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Charter School Network Has High Teacher Turnover, High Test Scores

Success Academy Charter Schools: High Teacher Turnover, High Suspension Rates, and High Test Scores

New York's Success Academy Charter Schools is a controversial education network that surpasses public schools despite the impoverished background it draws from and the demanding methods it uses.

Established in 2006 by Eva S. Moskowitz, the Success Charter School network now has 9,000 schools in every New York borough except Staten Island and "received more than 22,000 applications for 2,688 seats" in the last year for recorded data, according to a recent New York Times article.

"In New York City last year, 29 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 35 percent passed the math tests. At Success schools, the corresponding percentages were 64 and 94 percent," the article said.

Though Success' high test scores frequently garner attention, equally do the controversial practices voiced loudly by former teachers, students, and parents alike.

Perhaps the loudest voice comes from former teachers, of which there are many. Success schools have a very high turnover rate for its teachers; "in 2013-14 three Success schools had turnover rates above 50 percent, meaning more than half the teachers from the previous year did not stay."

The New York Times explains several reasons behind high turnover for Success teachers, including the 11-hour work days and the demanding-style of learning. " Some teachers who left said that the job was too stressful. Others said they left because they disagreed with the network’s approach, particularly when they believed it was taken to extremes."

Former teachers have claimed that disciplinary tactics and demotions for what is considered poor performance is common at Success. "A teacher whose students are performing poorly on assessments, or who cannot maintain discipline, might be moved midyear to another grade, an assistant teacher’s position or tutoring outside the classroom."

After all, teachers have a lot to manage and enforce on account of Success' strict rules for its students. "Success has stringent rules about behavior, down to how students are supposed to sit in the classroom: their backs straight, and their feet on the floor if they are in a chair or legs crossed if they are sitting on the floor. The rationale is that good posture and not fidgeting make it easier to pay attention," according to the article.

Suspension rates are another point of contention for former teachers and Success' critics. "At Success Academy Harlem 1, as the original school is now called, 23 percent of the 896 students were suspended for at least one day in 2012-13, the last year for which the state has data. At Public School 149, a school in the same building 3 percent of students were suspended during that same time period."

"'Often the suspensions are really to get the parents and the school to be on the same team, that there’s a serious issue,' she [Moskowitz] said. 'If we don’t intervene, when they’re 13, that’s going to be a bigger problem,' she said" in defense of the practice.

Not all is bad. Success has a lot to offer its students by way of supplies and extracurricular activities thanks to the funding it receives. "In its 2013 fiscal year, the most recent for which fund-raising figures are publicly available, it received nearly $72 million in public funds and $22 million in donations," according to the article.

"Teachers and principals at Success said that they prepare their students so intensely for the tests because of the opportunities that high scores can present, such as invitations to top public middle or high schools, or scholarships for private schools."

Because the oldest children that have moved through Success are still in high school, it's impossible to truly determine through data how the controversial but successful network has and will shape its graduates' futures.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

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