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Success Academy “Defenders” Defend… and Leave

September 2, 2018

In April 2015, Huffington Post contributor and Success Academy “former 7th grade teacher and vice principal,” Nicholas Simmons, posted a piece written by Success Academy (New York) former teacher, Danielle Hauser. The piece, entitled, “In Defense of Success Academy,”  which was cross-posted on the Success Academy website, appears to be in response to this April 2015  New York Times article by Kate Taylor.

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Danielle Hauser

Below is Hauser’s “Defense,” in full:

When I think of the demands on teachers today, I picture the cover of the classic children’s folktale “Caps for Sale,” in which a mustachioed cap salesman falls asleep under a tree, wearing his entire stock of wares on his head. This image, unsurprisingly conjured by an elementary and middle school teacher of five years, suggests the staggering expectations policy-makers and the public have of teachers in the 21st century.

Teachers are expected to possess strong content knowledge, pedagogical expertise in rooms of diverse learners, and a heroic grasp of classroom psychology. They must close gaps in content mastery, develop students’ interpersonal skills, and create project-based learning experiences that require critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Of course, they are assumed to have artistic skill in designing inviting classroom environments and jaw dropping bulletin boards, as well as technical proficiency in integrating new media to make lessons engaging for the modern kid. They are to do all this and much more with a calm, cool demeanor, on a meager paycheck, and with minimal recognition—as teachers, our “caps” runneth over.

I spent four years teaching at Success Academy Charter Network, which recently came under attack in the New York Times for the incredible demands made of their teachers and students. And yes, Success is upfront about their unwavering commitment to excellence and setting a high bar for all involved, but what I found to be most staggering was the profound support offered to teachers to meet the demands of the day.

Artisanal lesson planning? Not necessary with Success Network curriculum specialists who develop world-class units and lesson plans centrally, then refine them in workshops built for teachers to differentiate for the unique learners in their care. Amateur travel agent? No longer required with a Success Network operations team to plan relevant, fun-filled field-trips for learners to engage with the world outside their classroom doors. Teachers as statisticians? Nope! Success hires student achievement managers to analyze classroom data and help teachers use this information to shape instructional decisions enabling all students to achieve mastery.

Since the inception of mass public schooling in the 19th century, America has added to teachers’ plates faster than we have reformed the systems surrounding them to provide reciprocal support. Teacher attrition is not solely a Success Network problem – it is a national crisis, with most new teachers leaving the profession before five years, and the legions who persist, consider similar course due to the unyielding challenges of the profession.

The Success Network is experimenting with ways to unburden teachers. Yet even with these innovative supports, the job is difficult, and many facets of the model still need improvement for teachers and students alike. But, should we allow perfect to be the enemy of great? Success schools are changing the lives of scholars daily through rigorously high expectations, and we will never waiver in our demand. Our work is hard and we need reporting to galvanize communities of educators to move solutions forward for kids. Success has many effective practices to share in a sector starved for guidance, and many positive testimonials from teachers bursting with inspiration. I was greatly saddened to find most of them absent from Ms. Taylor’s reporting – hopefully, in the future she’ll examine how we sort our caps with greater closeness.

Danielle Hauser is a Master’s Candidate in the Education Policy and Management Program at Harvard’s Graduate School for Education. Prior to Harvard, she taught elementary and middle school for four years at the Success Charter Network in New York City and she holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching from Columbia’s Teachers College. Danielle will be returning to Success in the fall as a Leadership Resident.

I discovered Hauser’s piece as I was searching for information on the longest-lasting Success Academy teacher. Success Academy has an established reputation for burning through teachers (feel free to get an eyeful as you read Success Academy’s reviews on Glassdoor; maybe Success Academy should “experiment” with giving teachers a genuine lunch break), and my quest was to discover if any Success Academy teacher has managed to remain a Success Academy teacher, say, for a decade.

