Open Letters To Reformers I DON’T Know. Part I: Joel Klein

Some very big reformers have recently gotten very quiet.  Michelle Rhee has stepped down as CEO of StudentsFirst, Wendy Kopp is no longer the CEO of Teach For America, Kevin Huffman ‘resigned’ from being commissioner of education in Tennessee, John Deasy is out in Los Angeles.  And some reformers who are still in their positions have been less vocal on Twitter and elsewhere.  It seems to me to be part of a new coordinated strategy — they’ve voluntarily entered the witless protection program.

But there are plenty of reformers out there to rotate into the mix and I was interested to see what former NYC chancellor Joel Klein had to say when he started his own Twitter account a few weeks before the release of his latest book ‘Lessons of Hope.’  I’m working my way through the book right now, I got a copy from the library.  So far I’m glad to see that Mr. Klein sounds a lot more ‘kinder and gentler’ than I expected him to be.  The book has not sold well yet.  It made it to number 12 on the Education subcategory of the New York Times best sellers list the first month, but isn’t on the list in this second month.  Number 12 sounds not bad until you see that the current number 12 book on that list ‘Fully Alive’ is ranked over 10,000 on the Amazon.com best sellers list.

The book is pretty well written, actually.  Klein is very vague about numbers in the book.  He’ll mention a principal he admires and write, for example, that “Bryant under Kriftcher was nevertheless a safe and orderly place where the Regents exam success rate had improved considerably.”  Though the book is more reasonable that I had anticipated, it does still have plenty of ‘status quos’ and ‘adult interests’ sprinkled in of course.  Here’s a sample from page 23:

Teachers enjoyed the protection of an extraordinarily powerful union that too often spent its time defending the worst among them.  Any attempt to wipe away the old power structure would meet massive resistance because it would make everyone feel vulnerable and uncertain.  But it would be necessary if the schools were going to serve the needs of children, rather than the needs of the adults who worked in or depended on them.  I suspected Bloomberg knew all this, but I wanted to impress on his team that, if they didn’t want to change the status quo profoundly, I wasn’t their man.

Most reformers have Twitter accounts but they are generally one-way accounts.  They tweet something.  Angry educators tweet back barbed comments and the reformers ignore them.  Most reformers do this, I think, because they have nothing to gain and everything to lose if they get cornered into saying something wrong in a public Twitter feud.  I don’t blame them.  What did Apollo Creed gain by letting underdog Rocky fight him on equal terms?  He ended up getting killed by Ivan Drago in an exhibition match.  But Joel Klein has spent plenty of time arguing in front of The Supreme Court of the United States so he is generally willing to get into it even with angry Twitter followers.  I’ve challenged him a few times.  He generally responded.  I try be civil — stick to data that I can back up, not get personal.  He hasn’t blocked me or anything yet.

A few years ago I wrote a series of ‘open letters’ to reformers I know or knew at one time.  These letters were some of my most popular blog posts ever.  When Wendy Kopp responded to my letter, stories were written about it on the same day in The New York Times and The Washington Post.  Of the twelve letters, there were only three responses.  That was more than I expected.  The point of the letters isn’t so much to get a response but to present clear arguments which could help others when trying to explain the problems with ‘reform’ to their families and friends.  Responses back are definitely a bonus.  Generally the responses are very weak.  I’d say Wendy’s was the most thoughtful.  The ones from Michael Johnston and Mike Petrilli showed that they weren’t up for the challenge.

The letter that follows is the first in what could become a new series ‘Letters To Reformers I Don’t Know.’  Joel Klein is my first recipient.  If I’ve got it in me, the next three will be to Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and President Obama.  I’m not promising these others.  I worked for Klein from 2002 to 2011.  For most of those years I was not up on the whole ‘reform’ agenda.  He seemed like a passionate guy who was helping get the topic of education to the forefront.  We have met at least three times in person.  The last time was when he was the keynote speaker at a Math For America banquet.  I had just heard about the common core and thought that maybe this would be an opportunity for me to get involved in administration, maybe becoming the ‘math czar’ of New York City, which was a long term goal of mine at one point.  We spoke, he put me in touch with Shael Polakow-Suransky, I even went for an interview.  I actually got offered a position with the quality review team, something that I was not interested in, so that was the end of that.

About a year after that was the last time I saw Joel Klein, though it was just when I was in the audience at the Teach For America 20 year anniversary.  This event, readers of my blog may know, was when when I had my ‘epiphany’ realizing that TFA and their reform allies were doing way more harm than good.  Joel Klein was on a panel discussion with Michelle Rhee, Dave Levin, John Deasy, and Geoffrey Canada, which was moderated by Mr. Race To The Top architect himself, Jon Schnur.  It was basically a ‘Waiting For Superman’ love fest.  It is enlightening to look back at that panel now that reformers have been trying to tone down the rhetoric.

The panel starts at the 34 minute mark

Opening Plenary – Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future: What will it take to achieve educational equity? from Teach For America Events on Vimeo.

I haven’t been blogging a lot lately.  The truth is that after four years of this, I’m getting tired.  I’m so thankful that there are so many other bloggers out there picking up the slack for me.  Maybe 2015 will be a year I get my second wind.  My mini discussions with Joel Klein have motivated me to write this thirteenth ‘open letter.’

1/3/15

Dear Mr. Klein,

I started teaching in New York City at Stuyvesant High School in 2002, just before you became chancellor.  Before that, I taught in Denver and also Houston.  Though being a teacher, I know, gives me no ‘seat at the table’ in today’s education climate where the less you’ve taught the more power you have.  (Duncan taught less than you, you taught less than Rhee, White, and Huffman, who each taught for only three years.)

But I do have some things that give me some credibility, even within the reform community.  I was a Teach For America corps member from the second TFA cohort, 1991.  My first year did not go well, but I was not part of the 10% or so TFAers who quit during their first year.  I stuck it out and had a very successful run for the next three years in Houston, even winning Teacher of the Year at my school during my fourth year of teaching.  I worked for TFA in the summer of 1996.  I also worked for the New York City Teaching Fellows when they began in 2001.  I have been teaching at Stuyvesant High School for the past thirteen years.  I’m also a recipient of the Math For America master teacher fellowship.  I’ve written five books, two are about teaching in general, two are math review books, and one is a children’s book I co-wrote.

