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Former Success Academy Teacher Describes Why She Resigned

Former Success Teacher Describes Why She Resigned

In another damning bout of news for controversial New York charter network Success Academy, a recently resigned teacher described why she left, calling the environment at the school “toxic” for both teachers and children.

An anonymous former Success teacher told Diane Ravitch for her blog that her one-year experience working for the network eft her with a broken morale and a sadness for the students she left behind.

At this teacher’s first SA location, she described two very different experiences working as an assistant.

The first teacher she worked for in her first school is described as “rigid,” and harsh with her students, the second as loving and concerned with her student’s needs.

While this rigid teacher punished her students frequently, sometimes referring to them as “stupid” and on one occasion getting physical, she was the one who Success praised and promoted, while the kinder teacher was frowned upon.

After this bad experience, the teacher continued working for Success, running her own classroom. Though she was initially excited to head her own classroom, this, too, would lead to several other bad experiences, mostly in dealing with students’ disruptive behavior.

She described suspensions given without “rhyme or reason,” and says she felt generally unsupported by the school’s administration.

Indeed, she's not the first to make accusations about the network handing out unfair suspensions.

Many critics of the network argue that it uses suspensions to weed out underperforming and unruly students as opposed to helping them in the classroom; a PBS special from October found that one school in the network suspended the same 11 students 44 times in one school year. 

"I built strong relationships with many of my science students, and they performed well on their science assessments. As a whole, however, my time at this second SA school was difficult and confusing. I and many other teachers felt frustrated and unsupported. During the time I was there, I watched as teachers were mysteriously fired or demoted,” she said.

This teacher was moved yet again, to another school in the Success network, under the leadership of ‘Principal Y.” Here is where the teacher’s path to resignation began, mostly because it was forced.

Despite not giving out any assessments and only being observed twice with no feedback, the teacher says she was forced to consider a non-teaching data management position because her administration found she did not have a “passion for teaching.”

This, she claims, was based "not on academics, but on [my students’] posture and my 'scanning and noticing’ as to whether their hands were locked, eyes were tracking, and backs were straight at all times. I was told by Principal Y that the bar was set too low in my classroom; that I was an ineffective teacher; and that I had no passion for teaching…”

(Success founder Eva Moskowitz has been upfront about Success' strict rules for behavior & conduct. Earlier this month, Moskowitz discussed how the practice of "tracking," or ensuring students are constantly engaged with eye contact and body language, increases student achievement.)

Though the teacher says she didn’t stop working hard, she couldn’t get ever fully get behind the network’s techniques, which admonished direct instruction and demanded a rigorous test prep that made working on the weekends typical.

" I knew that I would never be able to fit the SA mold and could no longer fake agreement with their policies; that they wanted me out; and that they would continue to think of ways to break down my morale. So, I left,” the anonymous teacher wrote.

This anonymous teacher’s letter, in its specificity and tone, is yet another instance of bad press for the controversy-ladden network.

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Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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