However, Hauser’s piece– and Hauser and Simmons’ teaching careers– serve to illustrate the fleeting nature of a classroom (and admin) career at Success Academy.

Let’s start with Hauser.

By the time Hauser published her piece, she had already exited the classroom. AS noted on her Linkedin bio, Hauser started in August 2010 as an associate teacher and was promoted to lead teacher in August 2011 (first grade lead teacher, 2011-12; third grade lead teacher, 2012-13; fifth grade lead teacher, 2013-14).

From June 2014 to June 2015, Hauser lists no Success Academy involvement. Then, in June 2015, Hauser became a “leadership resident,” a position she held for a year, until June 2016. Then, in June 2016, Hauser bypassed assistant principal and directly became principal of Bronx 2 Middle School until June 2018.

Where she is now is not certain. Her Linkedin bio includes no information regarding additional promotion at Success Academy, and she has been replaced as Bronx 2 Middle School principal by Todd Gentilcore, who was assistant principal 2016-18. (Gentilcore holds no New York teacher or admin certification.)

According to the New York State teacher certification search engine, Hauser’s teaching certificate for grades 1 – 6 was valid only from February 01, 2013 to January 31, 2015– which means that her time in the classroom from August 2010 to January 31, 2013, was as an uncertified teacher.

Hauser holds no certification as an administrator.

She came to the classroom with a B.A. in psychology (2009) and an M.Ed. in education policy and management (2010). So, Hauser arrived at the classroom with no formal training in pedagogy. But with that masters in ed policy/management, she was positioned for promotion out of that classroom. Even so, it seems that she is no longer with Success Academy. It also seems that Hauser is not back in the classroom since her teaching certificate is expired.

What about Success Academy “former 7th grade teacher and vice principal,” Nicholas Simmons?

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Nicholas Simmons

From his Linkedin bio:

Success Academy Charter Schools

Total Duration: 4 yrs 1 mo

  • Assistant Principal

    Jun 2015 – Jun 2016

    Harlem, New York

    Assistant Principal of a middle school with 40-person staff and 200+ student body

  • Acting School Leader

    Nov 2015 – Feb 2016

    Midtown West Middle School

    Served as acting-school-leader in place of a colleague on leave.

  • Founding 7th Grade Math Teacher

    Jun 2012 – Aug 2015

    Harlem West Middle School – Seventh Grade Math

    After leaving a job on Wall Street, I founded the first 7th grade math class in the history of SuccessAcademy. In three years of teaching, on average, 94% of my students passed the New York StateMath Exam compared to the city average of 32%. Although they were selected by random lottery, my students in Harlem ranked as the ninth, fifth and fourth highest performing 7th grad… See more

  • Math Content Lead

    May 2014 – Jun 2015

    Greater New York City Area

    Assisted in leading teachers throughout Success Academy middle schools in seventh grade mathcontent. Served as a model and resource for content-specific instruction.

As Simmons, notes, he came to Success Academy from Wall Street (2006 -12). Simmons holds no degrees in education (not even ed policy): B.A, political science (2011); Master of Public Policy and MBA (both seem to be in process; degree “received” in 2019).

Simmons began both masters programs in 2016, the year that he left Success Academy. Still, he apparently considers himself as an “education advocate” for “public education.” From his HuffPost bio:

Nick Simmons
Education Advocate

 

Nick Simmons is currently a joint-degree student at the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. After graduating Yale University in 2011, Nick began working as a currency trader at UBS Investment Bank. Feeling supremely unfulfilled, he soon left to pursue an area he felt much more passionate about: public education. His next three years were spent as the founding 7th grade math teacher at a middle school in Harlem, NY. In three years of teaching, Nick led 94% of his students to pass the New York State Math test compared to a state average of 32%. In 2014, Nick’s students ranked as the 4th highest performing class in the entire state. In his fourth year, Nick served as an Assistant Principal and eventually Acting School Leader. In addition to working in schools, Nick has served as a national advocate for education by writing op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post, speaking on the steps of the Supreme Court and appearing on national television.

