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Over the past several years, I have been contacted several times by current and former Success Academy teachers. I met with each of them. They wanted to tell me what really goes on, and their stories sounded alike. They say the atmosphere for teachers is terrible. Teacher turnover is high. They say the children are subjected to pressures that make some of them crack. They say that children pee in their pants while prepping for the tests and taking the tests. They say the schools keep a supply of clean clothes for these incidents. They say that test prep starts in November and doesn’t let up until the tests are ended. They say that students who can’t keep up are subtly pushed out, for example, calling in their parent day after day until the parent gives up and withdraws the student and returns him/her to public school. Each of them has examples of what most would consider child abuse, all in the name of higher test scores.
Recently I heard something new. I was contacted by someone who works in the Success Academy central office. I won’t give any details, because I agreed to protect his/her identity. I will call this person Ariel, a non-gendered name. Ariel says that teachers cheat. Ariel says that each school has a list of teachers, ranked by their students’ test scores, which is extremely demoralizing. Ariel says the central office is chaotic. No one knows who is responsible for what. Ariel can’t imagine how the chain can expand, as it plans to, because it is not really competent to run the schools it has. Ariel says as the teachers do, that kids who have low scores are quietly pushed out.
Recently, a reader named Benton added to the stock of anecdotes:
Here is a story I have always thought of posting here, but I was too embarrassed. As a former teacher at the DOE, I applied for, and got, a position at the infamous Harlem Success Academy, in the the summer of 2008. I had to start immediately, in August, and three weeks of incoherent PD followed, consisting of 11 hour days. There were a lot of speeches about Eva and her disappointment in the “unattractive photos” of her by critics, “Eva doesn’t believe in unions,” and other Eva-centric PD sessions. The days were so long, it felt like they were using cult-indoctrination tactics. My union-activist father would cringe if he saw me in such a position. One day, Jennie Sedlis was talking about how important the upcoming Presidential election would be for charters. I asked what would happen if Barack Obama were nominated. Jennie drew a big smile and said that in the coming week, Eva and a group were going to Chicago to meet with him. I quit soon after, before school started. I monitored the election carefully, and told several people I couldn’t vote for Obama. (I had been a Hillary supporter, and at that point, she said she was going to dismantle NCLB.) With a heavy heart, I finally did the deed, only because of Sarah Palin. This, from a life-long Democrat. I knew that Obama, like Cuomo and others to follow, had been bought, lock, stock and barrel. At this point, I don’t know if Hillary can get out of it, and I don’t believe Bernie is up to speed on the situation. It’s up to this blog and a turn in the tide.