Finding the Right School · School Choice

Success Academy Wins Award for Closing Achievement Gaps (And Scores Two Victories in One Week)

Success Academy Charter Schools, New York City’s largest charter management organization that operates 41 elementary, middle, and high schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens serving 14,000 students, just won the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.

The prize awards $250,000 to the public charter network that, according to a press release, “has demonstrated the best overall academic performance while closing achievement gaps and serving low-income students and students of color. The prize winnings must be used for college-readiness efforts.”

“As a nation, we must do more to close persistent gaps in opportunity and achievement that, too often, separate students of color and students from low-income families from their more advantaged peers. Success Academy has been successful in closing those gaps,” said John B. King, Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust, former U.S. Secretary of Education, and a member of The Broad Prize review board. “Success Academy is intentional about delivering quality instruction and offering well-rounded, hands-on learning experiences to every child. And these charter schools understand the benefit of a diverse educational community, with children of different socioeconomic status, race, and background all learning together. A commitment to excellence, equity, and diversity has helped Success Academy deliver strong results for students and their families.”

Nina Rees, head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said that “through an innovative approach that includes a first-grade art show, fourth-grade ballroom dancing, junior high chess, and high school service days, Success Academy is redefining what an impactful, well-rounded academic approach can look like. Such innovation and determination is at the heart of the charter school movement.”

The Review Board noted these particular accomplishments:

  • In 2016, all of Success Academy’s elementary and middle schools were in the top 10 percent of schools in New York state for advanced academic performance in English, math and science.
  •  In 2016, Black and Hispanic students at Success Academy, on average, performed better than their white peers across the entire state of New York and low-income students performed better, on average, than their non-low-income peers across the state at both the Proficient and Advanced levels in all three tested subjects – English, math and science.
  • In just one decade, Success Academy has grown from one school to over 40. Starting with just elementary schools, the CMO has added middle schools and a high school. That makes Success Academy larger than 95 percent of U.S. school districts. Success students’ academic achievement is particularly impressive given the pace at which Success has grown to serve more students.

The two other finalists for the award were  DSST Public Schools, which operates 12 charter schools that serve nearly 5,000 students in Denver, Colorado, and Harmony Public Schools, which operates 48 charter schools serving 32,000 students in Texas.

Success Academy scored another victory on Thursday when the state Appellate Division unanimously overruled education commissioner MaryEllen Elia, whom SA had appealed to after Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to pay the network $720,000 for its  new preschool program unless it signed a micro-managing contract that detailed, for example, how many field trips the children could take per year. SA refused to sign the contract because it violates state charter law, which allows oversight only to a charter school’s authorizer, which in this case is SUNY.

Eva Moskowitz, SA’s founder, said in a statement, “City Hall’s effort to impose red tape on our schools without authority shows that the de Blasio administration never really embraced the idea that charter schools are supposed to be independent of the district school system. We call upon the administration to confirm that it will now comply with the law.”

The New York Post weighed in with this: “Elia sided with de Blasio — so now they both have egg on their faces after the Appellate Division ruled in Success’ favor… In other words, Elia without question should have slapped de Blasio down back when Success first asked her to.”

And the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board had this to say:

Bill de Blasio campaigned for mayor of New York City on a universal prekindergarten entitlement, but apparently that didn’t include anyone he and teachers unions don’t like. Witness how a charter network was forced to fight for funding that the schools are legally entitled to receive…The costs are less legal than human: Success had to shut down its pre-K last year, even after receiving some 3,000 applicants for about 100 seats in Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, Harlem and elsewhere. Many are from low-income families. Keep in mind how Mayor de Blasio stiffed these kids next time he lectures about quality education for all.

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