I mention all this stuff, not to brag, but to establish that I’m probably not the person that you are referring to when you speak and write about ‘ineffective teachers.’  I’m not the best teacher in the country, or the city, or my school, or even in the math department in my school.  But I can confidently say that I’m an ‘effective’ teacher by most common sense standards.

Yet, I’m opposed to what is currently called education ‘reform.’  I wanted to take this space to explain some of my issues with it with the hope that you’re willing to respond.  This is my thirteenth letter of this type, though only three have responded (Wendy Kopp, Michael Johnston, and Mike Petrilli).

You are a professional arguer who has gotten involved in education.  I’m a professional educator who had gotten involved in arguing.  Surely you’re a better arguer than me and I a better educator than you.  That’s why this should be an interesting exchange that will be interesting for people on all sides of the education reform discussion to read.

I’ve come up with eight sub-topics below:

The language in the reform debate

I resent that someone like hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson is known as a first rate education ‘reformer’ while I’m merely an ‘anti-reformer,’ a ‘doubter’ or a ‘status quo defender.’  I am not ‘entrenched’ in the ‘status quo.’  I think that US education is somewhat underachieving.  One issue is that districts have not done a great job of sharing best practices.  Another issue, at least with Math, is that the curriculum has gotten too bloated and uninspiring (Common core was supposed to address this, but I think they blew the opportunity to improve it.  They just trusted the wrong group of people to be on the team.)  Also, school systems are not efficient with their resources.  I see a lot of this going on right now with spending on technology.  So I feel like I deserve to be called a ‘reformer’ too.  I’m not against reform.  I think that the style of reform favored by you, Rhee, Gates, Tilson, and others is going to, in the long run, make education (and test scores, too!) worse in this country.  There just won’t be any people both smart enough to teach yet stupid enough to become a teacher in this environment.

Another phrase that bothers me is ‘always putting students first.’  If you believe that every policy needs to be made with the short term goal of improving test scores than you’d surely support a rule that teachers have to come to school and work seven days a week.  On Saturday and Sunday they could work on planning more efficient lessons and on collaborating or otherwise developing professionally.  This extra time working would benefit students.  Maybe the students can come in for individual tutoring on these extra work days.  What do you think?  See, even though this would be an example of ‘putting students first’ above the ‘adult interests’ (another phrase that annoys me) it isn’t a good long term policy since it would make teaching so unpleasant that it would scare away many teachers.

Transparency

I’ve seen you paraphrase Daniel Moynihan “Critics are entitled to their opinions. But they are not entitled to their own facts.”  I have the same feeling about reformers.  I’ve fact-checked statements by various reformers — Duncan, you, Rhee, White, Barbic.  It’s not easy, sometimes, to track down the facts since some states aren’t so transparent with their data.  I think the worst offenders are Louisiana where new charter schools don’t have their scores published for a few years.  With all the schools closing and opening there, this can be a lot of missing data.  I don’t see how a lack of transparency could in any way put students first.

There is too much secrecy in the reform movement.  This is most pronounced in the attempts to crack the code of Success Academy charter schools.  Some say they have large attrition.  They say they don’t.  When I see that their only 9th grade class has 22 students and they were 71 1st graders when they started, it does seem like a big drop off.  I also understand that over 8 years, this is just 10% a year.  And maybe 10% a year is good.  But of course Success Academy doesn’t backfill while non-charters don’t have that option.  Could you imagine a school system where NO school has to backfill?

Success Academy has posted some incredible math and reading test scores.  They say they do it with the ‘same kids’ as the struggling nearby neighborhood schools.  They also say they do it for the same, if not less, money.  Unfortunately they resist audits of their financial records.  If they have really figured out how schools can single-handedly overcome all the different out-of-school factors that prevent kids from reaching their potential, this would truly be something.  It would go against everything I’ve experienced as a teacher with 18 years of experience at four different schools in three different states.  And Success Academy is not just beating the regular public schools, but also beating the other well known charters, the KIPPs for example, who are getting results not much different than the regular public schools.

Proving, as they claim to, that they have cracked the code that has eluded everyone including the other charters, is something worthy of scrutiny.  It is as if someone claimed to invent a pill that cures Cancer.  For sure all medical researchers would want to investigate this claim.  Some would be ‘doubters’ of course and others would be ‘believers.’  To either side, though, the scrutiny would be useful.  The doubters could use the data to prove that it was a hoax.  The believers could use the data to figure out how to mass produce the cancer drug.

What is the secret?  Is it small class size?  I understand that they have two teachers in each room, one lead teacher and one co-teacher.  The lead teacher is never a first year teacher.  Is that part of what works?  A first year teacher does a year of apprenticeship?  They have extended hours most days.  But then I understand that once a week they have half days for professional development.  So parents have to pick up their kids every Wednesday at noon.  Can all families do this?  They have 15 schools and will soon have 30.  How are we so sure they can scale up?

I’d think that reformers would be begging Success Academy to allow educational researchers to put them under a microscope.  For all the money and effort that this country has put into education, what would ten or twenty million more be to put Las Vegas casino style cameras and microphones into every room?  This kind of scrutiny would result in either Success Academy being debunked by doubters or with a set of best practices that could elevate this country to the top of the international rankings.  So why don’t we do it?  I think it is because you and the reformers are not willing to risk Success Academy being debunked.

Teacher quality in this country

If I were to summarize my sense of the ideas behind the modern ed reform movement, I’d say it is:  Since the quality of the teacher is the most important in-school factor driving student test scores, improving teacher quality is the most efficient way to improve student test scores.  There are too many ineffective teachers in this country.  Some are ineffective because they are not trying hard enough and others will be ineffective no matter how much they try.  By making more accurate teacher evaluations, the ineffective teachers who can be better by working harder will start working harder since the more accurate teacher evaluations will expose them.  The incompetent teachers will not be able to improve much so these evaluations will help identify those so they can be fired.

