Toto, I Have A Feeling We’re Not In The State That Paid TFA A Finder’s Fee Of $90K Per Recruit Anymore

A few days ago I wrote about how Texas pays TFA $5.5 million for 400 recruits, or about $15,000 per recruit.  Yesterday I wrote about how Ohio paid $2 million to TFA for 100 recruits, or about $20,000 per recruit.  As TFA is in about 40 states, I wondered what state is paying the highest amount per recruit.  I got a tip today for one that I think cannot be beat.

The state of Kansas paid TFA $270,000 for a total of 3 recruits.  First they had a $520,000 contract for 12 recruits which would be about $40,000 per recruit.  But when TFA only delivered 3 recruits, they had to give back $250,000.  As a result, they ended up paying TFA a staggering $90,000 per recruit.

TFA says that this was an investment for them to start placing corps members into a new region and they needed the money for training and to pay a staff member to go around and observe the new recruits.  With the $300 million TFA has, though, they should bear the risk and burden of the overhead in entering a new region.  And they should pay their own staff member.

And how is it possible that they were not able to deliver the 12 recruits that were originally promised?  When people sign up for TFA, they do select preferences, but they are also told that they must be flexible and go where they are most needed.  How TFA could not have compelled 9 more corps members that they were needed in Kansas is very fishy to me.

TFA should be ashamed of this fiasco, but it is yet another example of this organization’s greed.  How they got lawmakers to sign on to this is really the bigger story.  I’m thinking that TFA has some pretty talented lobbyists all around the country pushing lawmakers to agree to fat contracts like this.

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What’s Round On The End And “High” In The Middle? Ohio’s $20K Finder’s Fee For Each TFA Corps Member.

Yesterday I reported that Texas pays TFA $5.5 million a year for 400 new recruits.  I speculated that TFA probably has similar arrangements in other states.  Today I learned that the latest Ohio House Bill 166 budget allocates $2 million a year for TFA.  A bargain?  Not quite.  While Texas gets 400 new TFA corps members a year, Ohio only gets 103 new corps members a year.  This works out to about $20,000 per corps member.

The entire HB 166 can be found here.

On page 3166 to 3177, lines 97517 to 97525 it says:

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As I mentioned yesterday, these states do not have to agree to this.  TFA is not going to close up shop just because these states refuse to subsidize them.  It is completely wasted taxpayer money.

This tip was sent to me by a reader in Ohio.  If you are in another TFA state and can find out what your state is paying per corps members, let me know.  Right now Ohio is the King Of The Hill at $20K per recruit.

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The New, But Not Necessarily Improved, Tennessee ASD

Of all the failed experiments conducted on families and children by the modern education reformers, perhaps the biggest failure is Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD).

Started in 2011 by TFAer and YES Prep Charter chain founder Chris Barbic, hired by then Tennessee commissioner of education, former TFA VP, and ex-husband of Michelle Rhee, herself, Kevin Huffman, the Tennessee ASD was funded by Arne Duncan’s Race To The Top money.

The promise of the ASD was that they would take over schools in the bottom 5% and convert them to charter schools and, within five years, move them from the bottom 5% to the top 25% within five years.

Here was their original mission from their website:

After two years, they were claiming they were on schedule to accomplish this with two of the original six schools.  The ASD quickly grew to about 30 schools.  But after four years it was clear that not only would none of the original ASD schools be in the top 25% after five years, but that they would be lucky if any of them catapulted out of the bottom 5%.  Chris Barbic resigned, got inducted into Chiefs For Change, and got a job as an education advisor to the Arnold Foundation.  A new superintendent came in, she resigned, also got inducted into Chiefs for Change, and finally, less than a year ago, another new superintendent came in.  The ASD, by really any metric, was a hundred million dollar fiasco.

They changed their mission statement on their website to:

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So it was not surprising to learn from Chalkbeat, TN that the ASD recently hired a consulting firm to ‘rebrand’ themselves.

A document that would be funny if the ASD hadn’t harmed the education of so many children, describes the various ‘pivots’ in their public relations strategy:

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I’m not sure how these new words to replace the old words actually help students learn more in these schools.