As for Simmons’ classroom certification: There are two Nicholas Simmonses in the New York State teacher certification data base; one holds an expired grades 1 – 6 certification (2013-15), and the other, a social studies grades 7 – 12 certificate (2016 – 21). Thus, it seems that Nicholas Simmons used a grades 1 – 6 certificate to teach 7th grade and then became an administrator with no administrative certification.

In 2016, Simmons left Success Academy.

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Success Academy still features Hauser’s 2015 “In Defense” piece, which reads like a shadow given that author (Hauser) and promoter (Simmons)– like many before them– have both disappeared from the Success Academy scene.

________________________________________________________________________________________

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?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

From → Charters

9 Comments
  1. Stephen Ronan permalink

    You write: “From June 2014 to June 2015, Hauser’s bio is blank.”

    You had just quoted the biographical material below her April 2015 article as stating: “Danielle Hauser is a Master’s Candidate in the Education Policy and Management Program at Harvard’s Graduate School for Education.”

    And the Linked in Bio you cited states: “Harvard University Graduate School of Education
    Degree Name – Master of Education (M.Ed.)
    Field Of Study – Education Policy and Management
    Dates attended or expected graduation 2014 – 2015

    • Thank you. Error corrected.

    • Jack permalink

      Stephen,

      I know you’re a big Success Academy fan, but Eva’s latest job posting really blows my mind.
      https://jobs.chalkbeat.org/jobs/middle-school-math-science-teachers-2/

      This is the first Success Academy / TNTP job posting is its first since the notorious legislation that was past allowing charter authorizers such as SUNY to self-certify its teachers — requiring new teachers almost ZERO requirements or training before being put into a classroom.

      Thanks to that notorious legislation, BELOW is Success Academy’s new, revised job offering — in cooperation with TNTP — that’s now on-line (as of June 12th, when it was posted).

      Success Academy teachers now have to meet a mere 4 requirements prior to hiring:

      ” – Bachelor’s degree, with an outstanding record of academic achievement and leadership;
      ” – Flexibility and openness to feedback;
      ” – Grit and perseverance;
      and
      ” – Interest in working in a collaborative environment.”

      As Porky Pig used to say …

      “Uh buh-dee, buh-dee, buh-dee – THAT’S all folks!”

      No certification or credential of any kind required, nor even one hour of college credit in education, nor any credits in “Science” or “Math” (the postings are for new middle school “Science” and “Math” teachers) nor any training in education, nor one day working in education, or any prior experience working with children in any capacity.

      Apart from the Bachelor’s Degree, Eva’s new teacher-disruptor Math and Science teachers may as well be applying to work at McDonald’s.

      Thank you, Joe Belluck & the rest of the charter-authorizing folks folks at SUNY!!!

      (NOTE the posting’s cliches about how these new, untrained teachers whom Eva hires will be “disrupting the status quo” as they work in “a revolutionary K-12 school model that is nationally recognized for achieving outstanding academic results for students,”

      You mean that “Got-to-go List” model where 80% of S.A. students get kicked out or get (COUGH! COUGH!) “counseled out” prior to graduation?

      https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/the-case-of-the-missing-scholar/ )

      But seriously, how the frickin’-frick do you justify hiring folks to teach middle and high school math and science who have ZERO university Math or Science education, certification, experience, or prior training?

      Would Success Academy Board Member Campbell Brown be happy if the rich kids’ private school where she sends her own kids (Heschel) similarly lowered the bar to freakin’ China when it came to the requirements for its teachers? The same goes for the rest of the corporate ed. reform folks with kids in tony private schools.

      No, but it’s okay for the Success Academy students.

      BELOW is the video where SUNY’s Joe Belluck is confronted with the question: “Would you want this for your own kids?” and Belluck promptly blows a gasket at being asked the question, but never answers it.

