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A Success Academy Teacher Hangs in for 6 Months, Then Enough.

June 17, 2016

The day prior to my (attempted) visit of one of Eva Moskowitz’s conformist, pressure-cooker Success Academies (SA), former SA teacher Sasha Guirindongo penned this June 14, 2016, post about quitting her once-desired SA job after only 6 months.

Sasha Guirindongo  Sasha Guirindongo

Here are Guirindongo’s words, in part:

I was recruited by a Success Academy ambassador through Linkedin during the summer of 2015. She “casually” convinced me to apply to SA by sending me cheery messages of how “my credentials were the right fit for Success.” I believed it when I was immediately offered an interview and was given a classroom for a demo lesson the same day, no second interview needed. The fact that the demo was a different subject and grade than what was initially agreed upon didn’t bother me much. So after a brief discussion with the principal I was offered a “lead teacher” position teaching 5th grade history although it was not the job I initially applied for. I took the job to later learn that I wasn’t even going to have my own classroom. The signs were clear and I had every reason to walk away but I was excited to be teaching at the holy grail of charter schools in NYC.

I was set to join “the team” for T-School, a brainwashing series of seminars aimed to mold you into a “Success teacher” because it’s somehow different than a regular teacher. Success teachers are notregular teachers, no sir, they are above that. The seminars retaught me how to teach and fed my newfound Success ego while stealing an entire month of my well deserved summer vacation. The outcome? I was thoroughly convinced that it took a “special” kind of teacher to teach at Success and I was part of the chosen few. This mentality is what kept me there as long as I did despite looming depression due to my sudden loss of identity and free time to pursue personal passions.

I had heard horrors about SA prior to accepting the job: the long hours and pressure to perform, but coming from another charter school I had confidence that I could accept and overcome any difficulties; Besides I was coming from teaching in East New York and nothing toughens you up more than working in a school where someone is shot dead at the end of the school block during Parent-Teacher Night. So was I intimidated by SA? No. But once I began teaching as a newly baptized SA teacher I quickly realized the toxic environment SA strived to create and force feed educators who had real passion for teaching. SA had managed to create an educational environment that disregarded the well-being of the teacher. It promoted a cut-throat, monetarily incentivized corporate environment in which you prayed for the demise of your peers for an opportunity to inadvertently glorify yourself. Is this what teaching is about?

My 6 months at Success forced me to evaluate who I was as an educator and revise my motivation, a minute personal gain. Success mostly made me doubt my personal success every day. I became doubtful of the importance of teaching; if we could all be trained to be the same, think the same, and act the same then as educators we were inevitably relaying this same message to our students. Every day I relayed the message that just as all teachers had to think and act and be the same, consistency among classrooms, the same was expected of students. SA didn’t celebrate originality or praise the individual, no, SA thrived on doubt, on the inevitable fear of not doing enough, being there enough, talking enough, thinking enough, preparing enough, or absorbing enough information. The underlying message was that this doubt and fear somehow made you better because it encouraged you to take immediate action as you strived to BE THE BEST at the expense of your mental stability, of course. If I couldn’t survive here, I often thought, I had failed and I was not “one of a kind,” I was weak and had no business teaching.

There’s more. To read the full post, click here.

eva moskowitz  SA CEO Eva Moskowitz


Coming July 08, 2016, from TC Press (revised release date):

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, Guest Posts

  1. I have been much enlightened by the books/articles put together by ex-TeachForAmerica teachers who wish to expose the mess made by their program. Perhaps Success Academy teachers will be able to do the same?

  2. Zorba permalink

    Reblogged this on Politicians Are Poody Heads and commented:
    This is sad, but not surprising.
    Success Academy abuses teachers, which is awful, but they are at least adults and have the choice to walk out of there.
    The even more alarming thing is that SA also abuses children, who have no choice about whether to be there or not.

    • I agree! It is much more depressing for the students especially those who are deemed “unsuccessful” simply because they can’t get with the SA program.

