Reformers are all about ‘outcomes’ and that’s why they love Success Academy charter schools. Year after year Success Academy students outperform the rest of the state on the 3-8 ELA and math tests.
For sure if there was a hospital out there that was claiming to have the ability to cure Cancer or something like that, there would be all kinds of independent investigations and different tests to see if their claims were for real. But when it comes to education, we don’t see this so much.
The oldest Success Academy students are now in 10th grade. They have had two different cohorts of 8th graders take the specialized high school test for admission into one of the 8 specialized New York City high schools. Amazingly, none of those students made it into any of the specialized schools. That is pretty unusual that a group of students does so well on one standardized test but does so poorly on another. Aside from knowing that none of their 8th graders made the cut score on that test, there are no other details about their specific scores.
But there are other tests those students have taken, namely the New York State Regents exams. Most advanced students take the Algebra I test in 8th grade and then various Regents in 9th grade, maybe Geometry and also a few others like Living Environment, Earth Science, and Global History.
I had not heard about how they fared on the Regents exams for the past two years so I went over to the revamped New York State data site. I went to the page for the school, Success Academy Harlem I, but could not locate the Regent scores. I did take notice of their enrollment by grade, however.
The first Success Academy cohort began as kindergarteners in 2006-2007 ago with 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders. That group of 73 first graders had been whittled down to 26 ninth graders last year and who knows how many of those 26 are now tenth graders this year. So they have lost about 2/3 of them so far so we’d expect the Success survivors to be pretty strong academically.
I did see the enrollment by grade for the 2013-2014 school year and compared it to the enrollment by grade for the 2014-2015 school year. For the 424 students that were in grades 4 through 8 in 2013-2014 only 369 students were in grades 5 through 9 in 2014-2015. This represents a net loss of 55 students or about 13% of the students. The biggest percent change was the 32 8th graders in 2013-2014 shrinking to 26 9th graders in 2014-2015, nearly 20% of their 8th graders not continuing in 9th grade.
When I couldn’t locate the Regents scores I inquired with the state data department. They responded back that the data from Success Academy was missing. I wrote back asking why the data was missing. Doesn’t Success Academy have to submit their Regents scores? The state data department said yes they do, but they didn’t. I then asked if they could ask Success Academy for the scores so they can be in compliance and so the data can be publicly posted along with everyone else’s Regents scores and the state data department said that they can’t help me anymore and that if I want the Regents scores from Success Academy, I should contact the school directly — something I’m not going to attempt for obvious reasons.
So there you have it, Success Academy playing by its own set of rules, not reporting its Regents scores. Considering charter schools get to mark their own Regents, unlike non-charters who have their Regents graded by teachers at other schools, and that they have so few students left, just 26 out of 73, I’d think that their Regents scores would be pretty decent. Then again, maybe they didn’t report those scores since it would make them look bad. Either way I think everyone would agree that they should be required to submit their Regents scores like every other school has to.