HOW THE OTHER HALF LEARNS
Equality, Excellence, and the Battle Over School Choice
By Robert Pondiscio
Every fall, astonishing news emerges from Success Academy, the largest and most controversial charter school network in New York City. With considerable fanfare, the network announces that its predominantly low-income and minority students have once again defied their demographics, earning consistently impressive scores on the state’s standardized tests. Not only do they dramatically outperform children across the city, erasing the achievement gap between white and black, rich and poor, they even beat the privileged kids in suburban Scarsdale and Chappaqua.
Divining the secret to Success’ success has been an obsession for years in media and education circles. That is partly because its founder and leader is the former New York City Council member Eva Moskowitz, whose hardball politics and support of punitive consequences for noncompliant students and parents have stirred public backlash. In 2016, the New York Times reporter Kate Taylor posted a hidden-camera recording of a Success teacher ripping up a first grader’s incorrect math work, then ordering her off the classroom rug. (The teacher was briefly suspended.)