You have often said that improving the quality of the teacher in front of the room is the best way to improving education.  You also have written on cnn.com “It is not hyperbole to say that the state of education in our country is a challenge to our national security.”  So I think I can infer that you don’t think that the average teacher in this country is doing a very good job.

Reformers claim to be driven by data, yet I’ve never met one who can answer two simple questions that are vital to the foundation of the reform arguments.  The questions are:  1)  What percent of teachers do you think are truly ineffective, average, and highly effective?  2) What grade, on a scale of 0 to 100 would you give to ineffective, average, and highly effective teachers?  The reason the first question is important is that if there are really not so many ineffective teachers, how can this plan to invest billions of dollars in testing and evaluation systems based on the results of those tests in order to identify and target these ineffective teachers really result in much of a bump in achievement?  The second question is important since a reform strategy based on getting teachers to work harder is only viable if we know how good the current average teacher is and then make an estimate of how good the average teacher can be with reforms based on mostly getting them to work harder and not much else.

I think that the average teacher in this country is doing a pretty good job.  I don’t think you would agree with this.  Now there is nobody out there who thinks that teacher quality doesn’t make any difference, certainly not me.  And, on the other side, there is nobody, not even you, who think that teachers are all-powerful and that you can give a ‘great’ teacher a class full of students who are chronically truant and by virtue of that teacher’s greatness, all the students will suddenly come to that class every day and every student will pass the class and the standardized final at the end of the course.

To quantify, suppose an ‘average’ teacher ‘gets through’ to 60 percent of her students.  What does the ‘great’ teacher accomplish?  And what percent of teachers are so ‘great’?  These are such important questions to assess before embarking on a strategy based on raising the quality of the average teacher significantly.

Value-added

I think the idea of identifying the best teachers so we can try to replicate their best practices is a good idea.  But in the rush to find an objective way to rate teachers, the reformers have latched on to somewhat of a Golden Calf — the Sander’s value-added formulas.  If I were a reformer, I’d be irate about quality of this measure.  It is a complete mess.  Would you believe that middle school teachers who teach two different grades often are rated as great teachers in one grade and poor teachers in another?  I blogged about it here.  Thomas Kane can try to defend it all he wants, but there are so many examples of great teachers getting low value-added ratings that it is laughable.  On the flip side, and this isn’t talked about so much, there are surely as many examples of weak teachers getting very good value-added scores.  So the intent to weed out the poor performers is not being accomplished here.  Statistics people call it, I think, ‘noise.’  Yes, if you make it a high enough percent — New York wants to make it 40% — you can get 10% of teachers or whatever to be evaluated as ‘ineffective’ but it is unlikely that these are truly the bottom 10% of teachers.

Merit pay

The main problem with merit pay is that it isn’t just bonuses for the teachers who are judged to be the best by the value-added algorithm.  If that’s all it was, and considering that the value-added is so inaccurate, teachers wouldn’t mind it so much.  It would be like a little random lottery that we are automatically enrolled in.  The issue, I think, is the possibility of getting fired over the same inaccurate calculations that determine who gets merit pay.  In practice I’ve seen plans that give very few people a bonus while many more people get de-merit pay, something like the withholding of a longevity step increase.  There’s only so much money.  The money for the merit pay bonuses have to come from somewhere.  I don’t think this country will be able to recruit very many teachers this way.  Who would want to gamble the possibility of not being able to send his or her kids to college because a computer has judged you ineffective?  For myself, I would not feel so good about getting a bonus based on shoddy math which also got a peer of mine to not get a raise or even to get fired.  Merit pay as most districts who are trying to devise it because of Race To The Top is a Trojan horse.  It looks good at a first glance.  It benefits a few people, maybe not even the most deserving people, while punishing many more people, also maybe not even the least deserving people.

The best teachers already do get opportunities to get rewarded financially and also other ways.  I generally work at City College over the summer teaching math teachers how to use technology in the classroom.  In order to get that job, I had to present myself at an interview and answer their questions about my knowledge about teaching.  I’ve also made some money from book royalties.  Again, being an effective teacher helped me get book contracts.  Within my school I’ve volunteered to do a lot of extra things, presenting at faculty meetings, for example.  So when I asked if I could teach a math elective — my dream course, math research, I was given that opportunity, which has definitely made my job even more satisfying.  I’ve also been awarded the Math For America master teacher fellowship for which I receive a $15,000 annual stipend.  I’m sure my students’ standardized test scores weren’t factored into the decision to award me one of the fellowships since I was never asked to provide them.  The president of Math For America, John Ewing, is actually an outspoken critic of the misuse of math in value-added ratings.  By being part of Math For America, I have some extra responsibilities.  I attend professional development sessions and also lead sessions for other members.  Something else that I’ve done for the past few years is submit a proposal to present at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) national conference.  My proposals have been accepted and Math For America has provided money for the expenses.  I’m very proud of these presentations (rehearsals of them are up on YouTube).  They have been an opportunity for me to share creative teaching ideas with thousands of teachers throughout the country.

I guess what I’m getting at is that by being a good teacher I’ve had these opportunities to get some extra benefits at school and also to make some extra money without it unfairly coming out of the pockets of other teachers or getting them fired.

Effective teachers who need to make more money also have the option of getting their administrative certificate and becoming APs or Principals.  Being an effective teacher will be something that helps them get into an administrative program and that will also help them get a job.

I’m also actually not opposed to teachers who teach at high needs schools making more money than teachers who don’t.  I know they are trying this in Tennessee, but since it is all based on their value-added model which is so flawed, I’m doubtful that it will have much impact.  It would certainly be interesting from a research perspective to see if a teacher who does well at one school will necessarily do well at another school.  Also it would be interesting to know exactly how much money it would require to generate a lot of interest in people transferring and to see what other things might make people want to teach at schools that are labelled as ‘failing.’  Maybe a guarantee of small class size?  Maybe some kind of leadership role?  These are interesting questions to me that are worth thinking about.

