Yesterday the Sunday New York Times Magazine published a laudatory profile of Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academy chain of charter schools in New York City. Moskowitz is a former member of the NYC city council. She is politically connected and has used those connections, particularly during the tenure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to expand rapidly the number of her Success Academy schools. The schools have posted high test scores.
Diane Ravitch was interviewed by Daniel Bergner, the reporter who wrote yesterday’s profile of Moskowitz. Yesterday on her blog Ravitch published a significant response to Bergner’s piece. Ravitch’s response is also posted at Huffington Post. She believes that Bergner did not accurately represent her concerns about attrition of both students and teachers at Moskowitz’s schools. Neither did he report her concerns about the small number of English language learners and students with severe disabilities attending Success Academy schools.
Ravitch writes: “I have no personal grudge against Eva Moskowitz. On the few occasions when we have appeared together, we have had very cordial conversation. What I deeply oppose—and this is what I stressed to Bergner and he deliberately ignored—is that Success Academy is not a model for public education. No one expects that Bronx Science is a model because it does not have open doors; it admits only those who meet its standards, and they are high. Eva Moskowitz pretends that her schools get superior results with exactly the same population because of her superior methods, when in reality the success of her schools is built on a deliberate policy of winnowing out low-performing and non conformist students… Public schools can’t remove students with low scores. They can’t refuse to enroll students with severe disabilities and students who can’t read English. They can’t close their enrollment after a certain grade. Unless they have a stated policy of selective admissions, they must accept everyone who seeks to enroll, even if they arrive in February or March.”
Ravitch explains that one of Moskowitz’s schools has added grades so that it now serves students in grades 3-8. In that school, however, 116 third graders were tested, while only 32 eighth graders were tested. When students drop out, they are not replaced. She provides similar examples from Success Academy schools that have now expanded to sixth grade. She points out that the number of students dropping out increases at third grade, the year when No Child Left Behind requires mandatory standardized testing and reporting of scores. Ravitch writes: “Bergner argued every issue with me… He said that public schools lose as many students every year as SA charters; I replied that public schools don’t close their enrollment to new students. Again, defending SA, he said that closing new enrollments made sense because Moskowitz was ‘trying to build a culture,’ and the culture would be disrupted by accepting new students after a certain grade. I responded that public schools might want to ‘ build a culture’ too, but they are not allowed to refuse new students who want to enroll in fourth grade or fifth grade or sixth grade or even in the middle of the year.”
Ravitch has written an incisive critique of Bergner’s article. I urge you to read it.