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Success Academy’s public relations firm (Mercury LLC) must be working overtime to try to outrun the stories about the charter chain’s tactics. While critics have alleged for years that the chain produces high scores by a combination of suspensions, attrition, and high-pressure test-prep, the mainstream media–led by the New York Times– is now all over the story.
George Joseph writes in the Guardian (U.K.) about Eva Moskowitz’s “got to go” list–the kids who need to be suspended and pushed out to protect the brand and the other allegations swirling around the high-test-score boasting charter chain.
A Guardian analysis has found that the school system loses children between the third and fourth grade, the first two years of New York state testing, at a rate four times that of neighboring public schools. Success lost more than 10% of its enrolled student population from grade to grade, compared to the average rate of 2.7% at public schools in the same building or nearby during the same years.
The analysis compared Success and traditional public school populations in high poverty neighborhoods and therefore excluded data from one Success Academy site on the Upper West Side where only about 25% of students were classified as “economically disadvantaged”. This school’s relatively well-to-do student population features the only example of a Success Academy class that grew in size from second to fourth grade.
According to Jeff Jacobs, a researcher at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, chance alone cannot adequately account for these enrollment drop differences. “Within testing years, the enrollment drop rate observed at Success Academy is greater than the enrollment drop rates at next door public schools 70% of the time. Furthermore, in 61% of these cases, this difference is so large that we can reject the hypothesis that it occurred due to random variation in attrition rates, at the 5% significance level.”
Eva believes that the media is piling on, but she has made herself and her charters a media sensation. Once you set yourself up as the sine qua non of “excellence,” a model of the perfection that can be attained by everyone, you also set yourself up as a target for skeptics. The biggest problem for SA is not its critics, who could be easily ignored, but the former teachers and parents and administrators who spill the beans.