Ed Tech

I love good education technology.  Most ed tech is a waste of money, however.  The Geometer’s Sketchpad is my favorite program.  It is great for virtual hands-on discovery learning in Geometry.  There’s a free version too called Geogebra.  It’s a little less user friendly, but still very good.  Having a class website with all the handouts scanned in has been something that has truly benefited my students when they have been absent.  I’ve also made use of cheap screencasting software to do demonstrations for my YouTube channel.  New York City still doesn’t allow cell phones in school, but when the ban is lifted I do plan to use the many free or cheap platforms to allow students to send answers to my computer so I can have more accurate instant assessment.  I’m not sure what the Amplify tablet will cost, but if the price comes down to twenty or thirty dollars a tablet, I could see myself asking my school to invest in them.  If you want to comp me a class set, I’d need at least 34.

Teach For America

What percent of teachers in this country do you believe are ineffective?  5%?  10%?  Something like that?  Now if you take all the Teach For America teachers currently teaching — this includes the 6,000 first years the 5,500 second years, and the maybe 10,000 who are still teaching beyond their two years — what percent of the TFA teachers are ineffective?  Remember that 10% of those 6,000 first year TFAers will quit so they are likely ineffective.  I’d say the percent of ineffective TFAers is not much different than the percent of ineffective teachers in general.  So what purpose does TFA serve?  Well some TFAers will stay in the classroom for ten years and then decide to go into administration and maybe work their way up through the ranks.  Those people will likely not be big followers of the modern reform movement.  No, the only use for TFA it seems is that some TFAers will teach for two or three years and then, before they have a chance to gain wisdom, they get fast tracked to some major leadership role where they can promote the modern reform agenda.  It seems that only a TFAer can rise to this level after two or three years.  This is what we’ve seen with many of the people you’ve mentored — Rhee, White, Huffman, and Anderson — and predictably they don’t last.  I can’t be sure, but I get the sense that it will be a while before a TFAer with just two or three teaching experience gets another opportunity to lead a big school district or be a state commissioner.

I’m actually not opposed to alternative certification.  Some of the best teachers I know started with TFA or with the New York City Teaching Fellows.  But let’s be realistic.  TFAers, as a whole, are not much better than average teachers which, my sense is, you do not think are very good.

Protecting the movement at all costs

I appreciate that you’ve been engaging with me on Twitter.  Many reformers, I believe, are afraid of me.  I’ve actually written thirteen of these open letters and only three people have responded to them.  But you have been willing to defend your positions, and I appreciate that.

But I’ve ‘won’ some of these mini Twitter debates and you’re never willing to concede on any of my clear victories.

The one that I really got you on was P-Tech.  I wrote about how they only had a school average of about 30% on those tests.  You thought this number was skewed by the fact that they require so many of their students to take the test so it is unfair to compare to a school where not so many kids take it.  But when I dug deeper into the public data I learned that only 1.8% of the P-Tech students passed Geometry and 1.6% passed Algebra II.  Even if every student in the school took those tests, that would be only about 5 kids passing for each test.  That is really bad.  P-Tech is a test score disaster.  I know that you used it in the introduction to your book about how the choice to shut down a school and open another can lead to great improvement.  In this case, this particular school hasn’t accomplished much.  Yet, you defend this school so vigorously.  Why?  I think you would have more credibility if you were to admit that P-Tech is a disaster, at least when it comes to math Regents.  When you give free passes to people you have relationships with — whether it is P-Tech or AP scores in Louisiana or KIPP schools in New Orleans that have low test scores — aren’t reformers supposed to be all about ‘increased autonomy for increased accountability’?  When you selectively hold people and schools that you don’t have a connection to more strict accountability than the ones you do, I don’t respect that.

One of your friends and now a co-worker at Amplify is education reform celebrity Geoffrey Canada.  I actually am very much in favor of wrap-around services as a way of helping kids overcome some of the out-of-school factors that serve as obstacles to their learning.  Unfortunately when you look at the test scores at Harlem Children’s Zone, they are horrible.  I know this may make it seem like wrap-around services are underrated, but in this case the poor test results are an example of a very badly run school, despite the wrap-arounds.  I know this because a former student of mine who is now a very happy teacher at Success Academy spent her first miserable year of teaching at Harlem Children’s Zone.  She said it was a very toxic environment where nobody in charge knew what they were doing.  You surely know that Canada ‘fired’ two different cohorts of students since their bad test scores were, I suspect, dragging down his reputation.  To throw away two groups of struggling kids is completely at odds with the sorts of things you write in your book about how all kids can thrive if permitted to learn in the right environment.

Finally, I’ve noticed many inconsistencies in many of your arguments.  When critics say that graduation rate is up to back up their point that schools are not in crisis, you point to the flat long term NAEP scores to refute them.  Then when critics say that New York City has not made great improvements during your tenure and use the lack of NAEP gains (that first test that was administered before you got there doesn’t count, you know!) you point to the increased graduation rate.  I think you need to pick what metrics you think are valid and stick to them.

Well, that’s all I have for you today.  What the people who have responded to me have done is first just get back to me and say ‘yes’ I’m going to write back, but I need a bit of time.  Those who didn’t respond generally didn’t even give the courtesy of saying that they received the letter.  A few told me that they got the letter but they didn’t have the time to write back.  Either way, the point of these letters is not so much to get the response, but to give a long form presentation of my views on different topics to the readers of my blog.

Sincerely,

Gary Rubinstein

Math Teacher

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Open Letters Series. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Open Letters To Reformers I DON’T Know. Part I: Joel Klein

  1. Jonathan says:

    Excellent letter Gary. Thank you for taking the time to write it. Your many points and questions are forthright, well grounded, and borne out of your years in the field, actually teaching . It’s hard to believe that Joel Klein is the sort to respond in kind; but who knows…

  2. Zulma, retired NYC math teacher says:

    You are one of the bloggers that I have a deep respect for. Please continue to blog and to keep us abreast on the latest miseducation that the reformers are pushing and peddling in our nation. Thank you for another great letter.