      Somebody secretly videotaped a meeting of the SUNY Board of Trustees meeting — a meeting where the controversial measure to allow uncertified teachers to work in SUNY-authorized charters such as the Success Academy charter chain was discussed.

      It’s now on YouTube.

      Included in this meeting was a community leader not happy with the new regulations — one Maria Bautista.

      This is truly explosive stuff.

      SUNY Board Chairman Joseph Belluck claims that he is livid at the tweets and overall “smear campaign” that has been portraying him as “racist.”

      In response to this, Afro-Puerto Rican activist Maria Bautista of the Alliance for Quality Education is not buying Belluck’s attempt to fabricate victimhood for himself. She then proceeds to unload on Belluck, saying that Belluck’s new policy is most certainly “racist” in its effect, even if it’s not inherent in Belluck’s intent.

      Would you want YOUR OWN kids taught by these uncertified teachers? Bautista asks him, and this sets Belluck off. Unfortunately, this is when the video cuts out.

      Enjoy!

      x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
      TRANSCRIPT
      ( 0:13 – )

      ( 0:13 – )
      MARIA BAUTISTA: “Well, I just want to clarify that this ISN’T a smear campaign against you. Right?”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Okay.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “That this has EVERYTHING to do with black and brown children – ”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Right.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: ” – and THEIR access to high quality education, and second of all, if the teachers’ union wanted to be here and talk for themselves, they WOULD be.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Okay.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “So I’m here to talk about the Alliance for Quality Education.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Well, I’ll just … I’ll just say to you that, when I look at my phone, and someone tweets the following:

      ” ‘ @JoeBelluck is willing to allow this RACIST policy to persist.’ ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “That’s RIGHT!”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “I take – ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “Cause you ARE!”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “I take umbrage at it.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “‘Cause you ARE!”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Okay?”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: ” ‘YOU”RE the Chair – ”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “I take umbrage at it.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: ” ‘YOU”RE the Chair, and you’re allowing it to proceed – ”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Well -”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: ” – so that’s NOT a smear campaign. It’s ACTUALLY WHAT’S HAPPENING, and whether or not you feel defensive about that – ”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “I’m NOT defensive about it.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: ” – but this is YOUR responsibility.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “I’m NOT defensive about it.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “Exactly. You ARE defensive about it. You’re saying that this is a SMEAR campaign, and it’s NOT. We’re calling … we’re calling the cards for what they ARE.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “What I’m suggesting to you is that – ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “THIS is the card that YOU are ALLOWING to move forward — THIS idea …THESE regulations for people to give comments on, when we know that they *(classes taught by uncertified teachers) *are going disproportionately impact black and brown children.

      “You would NEVER have uncertified teachers teach YOUR children, so WHY is it okay for black and brown children? Why is THAT okay?”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “Okay – ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “It is NOT okay!”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “What I’m suggest – ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “That is the point.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: “What I’m saying to you – ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “This is NOT a smear campaign.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: ” “What I’m suggesting to you is that the things that are going to MOVE this committee to ACT are going to be the SUBSTANCE of the regulations, and WHETHER OR NOT they are the BEST for educating the kids who are in our schools.”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “Would you want THIS for YOUR children? No.”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: (angry) “I’m not going to speak to you about MY children -”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: “I would love that -”

      JOSEPH BELLUCK: ” – because frankly .. because frankly – ”

      MARIA BAUTISTA: ” – because what you would want for YOUR children is what you should want for EVERY child in this city.”