And now the mission on their website says:

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So what started out as a concrete measurable goal that they could be held accountable for — move schools from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in 5 years has now turned to the nebulous goal of closing opportunity gaps by the year 2025.

Among the reform funded education websites:  The74, Education Post, and Chalkbeat are the three most popular.  And compared to those other two, Chalkbeat is much more balanced.  But when it comes to the Tennessee branch of Chalkbeat, they are really the worst.  Here they are with a huge scandal.  Tennessee was, and continues to be, victims of a $100 million con pulled off right in front of them.  The con men have left town long ago — they always do, yet the con continues.  And rather than exposing this and holding the ASD accountable, as the media there should be, look at what Chalkbeat chooses to title their article about this PR stunt: “Tennessee’s state-run district has a new look. Here’s why the Achievement School District invested in rebranding.”  The key word here is ‘invested.’  ‘Invested’ is way too positive a verb for what the TN ASD is trying to do.  And ‘rebranding’ is a nice way of saying ‘lying.’  And then in the article itself, they actually try to imply that the ASD has had some success:

Some of the district’s schools have seen academic gains. Georgian Hills has been a success story for the district – the elementary school not only left the bottom 5% but moved out of the bottom 10%. Just three years ago, Georgian Hills was in the bottom 2% of schools. Last year, 13 schools in the Achievement School District stayed off of the state list of schools in the bottom 5%.

Most of the ASD schools are still in the bottom 5%.  Out of the original 6 schools I think that one was shut down, four are still in the bottom 5%, and one is in the bottom 6% last I checked.  Of the other 24 schools, some of them have been closed closed down.  As far as their one miracle school, Georgian Hills, I’m not sure how far out of the bottom 10% they are, but according to their state data, they got a 1.8 out of 4 on achievement and a 2.0 out of 4 on growth.  And even if one out of over 30 schools in their experiment made some progress, this is a very low percent of success, about 3%.  Statistically speaking, if there are 30 schools, one of them has to make the most gains, so I would expect, like if you threw 5 coins in the air, one out of 32 times, on average, they will come up all heads.  That’s just random chance, not a miracle.

Maybe one day Chalkbeat, TN will wake up and realize they are sitting on a huge story and they will take their jobs seriously and cover it properly.

 

 

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Texas Pays TFA $5.5 Million A Year For 400 Recruits

The title of this post says it all.  I’ve learned that for the past 2 years Texas taxpayers have been subsidizing TFA about $6 million a year and that for the next two years, through 2021, they are scheduled to receive $5.5 million a year.

You can see the official document here.

And here is the relevant text on page 218:

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This is quite a sum of money.  TFA provides the state with a report that makes it seem like they are doing a lot with this money, but considering that they recruit about 400 corps members into Texas and only 85% of them even finish their two year commitment, this is a big waste of money.  This is about $15,000 per recruit, and that doesn’t include whatever finders fees the districts themselves pay.

Texas didn’t always pay TFA so much money for their services so what would happen if they just simply stopped?  The answer is that Texas would save $5.5 million dollars a year.  It is not like TFA is going to close up shop in Texas because they can’t afford it.  And the quality of the supposed services they provide would not go down either.  Their training and support is so minimal, it can’t really get much worse if they had to lower the quality of the things they claim to do with that money.

The scary thing is that this is likely the tip of the iceberg.  Who knows what similar agreements are written into the budgets of the other states that TFA places corps members into.

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Revealing Podcast About Success Academy — Part VII

The seventh, and final, part of Startup’s podcast series about Success Academy (available here) is titled ‘High School.’

The podcast describes the chaos in their first high school which eventually led to a student revolt.  Students were sick of the overly strict rules, the extreme punishments — like getting held back a grade for being late to school too often, the culturally insensitivity of rules like the one not allowing non-religious head scarves, and an epidemic of student depression stemming from all this.  They have several interviews with Moskowitz that reveal how tone-deaf she is to these sorts of issues.  Still, this section has a happy ending — the school compromised to the student’s demands.  Still, most of the staff at the high school quit at the end of the school year.