  3. mrobsmsu says:

    This is a great letter–you nailed it!

  4. I like you, much like I like educationrealist.
    Do you take/accept donations?

  5. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein Explains To Joel Klein What is Wrong with the “Reform” Movement | Diane Ravitch's blog

  6. Jack Covey says:

    One of the secrets Success Academly is that their teachers are so happy at their job:
    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2014/08/citizen-jacks-compendium-of-teacher.html

    Seriously, would you want to work at a place like the one described by these former and current Success Academy teachers (indeed, one of them describes herself as a current “lead teacher.”

    ———————————————–

    Hey, why don’t we hear from the current and former instructors at Eva Moskowitz’ SUCCESS ACADEMY Network? Thankfully, we can actually do that, and hear the unvarnished truth that they have anonymously shared, thanks to the “Glass Door” website that provides employees an opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about the people for whom they work, and the workplace culture that they’ve experienced.

    (Get it? The “glass door” gives transparency.)

    Finally… FINALLY (!!!) in post-Michael-Winerip era, there is a free and independent entity that is beyond the control and clutches of Eva and her ruthless multi-million dollar PR leviathan. Indeed, Glass Door’s posted motto or promise is:

    “Your trust is our top concern, so companies can’t alter or remove reviews.”

    http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Success-Academy-Charter-Schools-Reviews-E381408_P2.htm?sort.sortType=OR&sort.ascending=true

    I just cut’-n-pasted the first 24 teacher reviews from the site above (settle in, it’s a long read if you care to read it all.)

    Often I found myself asking the question, “Did I just read what I THOUGHT I read?”

    For example, “FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 11” said that Eva banned any administrators or even teachers from writing letters of reference for SUCCESS teachers—current or former—who wished to teach elsewhere. As this teacher put it put it:

    “They will not give you reference letter; its against company policy.”

    What is this? The Hotel California? “You can check out any time you like but you’ll never be able to work again elsewhere as a teacher…. that is, if I, Eva Moskowitz, have anything to say about it.” It’s like… “If I can’t control you—i..e. you leave or I push you out—I won’t help you with continuing your teaching career elsewhere.”

    In my two decades of teaching in the traditional public schools, I’ve never heard of a administrator acting like this.

    Some of them are even “LEAD TEACHERS”—NO. 17 is both a “CURRENT TEACHER” and a “LEAD TEACHER.”

    A common refrain is that the 60-80 hour weeks make it utterly impossible to have any kind of personal life or “work-life balance”, and how they “work you until you are sick” and don’t care about your well-being.

    Oh, and the workload and lifestyle make it impossible to have a family or children. But hey, wait a sec. Eva was allowed enough time that have and raise her three kids. As Orwell put it in ANIMAL FARM… “All of us are equal, but some are more equal than others.” And she makes over $ 480,000 / year.

    Perhaps my favorite comment came from a teacher comparing Eva’s personality and behavior to that of a Meryl Streep movie villain (from a few years back). “FORMER TEACHER NO. 14 compared working at SUCCESS ACADEMY to…

    ———————————————————————————————————
    ” ‘THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA’ — except not funny and you actually can damage hundreds of kids lives in the process.

    “Any advice will fall on deaf ears because hers is a method that works well. Google ‘sick system’ and you will find SUCCESS, in its shiny, primary colored glory.”
    ————————————————————————————————

    To jar your memory, here’s the trailer:

    And the sad thing is… Eva would be flattered by this comparison, taking it as a compliment… “You’re damn right I’m like that, and if any o’ you teachers, parents, or kids got a problem with that, you can all go SUCK IT!” (not an actual quote… just a little humor)

    The reviews have three criteria: PRO’s, CON’s, and ADVICE TO MANAGEMENT. I omitted the PRO’s as they were so trivial (i.e. healthy snacks and the printers work”)

    I can just picture Eva in her posh Upper East Side digs reading this, and thinking, “What a bunch o’ lazy wimps and whiners! I don’t want them teaching at my schools, anyway. I wish there was a way to find out who those “CURRENT” teachers posting are, so I could fire all of ’em!”

    ——————————————————————————-
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 1:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “The most miserable experience I’ve ever had. ”

    CON’s:

    “One personal day, horrible work-life balance,
    — micromanagement of employees,
    — no chance for professional or personal growth,
    — dictator-like school.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “I think it’s too far gone.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER (& LEAD TEACHER) NO. 2:

    “Do your research before accepting a job here.”

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    CON’s:

    “Unethical treatment of students and teachers,

    — competition at all costs,
    — little support for students with disability,
    — retains an average of less than 50% of students,
    — retains an average of 30% of staff,
    — leadership and staff are replaced with no communication or explanation,
    — humiliation used as main motivational tool for both students and staff,
    — students struggle with anxiety,
    — very little emotional or social support
    — students stay silent 80% of the day, silent hallways in upper grades,
    — young students told to stop crying when dealing with personal trauma,
    — no work-life balance,
    — CEO is in constant conflict with city government which causes ongoing location uncertainty,
    — network is rapidly opening new schools while neglecting to fix all of the other dysfunctional sites first.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 3:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Toxic Enviorment, Developmentally Inappropriate Abusive Culture of Fear ”

    CON’s: “Worked for one of the highest performing schools in the network in the Bronx.

    “— Entire school focused on remaining at top of network schools assessment wise while pushing students in completely developmentally inappropriate and emotionally ABUSIVE ways.

    ” — When I brought up that Eva and the network and research disagrees with practices at my location, I was told the network didn’t know what they were talking about, haven’t I seen our top assessment scores, and that my primary responsibility was to make sure my classroom assessment data was up.

    ” — Teachers openly MOCKED 6 year olds with learning disabilities telling them they would see them in the same grade again next year because they were neither smart nor hard working and hopefully would not be in their student again- in front of the entire classroom.

