there is such a category known as “special ed,”. Nor do the believe in bringing in specialists, or in implementing IEP’s.
Or perhaps Eva does believe such innate deficiencies exist, but doesn’t deign to take those unfortunates on … dumping them back into the public schools for those folks to handle. This, in turn, places heavy financial and manpower demand on those public schools, as special ed. kids require highly-trained, highly paid special ed. teacher, a small class size or student-to-teacher ratio, etc.
Essentially, Eva views children in general as commodities… valued on two criteria:
1) cheapest to educate — no expensive special ed kids draining your budget
2) potential for high test scores — again, the special ed kids are unable to deliver those.
According to one staffer, she responds to kids in any low-test-score-causing hardship, including those based on disability with the following comment:
“SUCCESS ACADEMY is not a Social Services agency.”
Eva Moskowitz is on the same page with recently-departed Secretary of Ed. Arne Duncan. To both of them, there’s no such thing as “special ed.” In her opinion — as expressed by one of her top administrators (JUST BELOW) — is that what the traditional school approach categorizes as “special ed,” is nothing more than a lack of “maturity” as a result of “mama” failing to her her job. Those whose fail to “mature” — or have the effects of poor parenting reversed — under Eva’s system are kicked out… err… “counseled out.”
This is from PAGE 5 of the 2010 NEW YORK MAGAZINE story on Eva and her schools:
“At Harlem Success, disability is a dirty word.
” ‘I’m not a big believer in special ed,’ (SUCCESS ACADEMY’s instructional leader) Fucaloro says. For children who arrive with individualized education programs, or IEPs, he goes on, the real issues are ‘maturity and undoing what the parents allow the kids to do in the house—usually mama—and I reverse that right away.’
“When remediation falls short, according to sources in and around the network, families are counseled out. ‘Eva told us that “the school is not a social-service agency,” ‘ says the Harlem Success teacher. ‘That was an actual quote.’
“In one case, says a teacher at P.S. 241, a set of twins started kindergarten at the co-located HSA 4 last fall. One of them proved difficult and was placed on a part-time schedule, ‘so the mom took both of them out and put them in our school. She has since put the calm sister twin back in Harlem Success, but they wouldn’t take the boy back. We have the harder, troubled one; they have the easier one.’
“Such triage is business as usual, says the former network staffer, when the schools are vexed by behavioral problems:
” ‘They don’t provide the counseling these kids need.’ If students are deemed bad ‘fits’ and their parents refuse to move them, the staffer says, the administration ‘makes it a nightmare’ with repeated suspensions and midday summonses.
“After a 5-year-old was suspended for two days for allegedly running out of the building, the child’s mother says the school began calling her every day ‘saying he’s doing this, he’s doing that. Maybe they’re just trying to get rid of me and my child, but I’m not going to give them that satisfaction.’ ”
“At her school alone, the Harlem Success teacher says, at least half a dozen lower-grade children who were eligible for IEPs have been withdrawn this school year. If this account were to reflect a pattern, Moskowitz’s network would be effectively winnowing students before third grade, the year state testing begins.
” ‘The easiest and fastest way to improve your test scores,’ observes a DoE principal in Brooklyn, ‘is to get higher-performing students into your school.’ And to get the lower-performing students out.”
Teacher and blogger Mercedes Schneider further underscores this in her analysis of the PBS piece on Eva and her Success Academies:
“Here is my question for Moskowitz:
“If the student had a history of (as his mother describes) ‘outbursts” and meltdowns’ and he had already displayed such behavior at school, then why would Success Academies allow this student to participate in an off-campus excursion?
“Such seems to be a poor choice given that the SA teachers/administrators appear to have no specific plan in place for (note the pun) successfully diffusing the student’s outbursts. Thus, the faculty/administrative decision take the student into an unfamiliar setting (a field trip) without a proven behavior plan was foolish.
“Third (and related to the second observation), in all of her efforts to publicize the student’s behavior file in an effort to exonerate her schools, Moskowitz includes absolutely no evidence that Success Academies attempted to discover what might trigger the student’s outbursts/meltdowns in order to formulate a plan of action to help the child learn to manage his own behavior, thereby promoting his own social health (and, by extension, the social health of his classmates and teachers).
“In short, Moskowitz’s point in her letter to Merrow was to defend her schools, not to actually help the child.
“Following her offering details from two incidents, Moskowitz places blame back on student and his mother, even as she offers nothing by way of trying to help student and mother to understand and manage the student’s behavior:
– – – – – – – – – –
EVA MOSKOWITZ: “Incidents like this occurred on a regular basis. Frankly, it was only by applying a very lenient standard that this student was only suspended eight times over nearly three years in our schools. …
“As you can see, the situation here was challenging not only because of the child, but because of his mother as well. We often find that in the end, while we can succeed with almost any student, if the parent is not willing to work with us, that makes things much harder.”
– – – – – – – – – –
“Again, Moskowitz offers no evidence of having tried to understand what might have prompted the student’s outbursts/meltdowns.
“It could well be that ‘the very structured environment’ and ‘very high academic and behavioral expectations’ of which Success Academy Prospect Heights principal Monica Komery speaks might be too much for some students.
“The farthest that Moskowitz will go is to ‘put up with’ students like Jamir Geidi, even for years. Beyond repeated suspensions, Success Academies has nothing to offer the Jamir Geidis who enter SA’s ‘very structured’ halls.
“The ‘success’ only comes if those pesky suspended-and-suspended-again students are molded into a Moskowitz-forged image.
“If not, they must go.”