A big segment of the podcast is about the first graduating class, the colleges they got into, and their graduation ceremony.  In the second episode, it mentions that there were 73 students in the first group of Success Academy students when it opened.  So when at around the 7:30 mark in this podcast they say “She had only 16 kids in this first senior class,16 to get into college” this would certainly have been a good time to inform the listeners who either haven’t listened to the earlier episode — or who just forgot what didn’t seem like an important detail in episode 2 — that this was 16 out of 73.

Describing the graduation:

The ceremony was held in an elegant concert hall at Lincoln Center. Eva is standing on stage wearing a bright floral dress and black patent leather stilettos. The 16 graduating seniors have blue caps and gowns, with orange tassels, the school colors. School leaders, including the outgoing high school principal Andy Malone, sit on the stage behind her, beaming. The crowd is going wild.

And in the last minute, one of the final things said in the seven part podcast

For these 16 graduating seniors, they’ve beaten the odds, and will be entering a world filled with opportunities that they likely wouldn’t have had without Success Academy.

So there was ample opportunity as, again and again, she talked about these 16 students, for the host to mention that this was 16 out of 73 yet she doesn’t and this is surely a deliberate decision.  Sixteen is such a low number (and incidentally, it was 17 at the beginning of the school year — one didn’t graduate that year for some reason) that the attrition is something just begging to be noted.  And we know that they are aware this is something important since when the host and a producer are interviewed by Brian Lehrer this past January (interview found here) he mentions that it is a very small graduating class.  They change the subject at first, but when he eventually asks if this proves the doubters wrong, they finally say at around the 4:30 mark that the original class was 73 students.

One student out of those 16, Moctar Fall, whose mother moved from Senegal before he was born and whose family spent some time living in a shelter, is featured since he got into MIT.  Implied in this segment is that without Success Academy there is no way that he would have gotten into such a school.  They even have Moctar’s mother giving a testimonial about how much the school means to them.  But they don’t include something that I know about because it came up when they were interviewing me for the podcast.  The producer I was talking to was assuring me that the podcast was going to be very balanced and often when I would bring up things that Success Academy exaggerates he would agree with me.  About Moctar he told me that one of Moctar’s relatives, his step father, I think, told him that he felt that Moctar would have gotten into MIT with or without Success Academy.  That would have certainly been something interesting to put into the podcast but I guess it would add another thing for the critics to talk about while there was already plenty in the last few episodes.

What started out as a puff piece in the first two episodes did eventually become something that was fairly well balanced.  A few things would have made it even more balanced — certainly the not mentioning that the 16 graduates were once 73 students is the biggest one — but it still is very worth listening to and the most revealing part, I think, are devastating.  Surely over the next few years there will be more scandals from Success Academy that will come out and you can always be sure to read about them here.

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Revealing Podcast About Success Academy — Part VI

Part 6 of Startup’s seven part podcast about Success Academy (available here) is titled ‘Fights.’

The first of the fights that it tells about is the fight for space to grow that Eva Moskowitz has had with Mayor de Blasio.  Some charter schools have their own buildings or they pay rent for spaces though in New York City they often move into existing schools, taking a floor or two at first.  This arrangement is called co-location.  They play a tape of De Blasio on the campaign trail in 2013 saying “Time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place. She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.”

About a month after de Blasio became mayor at the end of 2014, a high level DOE administrator called Moskowitz to tell her that three new spaces that she had been counting on, two to open new schools and one to add new grades at an existing school, were no longer going to be available to them.

About this news, they run tape of Eva saying:

EVA: I thought I must have misheard her. I cried. I mean I was crying on the phone with her… I was like ‘Kathleen, how could you do this? This is an existing school, you’re just throwing the kids out on the street? Where are they gonna go?’

The podcast then recounts the 5 million dollar PR campaign and the rally in Albany where Governor Cuomo even makes a speech in which he says “We will save charter schools.”

The TV ads are powerful.  Here is one of them:

The campaign is successful and the state legislature includes in the budget a new law where the city has to either find space in their own schools to colocate charter schools or else the city will have to pay the rent for those schools in other buildings.

The podcast only makes a brief mention of the other side of this argument — that the existing school that wanted to expand would be taking away space away from a special needs school.