      MALE SUNY BOARD MEMBER: “Alright. Can I just – ?)
      x x x x x x x x x x x x

      Video CUTS OUT
      Reply

      • Stephen Ronan permalink

        I would be curious to know what I have written, Jack, that makes you consider me a “big Success Academy fan”. I may well have seemed an enthusiastic fan of certain charter, parochial and district schools in Boston, such as Brooke, Match, Up Academy, New Mission High, Cathedral High, Cristo Rey, Nathan Hale, Academy of the Pacific Rim. These are all schools that kids I know have attended. In respect to Success Academy, I’ve not known any families with students there. My understanding is that Eva herself recognizes that some of the criticisms have been valid, but so often I encounter stuff like this, which isn’t: “80% of S.A. students get kicked out or get (COUGH! COUGH!) ‘counseled out’ prior to graduation” You may have observed me counseling critics that concoct analyses like that to improve their critiques.
        I have admired this: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/secret-ingredient-growing-great-readers-eva-moskowitz/
        And been impressed by S.A. chess teams’ accomplishments.
        But would not be surprised if Success could find much of value to learn from the best of Boston schools.

    • Jack permalink

      One more thing, Stephen.

      Fully certified NY state teachers have to “reach seven teaching standards,” a “rich, deep set of standards that is at odds with the new legislation”. These requirements have resulted in, among other things, Eva’s bough-and-paid-for politicians passing legislation lowering the bar to China.

      This, in turn, resulted in the Success Academy / TNTP job posting just above.

      Why are demanding requirements for teachers necessary?

      Watch this and find out:

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Founding 7th grade math teacher….”founding” is pure puffery of a kind associated with charter schools and among entrepreneurs for almost everything they do, even complete their failures. Harvard is making a reputation as a diploma mill for charter temps.

  3. Jack permalink

    Two more you may have missed:

    Jessica Reid-Sliwerski

    AND

    Natasha Venner.

    Reid-Sliwerski was trotted out like a show pony for various media appearances, including: NBC’s EDUCATIONS NATION, Steve Brill’s book Class Wars, the pro-charter documentary THE LOTTERY.

    In these and other forums, she attacked teachers unions for allowing lazy unionized teachers to remain on the job. Eva showcased her as the model teacher.

    However, this backfired when Reid defected from Eva’s camp, and went on record attacking Eva and the sweatshop working conditions in Success Academy. She specifically said that working at Success Academy was driving her to a nervous breakdown, and ruining her marriage. When she expressed this to her superiors, they told her to just suck it up.

    She then went to work at a traditional NYC public school, where she — horror or horrors — join the teachers’ union.

    When the infamous “rip-‘n-re-do” video came out of SA teacher Charlotte Dial abusing a child …

    .. Reid-Sliwerski was quoted as saying that, contrary to Eva’s rejoinder, what was shown on the video was Standard Operating Procedure at Success Academy, with rip-‘n-redo an actual technique that was taught to teachers, and mandated.

    More recently, in August 2017, Natasha Venner was celebrated in a Success Academy article touting her traveling to Europe:

    https://www.successacademies.org/education-blog-post/exploring-europes-past-for-my-scholars-futures/

    A year later however, she along with 80% of the teachers at Success Academy’s first high school, left in protest at the way the school was being operated. She spoke out in several articles against Success Academy.

  4. Nora Hass permalink

    Speaking as a proud nyc public school parent, I would caution you not to conflate the longevity of service with competence. Or whether they have a degree in education. Generally the tenure of the best teachers at my childrens’ school (i have 4 kids, so a fairly wide experience) has been between 3 and 7 years. And there best teachers have begun those who went to top liberal arts programs and got degrees in their subject area. I also have 3 teachers on my floor (I live in a large mc building), all of whom are in their late 40s, early 50s and are constantly telling me that they are staying for the pension, period. None of them give a damn about the students at this point. I would be happy if either of these Success teachers came to our school, even for 3 or 4 years.

    • When teachers and admin flee a school that pays top dollar, there are major issues that need addressing. It seems that many who accept teaching positions at Success Academy want to stay but are burned through. The fact that finding an SA teacher with 10 years experience is a unicorn search is a major indicator that the authoritarian, test-score-maniacal atmosphere is toxic, and it cannot be toxic for teachers/admin but good for students.

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