    ” — Left work every day feeling angry at the school until I left permanently.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Teacher culture needs to be totally reformed-
    — experienced total lack of professionalism by newer teachers in front of children we were meant to be models for.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – No Opinion of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 4:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “The mission provides so much potential, but falls short in practice ”

    CON’s:

    “Employees are seen as dispensable and the environment is toxic.
    — Leaders rule through fear and intimidation.
    — At the network office, pay is low for the hours worked.
    — Turnover is extremely high.
    — The organization has grown too fast.
    — There are other rewarding education organizations that treat their employees better.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 5:

    “Will not shape you into the the teacher that you want to be. ”

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    CON’s:

    “Lack of support.
    — Militaristic style of teaching to the test.
    — Students did not learn content.
    — Teachers had no work-life balance.”

    Does NOT Recommend — No Opinion of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 6:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Great mission, terrible culture ”

    CON’s:

    “The leadership team is more interested in making political statements than about choosing the right growth strategy for the organization.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 7:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “I was an Associate Teacher ”

    CON’s:

    “Everything.
    — Extremely high turnover due to many reasons, just a few of which are listed here.
    — Hours are insane,
    — management doesn’t care about the employees,
    — the style of teaching and discipline is horrifying,
    — I didn’t like who I became after working here,
    — there are unrealistic expectations of teachers (like I need to log every phone call I make to a parent!?),
    — and the feedback is ALWAYS negative without any sense of “you can do it” or “we can do this together”,
    — it’s “Get your f*cking sh*t together!”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “You’ll have a much happier staff if you recognize that employees are PEOPLE who want to have lives outside of work, don’t want to be micromanaged, and will see better results if you approach criticism in a more constructive way rather than beating up your teachers.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER (& LEAD TEACHER) NO. 8:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Overworked and unreasonable expectations on staff, micromanaging”

    CON’s:

    ” — 1. Micromanaging by leadership

    “— 2. No autonomy in your classroom, it’s like they’re making all their teachers into replicas of the one model they’re looking for

    “— 3. Overworked school day – I would arrive by 6:45 am and I felt like I was running behind already.

    — I would work till 5:00 pm at school, then bolt out the door to get home to my family.
    — I would tirelessly grade papers while on the subway, try to respond to the absurd amount of emails and constantly changing meetings, expectations, etc.
    — I would work on school work for extra hours at night and it was never enough.

    — If this had been my first teaching job out of college, I would have hated teaching.

    — Luckily I had 6 years experience in a great school district in a different state.

    “The stories I had to tell about this job made everyone in my life tell me to quit. There was so much stress and anxiety going into each week of the job.”

    Does NOT Recommend — No Opinion of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CURRENT SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 9:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Very low morale”

    CON’s:

    “All teachers are extremely overworked.
    — 12-hour work days are the norm.
    — Very, very little prep time during the day, as meetings are held during “prep” periods. — Management encourages bizarre competition between teachers, and as a result, morale is low.

    ” — Students are pushed out of the school if they exhibit any negative behaviors or if their data is low.
    — In either case, management will meet with the family to tell them that this school is ‘just not the right fit for them’.
    — If that doesn’t work, they will suspend the child ad nauseum or even push them down into a lower grade, so that their exhausted parents give in.
    — It’s absurd that this school is publicly funded when it does not serve the population it purports to serve.
    — It is honestly more a school for gifted students than a school working to close the achievement gap.
    — I include this in my review because it contributes to the low morale of the school – your students who you love are constantly being kicked out.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 10:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    CON’s:

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Value your teachers more by making their workday more manageable.
    — This will lead to teacher retention.
    — 6:30am – 6:30pm is not sustainable, as the teacher turnover rate clearly attests.

    ” — Also, value the children who are told they don’t belong at our school.

    “If we can’t help them, what are we doing in the education business?”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 11:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Not fulfilling, will not help you with career. ”

    CON’s:

    “I worked exceptionally hard and efficient, and they rewarded me by not hiring me after the internship ended saying “There was not enough work to be done”. There was not enough work to be done because I completed all the tasks. 1 month later surprisingly they found enough work again to open up the position.

    ” — They will not give you reference letter, its against company policy.

    ” — You spend days working on projects that they themselves do not want to work on. Some of which include creating thousands of addition and subtraction problems.

    ” — You’re supposed to work with the Math team however they are never in the office, and you are left alone to do meaningless tasks.

    ” — You get paid terribly, and not treated as part of the company or team.

    ” — They exclude interns from meetings, both company and team.

    ” — Terrible pay despite working you to the bone.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Recognize talent and hard work.
    — Be honest about work performance instead of hiding behind HR.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Positive Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 12:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “High Turnover, Poor Work Life Balance, Unprofessional Managers ”

    CON’s:

    “Unprofessional Directors and poor work-life balance. Focus on test scores and nothing else.
    ” — Staff usually stay less than one year.
    ” — There are so many HR/Recruiting positions available because the staff turnover is so high,
    ” — they are constantly searching for other candidates.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Look at the Enrollment and Talent/HR Team and Teacher Dept turnover. Why do certain directors have extremely high turnover and are not being held accountable?”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 13:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “High Turnover, Poor Management ”

    CON’s:

    ” — 1. Poor Management: Management tends to fire those who voice opposition. Look at the turnover data for the Network office…team Ops, team Enrollment…etc.

    ” — 2. Mostly young, inexperienced staff. The poor management is directly reflective of inexperienced staff.

    ” — 3. Unrealistic work expectations with no additional compensation or concern for staff well being. In a “no excuses” environment, even being ill with cancer is no excuse for taking a day off.

    ” — 4. I cannot stress enough how poor the management of department directors and other senior staff is. My manager was the most unprofessional, unqualified person I had worked with in my career.