But what the podcast never mentions, and something that they either purposely didn’t mention, or negligently didn’t think about, was that de Blasio was not in any way ‘closing’ that existing Success Academy middle school and, as Eva said, “throwing the kids out on the street.”  No, all he was saying was that if they wanted to grow, they would have to foot the bill for the new space.  So the melodramatic fear tactics that are used in the video with the disappearing kids was a lie.  All that would have happened if Eva had lost the battle with De Blasio would be that some of the money that Success Academy uses to pay for marketing or for PR or for defending them from the latest discrimination lawsuit would have to instead go toward rent.  The school raises tens of millions of dollars a year and the 5 million dollar ad campaign (funded, the podcast is careful to say, by an outside group) would have been easily able to pay for the rent for that school in a new space.  That school was not in jeopardy at all, it was just another lie and a cheap use of false drama, though the podcast fails to mention this.

The rest of episode 6 is about the New York Times publishing a hidden video of a first grade teacher ripping up a well-behaved child’s math paper and yelling at her because the child wasn’t explaining her thought process clearly enough.  It has become known as the ‘rip-and-redo’ video.

 

So the teacher wants the girl to show how to count with what sounds like “one and a split.”  The child gets confused and she sends the very calm girl to “the calm down corner.”  Then another kid comes up to do it and, though I don’t know exactly what this technique is, the kid does it very quickly so it seems like a very low level skill.  The teacher is disciplined, though not fired, and Eva says that this is not something she supports.

The big questions is whether or not this kind of behavior by teacher is common at Success Academy.  The podcast interviewed 26 current or former teachers there and of those, 21 of the 26 said that this is common.  There were also several teachers who admitted to using these extreme, one might say abusive, methods.  The fact that this ‘rip-and-redo’ is commonplace, according to the vast majority of teachers interviewed, is the biggest problem here.

When this video surfaced, there was a somewhat ironic role reversal among people in the education reform debate.  Some charter supporters who are always saying that teachers need to get fired more easily were defending this teacher, and some charter critics who are often teacher’s union supporters and try to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt were calling for the teacher to be fired.  Personally, I don’t think the teacher should have been fired if this truly was a rare occurrence for her (though, of course, it wasn’t otherwise the teacher’s aid who was taping this would not have been so ready to record this).  The issue is that Success Academy fosters this sort of pressure so it is likely that this was not just a lapse by this teacher.  Of course this teacher, Charlotte Dial, got her start in Teach For America.  She has since left Success Academy and is now the educational director of something called New York Kids Club, a preschool and enrichment program throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.  Whether she trains her staff on the art of ‘rip-and-redo’ is anyone’s guess.

There is one episode remaining now in Startup’s attempt to answer the question of whether the pros outweigh the cons for Success Academy.

To be concluded …

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Revealing Podcast About Success Academy — Part V

Star Wars fans know that Episode 5 — The Empire Strikes Back, was the best of the Star Wars saga.  And of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, the most famous is surely his fifth.  Likewise, of the seven episodes of Startup’s podcast about Success Academy, the fifth (found here) is the most powerful and the most important.

To say that this episode has the ‘smoking gun’ would be an understatement.  This episode has not just the smoking gun, but a video of the culprit firing that gun.  I’m not sure why this episode hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.  Maybe because it is so many hours into the podcast and most people don’t listen to all the parts.  Or maybe there are so many Success Academy excuses and talking points weaved into all the other episodes that this episode just seems like a small blemish on a generally favorable portrait of the controversial charter network.  Whatever the reason, I’m hoping that people will take the time to listen to the whole podcast and to share it, along with my summary, widely.

This episode is entitled ‘Expectations’ and it explores whether or not the expectations Success Academy has for its students and for the parents of those students are something that the students and parents rise to meet or if they scare away potential families and families who struggle to keep up with those expectations.

They play a tape of Eva Moskowitz speaking to families who have been accepted into Success Academy:

EVA: Hi everyone, I’m Eva Moskowitz the founder and CEO of Success Academies. It’s very nice to meet you in this large auditorium.

LISA: Eva paces across the stage in stilettos, a fitted blue dress and leather bomber jacket, her standard attire. She’s speaking to a couple hundred parents, near Success Academy Union Square. That’s one of 30 Success elementary schools offering spots to new students.

