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Gary Rubinstein Writes to the “Seven-Figure Success Academy Donors”

September 17, 2018

New York math teacher Gary Rubinstein has written a thought-provoking open letter to Eva Moskowitz’s “seven-figure Success Academy donors.”

flying money

Below are some of my favorite excerpts for their poignancy:

I believe that Success Academy, in various ways, obtains their high test scores through unethical behavior. By this, I don’t mean that I think they change their students’ answers on the state test. Instead they find other ways to dishonestly inflate their test scores.

I believe that their methods are not educationally sound. A few years ago I came upon about 500 videos they had published publicly on the web. Among those videos was one of a teacher reading the book ‘Caps For Sale’ to a group of Kindergarteners. Seeing the hostile way in which this story was read — the way the teacher forbade students from sitting comfortably as they read, making them sit as straight as they could at all times and admonishing them anytime one of them slouched — it was, in my estimation, a form of torture. After I wrote about what I had seen in this video and posted the link to it, Success Academy took down not just that video but all 500 videos. And it was not because they were afraid of anyone stealing their valuable secret methods, but because these methods are best kept secret since they were embarrassed by what they thought makes for appropriate childhood education. For your generous donation, perhaps you can get a copy of that video and you could show it to any childhood education expert from any university in the country. I’m quite confident that the expert will concur that the video reveals a teacher that has no understanding of the needs of small children as they first learn about literacy. …

But the biggest dirty secret of all (though everyone knows about this) is the way Success Academy wields the power of making a student repeat a grade. This is their secret weapon, and I do mean weapon. By one of my estimates, about 15% of Success Academy students are left back for one reason or another. Leaving a student back is something that should only be done in the most extreme circumstances — it has so many negative ramifications for students later in life. Yet Success Academy uses it recklessly. Here’s how it works: They call in the family of a student who has ‘got to go.’ They say that even though the student passed the state test, they failed to meet some other requirement. This leaves the family with two options: The first is for the student to repeat the grade they just completed. This means that they will be the ‘old kid’ in their class while all their friends (or around 85% of their friends — other kids get threatened with this too) move on to the next grade. This is a devastating consequence. But fortunately, there is one other option. The student can get promoted as long as that student ‘voluntarily’ transfers to a different school. If you want to have lunch some time with me and the father of a student who went through this to hear first hand about how the school did this for his special needs daughter after she finished fourth grade, I can arrange this.

The students aren’t the only group of people that Success Academy treats, in my opinion, abusively. Success Academy makes demands on families that they are not able to meet. The school knows how to make things especially rough on families whose students struggle with behavioral issues. They make parents repeatedly come and get their kids, even if it means the parent is jeopardizing his or her own job by having to leave the job frequently in the middle of the day. An education news site, Chalkbeat NY reported that at one of the schools Success Academy held a mandatory family meeting. For families that miss that meeting, they are told that the assumption is that the child will not be returning to the school the next year. In a pending lawsuit, some parents report that Success Academy has even resorted to reporting families to Administration For Children’s Services (ACS) for being unable to pick up their children in the middle of the day after the child apparently violated one of the many strict rules of the school.

The chaotic situation in the Success Academy high school is a huge red flag. If the Success Academy students peak in 8th grade and then have such poor results in high school, it means that their achievement through 8th grade (as measured by those state test scores) were illusory. The unusually high teacher turnover at their high schools is a symptom of this. When you are working in the most incredible educational experiment in the history of education, you don’t just quit after a year or two.  Yet over half of the high school teachers did not return this past year. …

Despite the fanfare surrounding these schools, from my perspective Success Academy excels most at abuse. They abuse their students through overuse of making them repeat grades, they abuse the families when they punish them — even call ACS on them — for not being able to meet their impossible demands, and they abuse the staff causing many of them to quit each year. …

Success Academy is built on a foundation of lies and it is only a matter of time before it comes crumbling down.

collapsing house

This is a powerful post. Be sure to read it in its entirety.


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, Guest Posts

One Comment
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Thanks for this referral and post. It happens to come on the day the 74million is doing a major hit job on the incompetence of NYCity teachers, their retention in jobs and so on.
    Be aware that CBS and the USA TOday Network are collaborating on coverage of education. Today’s report was on a legal appeal through the state courts bearing on Detroit Schools. The article says that a 1973 Supreme Court ruling says education is not an equal right under the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The writers are Christie Thompson for USA Today and for CBS This Morning Michelle Miller, Marie Amorebieta, and Joseph Annunziato. I think this was announced yesterday. I may have a email contact for the editor. I think you and other bloggers need to make your presence known and perhaps flood them with story ideas and facts before the deep pockets funding the 74million tries to command all narratives.

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