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Examine the high turnover rate and be honest about it. There are several directors whose turnover rates for their departments should be analyzed.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 14:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Abusive, panic-driven environment justified with high reward potential ”

    CON’s:

    “— Erosion of any work/life balance – actually highly, HIGHLY discouraged in culture
    — Constant environment of panic maintained to encourage high effort and self-doubt
    — Eva is abusive and no one is willing to admit it
    — Recommended to young individuals who believe in giving 115% for “the cause,” and have not yet developed concept of “self-boundaries” or “self-care”
    — Upon school visitations, their very strict classroom rules for students also border on abusive
    — While building critical reading and writing skills in kids, also severely stamps down on self-expression or autonomy (punishments are plentiful, harsh, and unexplained)
    — Absolute silence in hallways, even teachers are discouraged from speaking
    — Teachers are kept in constant fear of surprise visits and sample collections for evaluation.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “To management? Why bother? The network team waited weeks to “introduce me” to the Director, waiting for the right moment. WEEKS. I began to wonder if I should chew on a leaf in an office corner until she became accustomed to my scent. This is how afraid her staff members are, or at the least, this was the culture they tried to project.

    “Her direct inferiors are constantly insulted, sent to run on impossible tasks, validated for their submission to her, or ridiculed/fired if not. I had extreme difficulty maintaining any hard boundaries — much less soft ones — during my time there. The literacy team is stressed out beyond belief; they put so much work into what they do but it is never good enough. It was incredible to watch.

    ‘THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA’ — except not funny and you actually can damage hundreds of kids lives in the process.

    Any advice will fall on deaf ears because hers is a method that works well. Google “sick system” and you will find Success, in its shiny, primary colored glory.”

    ———-

    “My advice goes out to the staff.

    ” — The high turnover occurs because those able to identify the system for what it is and recognize that when faced with self-respect/self-care vs. ‘the cause,’ they should choose to protect what’s left and move on.

    ” — In addition, once you step quietly back from the whole thing, you will learn that ‘the cause’ has gotten lost in politics, panic and upkeep. ‘The cause’ is potentially damaging to the students that attend the school.

    ” — If ‘the cause’ is yourself — meaning, you are a young, vibrant, 20-something year old who wants to feel that you’ve single-handedly changed the world — this is probably a better place for you than the ACTUAL NYC education system, which can be disheartening, without guidance or such ripe upward mobility. Here you’ve got micromanaging overhead, and if you ‘survive’ long enough, you can really take your experience everywhere.

    “Dear prospective employee: In many aspects, teaching is like social work. Social Work institutions highly, highly encourage you to maintain self-boundaries and self-care. Otherwise you will burn out in a ruthless, demanding, draining career of unrequited love.

    “The same way many social-work industries can take advantage of the big hearts and self-validating determination, so can ‘well-intended’ charter schools. Once you find yourself in a position where you have to negotiate your ‘non-negotiable’ (I highly recommend you walk in with one) on a consistent basis, consider stepping back for a long, long moment. Breathe. You will probably ride a cycle similar to breaking up from an unhealthy relationship, but I promise you your quality of life is not worth it.

    “In any case, they can replace you so quickly. I think that is what scares everyone the most.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Positive Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 15:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    CON’s:

    “—Culture – the tone of the organization is driven top-down. Eva and her direct reports are unafraid to bully others and do not show appreciation for those working for them. That trickles down through the organization in a very significant way.

    ” — Highly-political / not-business minded – Though the organization is a non-profit there is ZERO business sense in making decisions which is sorely needed. Decisions are almost always motivated by political motives.

    ” — Physical work environment – the actual office is pretty terrible. They signed a 10 year lease on a space that they outgrew in about a year and a half. Some of us were in the former storage spaces with no actual desk phones or any natural light. Some people are in satellite offices with significantly longer commutes.

    ” — Extremely high turnover with no institutional memory – because people leave so often and the organization does not do a good job of standardizing procedures or capturing information there is a lot of reinventing the wheel that happens when someone comes into a job.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Listen to what your employees are telling you – both current and former – and actually try to take some steps to make a change!”

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CURRENT SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 16:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “The worst—I repeat—The WORST teaching job I have ever had in my life! ”

    CON’s:

    ” — Long hours (minimum 60 hours a week…if your lucky). They have no regard for work-life balance.
    — Awful management-Management (Principals, Vice Principals, etc) are trained to run schools like factories and they do.
    — Employees are treated like they are just another number not like human beings.
    — They have no intrest in teacher retention.
    — If you don’t believe me, Google the turnover rate for thier schools.
    — Some are at 60%! Lastly, at time the expectations are unrealistic.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Learn how to manage people in a way that makes them want to work for your company for the rest of their lives. I have seen some of the most passionate teachers quit this job.

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CURRENT SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER (& LEAD TEACHER) NO. 17:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Too miserable to stay, no matter how much you are there “for the kids” ”

    CON’s:

    “— Arrogant young management
    — ZERO personal AND ZERO sick days
    — little prep time when accounting for extra meetings
    — leadership talks to teachers like they are students

    ADVICE to Management:

    “I LOVE the mission of Success Charter Network. I love the kids there.
    — But I simply cannot stay on board with the unprofessional tone of leadership and the unrealistic demands on us as teachers.
    — Working 80 hour weeks and still not completing my ‘assignments’ at a high level tells me there is something wrong with the model. \
    — I actually wish the work environment was better so I could stick around for the kids and their families. I am a well educated professional and a highly effective teacher that should not be talked down to by a 26 year old supervisor.

    “Until major changes are made, I will look for another charter network… ”

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 18:

    1 * STAR (out of 5)

    “Bad Work Environment”

    CON’s:

    “Working longer school years, longer school days (7 AM – 5 PM is mandated… and that includes a flexible prep time… some days you have all of your prep, other days you have none), with less pay.

    “Couple this with no tenure, no unionized safety, no days off.
    — There are no substitute teachers; if a teacher is absent, you lose your prep time to cover a class.
    — And there is no compensation (of time or money) for this. As a result, the average worker sticks around till 8 PM. 7 AM-8 PM = a schedule that is not conducive to most people’s lifestyles.

    — Clubs are practically mandated for certain teachers. No choice in this privatized industry.