EVA: First of all, congratulations for those of you who have won the lottery.

LISA: This year Success Academy had a little over 3000 spots for about 17000 applicants. That means through a random lottery, only about one out of every six kids got a spot.

Eva tells the audience that she designed Success Academy with the hope that kids would fall in love with school. They have science labs in kindergarten, kids learning chess early on. She touts the school’s high academic standards. But she is also clear about some of the things that parents might not like.

EVA: We believe in homework. A lot of it. So if you feel really strongly that that is not something you like, you probably shouldn’t come to Success. Cause we’re going to be arguing for 12 years about homework and we’re gonna win.

LISA: Want small class sizes? We don’t have that. And, of course…

EVA: Tests. Anyone against tests? Anyone want to be part of the opt-out movement? Great, thank you for your honesty. Success is not the place for you.

LISA: Success is not the place for you. Parents start hearing that line early on. Eva makes it clear at this meeting that they’ll expect a lot of parents.

EVA: We’re very very strict on kids getting to school on time. School starts August 20th and you must be here the first day of school, no exceptions. We expect at a minimum for you to return our phone calls. I had a parent who was refusing to meet with the principal. God forbid. No no no no no.

About half of the families that get into Success Academy after winning ‘the lottery’ choose to not go there, maybe because of messages like this.

The devastating part in this episode follows a 5th grader at Success Academy named Nia.  Nia had been at Success Academy since kindergarten and had passed both sections of the 3rd and 4th grade state tests.  But she was getting about a 70 average in 5th grade so the school said that she was at risk of repeating 5th grade.  According to the podcast, this is something that is said to hundreds of families each year.

Getting ‘left back’ is a big deal.  It has major consequences that can affect the rest of a student’s life.  From then on, that student will be a year older than her classmates, always having to explain why she is a year older, that she was ‘left back.’  The school said she would have to get her grades up, which she did, to about an 80.  But the school said that it wasn’t enough.  It didn’t matter that she was now comfortably passing.  It also didn’t matter that she had passed the state tests the previous years and that she was likely to pass the state test again this year.  They said that when they took it all into consideration they decided not to promote her.  However, they would promote her if she would transfer out of Success Academy.

The amazing hypocrisy here is that Success Academy is saying that the fact that this girl passed the state tests was not enough.  They are actually admitting that passing the state tests — the thing that the entire reputation of Success Academy is based on — is not an accurate measure of achievement.

The parent tried to appeal this decision and she even secretly taped the meeting she had with the administrator:

JO-LAINE: So I guess my question is, so this is a final decision? This is a final decision?

PRINCIPAL: Yes.

JO-LAINE: And I cannot appeal this process at all?

PRINCIPAL: No.

JO-LAINE: I cannot talk to anybody else about this process?

PRINCIPAL: If you would like to talk to someone you can reach out to the network.

JO-LAINE: Who, who in the network?

PRINCIPAL: You can just call the general number.

JO-LAINE: I don’t get anyone when I call that general number. Why are you doing this to my daughter? You know that she is a bright kid, you know she has potential. You know she does.

PRINCIPAL: Of course.

LISA: Of course she has potential, the principal says. And she notes the improvement Nia had made by the second trimester.

PRINCIPAL: She was at a 77 and we said if she continued going in that direction, she continued doing her homework, she continued really applying herself in class, then we could possibly promote her to the sixth grade.

LISA: Nia’s GPA had jumped from 69 to 80, and her grades for participation had trended up too. Jo-Laine asks where Nia would have needed to get.

JO-LAINE: So what is the passing GPA to be promoted?

PRINCIPAL: There is no passing GPA.

JO-LAINE: There isn’t a passing GPA, it’s so much ambiguity. How do I know how my kid is succeeding?

LISA: The principal points out that these decisions are not just about GPA — they consider a lot of factors. She says Nia doesn’t have the work habits to succeed in the sixth grade.

PRINCIPAL: So ultimately the issue is that she does not have independent work habits that she needs to be successful next year in a tougher grade with a more rigorous curriculum. Good habits of working, so like asking questions, trying hard, going back revising your work.

