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I Enrolled in the Success Academy Ed Institute

June 20, 2017

On June 19, 2017, education historian Diane Ravitch posted that New York’s Success Academies (SA) now has an “education institute” available to the public.

So, I signed up– which I was surprised to be allowed to do since I am a traditional public school teacher and decided supporter of traditional public schools.

I also signed up for the new-content alerts.

My initial intention in accessing the SA institute link was to examine the fees associated with SA’s institute. Yet there are no fees.

There are, however, the terms and conditions to which I had to agree. These include not “publishing the content in any media,” which could make it difficult to utilize the curriculum offerings (a principal point of the institute, or so it seems).

I agreed to not copy and post content (including videos) from the site. I do plan to comment on the content, a practice that might also get me canned if my commentary is perceived as “damaging to the website.”

I will try to play nice because I would like to see where this SA institute is headed. So far, it includes a K-4 literacy curriculum as well as school design articles and videos for elementary and middle schools, with the promise of school design info for high school set to arrive in December 2017.

I did watch a few of the literacy videos. In each one that I saw, all students sat obediently with their hands clasped as they tracked the teacher the entire time with their eyes. When given a partner discussion task, the students all began precisely when told and appeared to all be on task during the expected time.

In the videos I viewed, student behavior was perfect.

I question exactly how emotionally healthy such an atmosphere is for children and whether such training exploits a child’s desire to please adults. Frankly, I find the student behavior homogeneity in the SA instructional videos unsettling.

The atmosphere is too controlled… which begs a question:

If SA is using its institute as a means of publicizing its success and sharing tips with others on how to be as successful, what evidence is there that the SA model can work outside of the reach of its dominant (domineering?) founder, Eva Moskowitz?

On its institute page, SA states, “Our teaching and learning model, now tested and scaled across nearly 50 campuses, has proved extraordinarily effective.”

But all of those “nearly 50 campuses” have only ever been ultimately overseen by one woman: Eva Moskowitz.

There exists no SA campus outside of Eva.

Now, it is possible that SA exec of legal affairs, lawyer Emily Kim, might be the one to pilot the SA school model outside of the Moskowitz-oversight umbrella. A May 2017 Chalkbeat article announced that Kim would be leaving SA in June 2017 to start her own charter schools– which could be like SA:

She told Chalkbeat she has not yet settled on a model for her schools but plans to “consider several different approaches” and could borrow from her current employer.

“Success is an incredibly impressive model,” Kim said. “I would like to do a lot of what Success does.”

We’ll see the degree to which Kim’s charter schools resemble SA.

I do not believe SA can be replicated without the likes of a Moskowitz dominating the enterprise.

Of course, there is also the question of the intense test prep for which SA is known.

I wonder if that topic will be addressed as part of the SA ed institute.

In perusing SA’s tax forms in preparation for this post, I noticed that on its 2014 tax form (actually, from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015), SA’s greatest independent contractor expense by far was to Makeable LLC, for marketing ($2.4 million). The second most expensive was $249,996 for “consulting.” Note that Hodes LLC ranked fifth: $136,294 for “talent recruitment.”

The year prior (July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014), SA’s highest paid independent contractor was Hodes LLC for “talent recruitment” ($1 million). Makeable LLC was the second highest paid independent contractor, at $521,064.

Thus, for those interested in the “success” behind Success enough to utilize the SA ed institute, it would be useful to read more about SA’s usage of (dependence upon?) marketing in “the broad architecture… of the SA model” hinted at on the SA institute webpage intro.

And surely, SA success is built upon SA teachers. A word about SA teacher recruitment would be useful in understanding that success– or the weight of that success upon its teachers– a weight that hints at high teacher turnover and burnout.

A tutorial on the 2013-14 $1 million spent on “talent recruitment” would surely also usefully inform the national SA ed institute audience about the broad architecture of the SA model.

We’ll see what comes.

Feel free to join me in my SA ed institute journey.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

  1. The appearance of student engagement as described in the article is actually the result of fear of a negative stimulus. This is a curriculum, whose participation is dependent on external psychological pressure. This is not the best way generate learning experience nor form memories of school experience.

  2. annat permalink

    Thank you, clyde. I feel sick every time I hear about how SA is emotionally abusing children. They may as well be slapping their hands with rulers or smacking them with a paddle. The permanent damage they may be causing makes me heartsick. Mercedes, I look forward to hearing more…thanks.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Mercedes. Don’t forget to look at the 60 page parent handbooks for elementary, middle, and high schools including what the older students must have in their lockers.

  4. There are many such groups trying to place intellectual constraints on educators. They’re pervasive, oppressive and undemocratic.

    To become an education ambassador for VIVAlistens you have to agree to 80% of their credo to promote overtesting, big data snd Common Core. VIVAlistens is the company the NEA hires to run its teacher surveys steered toward pre-determined conclusions.

    Like others, they’re funded by the unholy trinity of Gates, Walton and Eli Broad whose dream of industrializing education gets fulfilled every time a kid sits rigidly with hands folded, parroting answers on cue.

    But this is fake learning, not real, a show that benefits adults, not kids.

  5. michelle permalink

    Can you provide some evidence on the test prep? I am not SA advocate but after briefly reviewing their curriculum I didn’t see any intense test prep. It actually looked pretty progressive and rigorous, and based in good research practice for teaching literacy. I am in no way endorsing their behavior model, but I do wonder if the end result is students being able to critically read, that’s what they take with them into adulthood so if they have their hands clasped does it matter? Though this is something I wouldn’t enforce in my classroom. Being able to pass he common core test is about reading. You can’t test prep a kid into reading texts higher then their level unless you are actually teaching them how to read.

    • “Because the state’s exams are predictable, they’re deemed easy to game with test prep. But in contrast to their drill-and-kill competition, Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. But the holiday push wasn’t the only extra step that Success took to succeed last year. After some red-flag internal assessments, Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal—four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on.”

      • Faye permalink

        That article is 7 years old, and things have changed. I’m an SA teacher and taught third grade for the past two years (including the test prep portion). Although I cannot speak for all SA schools, I know that at my school we certainly didn’t keep children at school past 4:30, and they had a standard winter break (from just before Christmas to just after New Years) without instruction. Additionally, my students were not asked to come in on a Saturday at all. All instruction happened M-F.

        While SA does have areas where it can improve, I would like to point out that citywide the ELA and Math test scores are scary. If the tests are predictable, why are so many children failing? The truth is, the format is somewhat predictable, but you can never know what texts and question types will be used. Students have to be ready to analyze a text at any level (within reason) and then compose written responses that are eloquent enough to prove they have understood the text. They can do this if they have acquired the skills of text analysis.

        I would like to hear further thoughts on behavior management. I have heard a lot of criticism of the SA system over the years, but without much hard evidence. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

      • Hi, Faye. How about writing about your experience as an SA teacher and your experience with behavior management in your classroom? I am happy to have you address any criticism contrary to your experience.

        I am interested in knowing what brought about the change from what is in the article from 7 years ago.

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