      • Notice, the highest performing schools have mostly “traditonally-trained staff with Education degrees, and NOT this 20-something, liberal arts-no job for them, alternative certification, constantly turning over, naive, and definitely being taken advantage of by the bafoonery….group. And this can only be pulled off in a community of dependent, children raising baby inner-city folk. And then if they can get buy-in all the way up the chain, from the educational profiteers, to the politicians, and finally to the financiers….and oh yeah, they have to say constantly, “we are learning from our mistakes,” but not being held accountable, therefore assume they cannot be called to the task, like they constantly blame “the old institutional form of governance.” And oh yeah…they manipulate the numbers and file lawsuits claiming harrassment if you ask them to explain how they came up with the numbers….sigh.

    • SA childrens parent choose freely to join the school and have objectively measurable high satisfaction rates. Moreover SA has pretty large waiting lists and specifically from minority families. Many parents do value high expectations, high discipline, high outcomes environment. One might disagree this for ones own children and still think Its fine other parents to be able to have that choice. Ive seen chaotic low discipline, low expectation, low outcomes schools – and school teachers and administrators and kids struggling to survive. Its no wonder many low income parents choose the order, discipline and high outcomes of SA.

  3. Michael Lambert permalink

    SA has all the earmarks of a cult. Create a vocabulary, establish a rigid system, indoctrinate followers as superior to the Other.

    I wonder if Moskowitz is a Scientologist. lol

    But seriously, SA abuses its teachers and, most importantly, its students.

    The way to stop her is to frame SA as a cult, much like Scientology, that is designed to turn teachers and students into drones for the sole purpose of enriching Eva Moskowitz and her corporate sponsors.

  4. Most lead teachers at SA schools have Education degrees with teaching experience. Although, yes, most are in their twenties/early thirties, many have been formally trained to be teachers. In an environment like SA an Education degree really does not matter, you are retaught how to teach the SA way.

    • Donna permalink

      Seriously? Many of them are not credentialled.

  5. Donna permalink

    So long as green, novice, alternate route, unemployed, underemployed teachers, wannabe teachers, etc., keep applying for jobs at SA and places like it…. So long as TFA and organizations like it continue to place teachers in SA and places like it….this will continue. I know one kid who taught at a charter in Newark, NJ, and it came to a head one day when she simply could not continue after 1.5 years. I know another who applied, due solely to the economy and TFA’s insertion into public schools where teaching jobs have become scarce due to partnerships with TFA, and this was out of desperation for a teaching job. I know, people need jobs, teachers want to teach and need jobs…but they should all steer clear of SA and hellholes like it, and then, perhaps, these places will close.

    I wish every teacher in every charter school would tell the truth about what goes on inside those walls and then, and only then, will these awful places close down.

  6. Jake Jacobs permalink

    Before charters, NY used job security and solid benefits to attract great teachers, ensuring they were not only healthy and ready to teach, but that they wanted to stay in the same job for their whole careers, becoming familiar with communities they teach so they can tailor instruction to need. This is correct way to teach, according to research, history and the science of child development.

    Enter charters and corporate-concocted theories of education-by-standardization which pervert the motivations of teachers, parents and students with money, shame and lofty promises. Take for example the money, dangled before teachers in order to make them work harder. It attracts a type of teacher that burns out quicker, and reality shows this has been biting SA in the ass for years. A charter chain tried to recruit me too – I just wonder why they can’t seem to hire anyone to recruit the at-risk kids they by law are supposed to serve according to NY’s charter law

    As a public school teacher, here is my advice to SA:

    1 – there are no shortcuts, the numbers games of business efficiency don’t translate in school, kids are not hamburgers and they spot corporate curriculum a mile away

    2 – realize standardized tests are not for all children. Some are not the competitive type and the pressure has dangerous side effects. Schools are also not supposed to be in competition, they are supposed to be collaborative and helpful to eachother.

    3 – Stop manipulating the media. Defend your practices in open discussion, in good faith, against the most qualified authorities, that’s how you persuade. Research shows it’s bad practice to squeeze workers to get more out of them, it’s unsustainable in the long term because there are no shortcuts in learning. Consider a package that encourages employees to stay, for example celebrating the individual creativity of teachers and the many innovations that emerge in autonomous classrooms.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: A Teacher at Success Academy Who Lasted Only Six Months | Diane Ravitch's blog

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