LISA: At some point during the back-and-forth, Jo-Laine gets more frustrated.

JO-LAINE: I have it in text message, ok, and in emails.

PRINCIPAL: Please don’t talk to me like that.

LISA: The principal says the conversation is no longer productive and asks her to leave.

JO-LAINE: I’m not leaving until we finish talking about… I do not agree with your decision.

LISA: Jo-Laine starts to say something to an assistant principal who’s also in the room.

PRINCIPAL: You’re not speaking to my assistant principal, this is my school to be clear.

JO-LAINE: Who are you talking to?

PRINCIPAL: I’m talking to you.

JO-LAINE: I am not speaking to you. You just told me I may not speak, I’m not, no.
PRINCIPAL: I’m done.

JO-LAINE: You cannot tell me I cannot speak to this woman here and that you’re going to call security on me.

PRINCIPAL: I will call security on you.

LISA: The principal calls security, and Jo-Laine is escorted out of the building.
JO-LAINE: and I left and i cried like a baby. I let out this howl when I left the building.

LISA: Jo-Laine said she felt defeated. All the opportunities she thought Nia would have because she won the lottery and got into Success were now disappearing. That’s because, if Nia was going to be held back, Jo-Laine wanted to take her out of Success when the year ended, even though the school had been Nia’s world since she was 5 years old.

what was the conversation with Nia that night?

JO-LAINE: You know Nia, things are going to be different. Same thing, same routine conversation, you got to go to school every day and do your best. Mommy has to be very honest with you. We need to try a new school.  I don’t think Success Academy is healthy for you. And she cried. Silent silent tears. And she’s like, ‘I’m going to miss my friends. This is all I know. I’m a little afraid of public school. But it’s okay Mommy.’ And that changed everything for me. I remember sitting on her bed and she’s like ‘Mommy it’s OK. You know I just want to be happy.’

LISA: While Jo-Laine was fighting to get Success to promote Nia to the next grade, she had also applied to several middle schools, as backups. And Nia had been accepted into a public school. It’s a selective one. Students have to have good marks and test scores from fourth grade to get in.

JO-LAINE: So I have the acceptance letter. And the first paragraph says, congratulations Nia, we want you to know that you were specifically chosen for this school for your academic achievement, thousands of kids applied to star academy and you were one of the 60. She was like ‘me? Oh my god, me mommy?’ and I am like ‘you’, and I could honestly say with all confidence, it wasn’t a lottery, it was like we chose you, we want you.

LISA: In Nia’s final report card, which she got in June, after the decision to hold her back had already been made, her GPA had gone up another few points to an 83. A few months later, she got her state test scores for fifth grade. Top scores again, fours on both.

The principal who defended this decision was, of course, a Teach For America alum.  So if Success Academy is leaving back students who are passing the state tests and getting an 83 average, but not meeting some nebulous metric that relies not on data, but on their gut feelings, what about the kids who are not passing the state tests?  Are we to believe that this same nebulous metric is somehow generous to those students?

Another Success Administrator is interviewed about the schools expectations

LISA: Do you think there’s such a thing as a bar that’s too high?

JAVERIA: For whom?

LISA: For kids at Success.

JAVERIA: Well see I think when people ask that question and I’m not saying you are. So please. I think when people say we’re too hard and we’re too rigorous I always ask is that because we run schools in poor neighborhoods? Do you mean is it too hard for poor neighborhoods? Because rich white kids are doing this all day and they’re paying for it.

LISA: It is a question you have to ask. Where is the bar? It seems like a very legitimate appropriate question to really think through.

JAVERIA: I do often think when that questions comes up… And by the way I wish we can control the bar but the bar often is determined by really elite colleges who get their kids great jobs.

LISA: Javeria tells me that Success Academy is trying to set its academic standards so that all students are on track to complete college in four years. Success says about 10 percent of its students get held back every year.  And half of those students end up leaving Success. When their alternative, their zoned traditional public school, is willing to take them at the next grade, that can seem like the more attractive option for families.

LISA: Do you worry about like the kids who are leaving because they were held over.