    “This job is not good for anybody who wants to do anything outside of Success. This includes having a family.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Consider changing your mentality towards teachers. Yes, students come first, but so do our personal lives. Make it more family friendly, and maybe there will be less of a teacher turnover in future years.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CURRENT SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 19:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “Great Company…if you prefer ambiguity and lack of work/life balance ”

    CON’s:

    “Few standard operating procedures
    — Unclear organizational structure
    — Poor work/life balance
    — Zero opportunities for mentorship and coaching due to youthful management, which leads to
    — Young managerial staff with limited experience

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Stop reinventing the wheel.
    — Develop basic policies and procedures.
    — Hire competent, experienced staff.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 20:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “Good schools, terrible work environment (unless you are a teacher). ”

    CON’s:

    “Toxic work environment
    — culture of fear
    — you could lost your job at anytime, work harder.

    Does NOT Recommend — Disapproves of CEO

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 21:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “Mission driven, but a cult of personality ”

    CON’s:

    “High turnover,
    — low employee satisfaction,
    — incredibly top-down,
    — poor upper and middle management,
    — over-promotion,
    — young workforce that exudes professional immaturity,
    — heavy test prep that no one speaks of outside of the organization,
    — layers of mismanagement and heavily politicized environment,
    — doesn’t care about teacher turnover.

    “Teachers are not trusted to do their jobs,
    — staff on all levels are micromanaged,
    — scaling and expanding too quickly without an adequate strategy or plan in place.

    “The CEO, while an incredibly dynamic and intelligent woman, is too heavily involved with the day-to-day instead of focusing on higher level strategy and management of the organization. The organization runs on a cult of personality that revolves around pleasing her, which makes me skeptical that they can truly scale this model of education.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Change your policies towards teachers:
    — Try to retain them,
    — give more flexible time-off/sick day policies,
    — place more trust in their abilities and truly develop them.
    — Improve internal communication skills,
    — treat employees like they are human,
    — stop micromanaging and empower employees to do their jobs well.

    “When you are leader and you constantly complain about the incompetencies beneath you – well, the apple never falls far from the tree. The culture starts at the top.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 22:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “Great benefits and salary, good mission, poor execution ”

    CON’s:

    “Not a lot of autonomy;
    — conflicting feedback and management styles;
    — too many managers;
    — poor work/life balance;
    — poor employee culture (encouraged to backbite and compete rather than collaborate)

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Streamline management of lower level employees:
    — teachers do not need and suffer under 4 different managers, particularly when they have varying styles of management and conflicting advice;
    — too frequent observations actually contributes more to stress than to accountability.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Approves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CURRENT SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 1:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “Very Low Morale.”

    CON’s:

    “Depressing environment.
    — Unreasonable workload.
    — Teachers have low morale and are stressed.
    — No work/life balance.
    — Uncertain how much school cares about kids (it’s more about the numbers).

    ADVICE to Management:

    “The turnover rate is high.

    “There are people who want to quit, but can’t because they
    — 1) care about the kids,
    — 2) need the money,
    — 3) signed a 2 year commitment contract,
    or
    — 4) can’t get a day off to go on another interview.

    “Management should be worried about the long-term viability of this organization.
    — No one can work at this pace for 10 years.

    “Management should invest in retaining their employees instead of hiring new ones constantly.
    — Intellectual capital cannot be replicated.
    — The hours are terrible. 6:30 am- 7pm stresses everyone out, including the kids.
    — One has to wake up four or five am depending on commute and try to get to sleep early for the next day.

    “However, the work never ends so there is never enough time to get everything done. You never feel as if you’re doing your job well enough. Ever.”

    Does NOT Recommend — Negative Outlook – No Opinion of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    FORMER SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER (& LEAD TEACHER) NO. 23:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “Well-funded, high expectations, don’t value their employees ”

    CON’s:

    “I felt completely taken advantage of as a teacher.
    — Way overworked (even relative to a prior career that was extremely demanding),
    — felt very little respect from network.
    — Didn’t care about my work-life balance, personal health, emotional well-being.
    — Was assigned way more tasks than what I believe a teacher should be asked to do (which resulted in lower quality work in the classroom).
    — Extremely micromanaged, which was forced upon me in my work, and forced upon students as well.
    — Little creativity encouraged in learning.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “It’s been noted that the network doesn’t care about employee turn over–but this school turned me off from teaching.
    — Literally worked me until I was sick.
    — Actually care about your employees well-being and sanity–work smarter, not harder. — Allow kids to be kids, and let the teachers teach.

    Does NOT Recommend — Neutral Outlook – Disapproves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CURRENT SUCCESS ACADEMY TEACHER NO. 24:

    2 ** STARS (out of 5)

    “The Reality is Nothing Like the Image ”

    CON’s:

    “Employee happiness is on the bottom of the priority list.
    — The model seems to be based on bringing in young, idealistic men and women ready to put up with anything and asking them to work around the clock and devote their lives to the job.
    — Few last longer than a year, which weakens the culture…some people don’t bother learning colleagues’ names since turnover is so high.

    “Vast majority of senior staff are not good managers.
    — Just so many terrible management practices that make no sense.
    — Management seems to have no respect for employees.
    — We are kept in the dark about major issues affecting us,
    — management does not solicit employee opinions,
    — huge discrepancies in salary between the top tier and the rest.

    “Huge focus on testing and test scores.
    — The image of multi-disciplinary ‘whole-child’ curriculum just isn’t true in Grades 3 and up, when the students spend months on end preparing for the state tests.”

    ADVICE to Management:

    “Employee happiness might not seem like a pressing problem, but a model based on constant turnover undermines the organization.
    — Some respect toward the employees goes a long way (and I don’t mean casual Friday or free snacks).

    Does NOT Recommend — Approves of CEO
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  7. Reblogged this on Combatting Schooling Injustice: Comenius Dreaming and commented:
    I love this open letter to Joel Klein from Gary Rubinstein. Many issues of relevance to the Australian context – ESP the section on Tech High.

  8. Pingback: Ed News, Tuesday, February 3, 2015 Edition | tigersteach

  9. Pingback: RT @Rich_Stewart1: This open letter to reformers i… | EducatorAl's Tweets

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s