JAVERIA: I guess worry about that meaning… I guess that’s a thing, like do we think we’re doing something wrong and that’s why they’re leaving? like do we are we too rigid and too difficult and too painful of a schools so we’re pissing people off and they’re leaving? No I don’t. I mean I think I think…

LISA: Or just even studying like why kids leave? Like you know I’ve spoken to other charter school networks that are studying the kids who leave and really trying to understand that.

JAVERIA: I mean we can’t, we’re not a prison we can not make anyone sign up to do things they don’t want to do. And so that’s why I asked like is the issue should we ease our design in any way to keep more people is like I think where you’re headed in that question, which is no, we don’t want kids to come any later to school. We are going to continue to ask for them to wear a uniform. We are going to be rigorous. We are not going to willy nilly promote kids because it feels good.

LISA: Success doesn’t buy into the practice of social promotion — moving kids up through grades to keep them with their age group. The charter school network believes that promotion should be based on achievement. And in many ways, their position makes sense. You don’t want someone to graduate from high school, not being able to read an elementary school text. And yet by sticking to extremely high standards for kids, Success is, in effect, sending a lot of families to the same schools it says it’s saving them from.

So according to the podcast, with a statistic that surely came from Success Academy themselves, they leave back 5% of students each year and another 5% leave so they can escape being left back.  I think these numbers are way below the actual numbers.  I think this is one of the major reasons that students leave the school and based on their first cohort where 73 1st graders were whittled down to 16 eventual graduates, it is clear that a lot of students leave Success Academy.

Even the parent from the first episode had pulled her son from Success Academy when they threatened to have him repeat second grade.

On the podcast they say

A lot of families who leave Success, whether it’s because they were asked to repeat a grade, or were getting suspended, or just had had enough of Success’ inflexibility … a lot of those families go back into the traditional public school system, a system that Eva Moskowitz says is failing.

Then they compare Success Academy to a ‘failing’ traditional school, as measured by its test scores.  They show that the principal is much warmer in the way he deals with parents than the Success Academy administrators we have heard from in this episode.

Then a surprising thing happens where this principal Jesse Yarbrough goes off on a rant about how one of his biggest problems is that it is too hard to fire tenured teachers because of the teacher’s union contract.  I was disappointed to hear this.  I’ve taught at several ‘failing’ schools in my career and I’ve found mostly very hard working teachers at them.  And the few teachers who were not trying their hardest, well, I don’t think that our test scores would have changed that dramatically if we were to replace those teachers — there just weren’t enough of them to make a tremendous difference.  Somehow, though, on this podcast they found a traditional school where the principal did believe that the students at his school had only 20% passing the state tests because of the teacher’s union.  That is unfortunate since I’m sure that many principals would defend their staff and say that the test scores don’t reflect the commitment and quality of the teachers.

The rest of the part about the traditional school was good and showed how they were more humane to their students.  They also have this principal talk about how they get kids who were booted out of charter schools:

LISA: Jesse says his school regularly gets kids from charter schools, and what he sees are a lot of the feelings that our two families earlier in the episode expressed: feelings of shame and guilt.

JESSE: They tend to come feeling like they were pushed out. Parents have told us that the principal kept calling them in to say that the student wasn’t behaving or the student wasn’t doing their work and that kids are always coming home with infractions, whether it’s for uniform, for attendance, for lateness for homework, and if you’re constantly getting negative feedback about your child, you’re going to think that the school doesn’t want the child there. And a lot of parents come in and they say my son had so and so issues, my son was kicked out, they said that we couldn’t be there anymore. And that’s terrible too because then they have that same perception of the child.

This is where episode 5 ends.  I think any reasonable person listening to the part where they leave back the girl despite her average in the 80s and her passing the state tests, and their treatment of her mother where they call security on them, would have to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with Success Academy.

There are still two more podcasts.  Episode 6 features the ‘rip and redo’ hidden video and episode 7 is about the chaos at their first high school.  I’ll likely write those up as one post.  This one, episode 5, is really the main reason I wanted to write up these summaries, I recommend you listen to the whole thing since there are some things that are conveyed by the vocal intonations of the Success Academy administrators that a transcript can’t fully capture.

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