Success Academy Scrubs Their Public Video Page: Updated

There’s a famous saying, I think it originated with Watergate, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.”

My last two blog posts have been based on videos I found on Success Academy’s public video site on Vimeo.  This is the collection of videos that they promised in The Wall Street Journal back in May after a few very public scandals.

Now Success Academy is very private about what happens in their schools so you’d figure that all their videos contain things that they are proud of.  Surely they spent considerable money producing these videos and there were many people involved in what sorts of things would be permitted to be in these videos.

There were 485 videos on the page when I first came across it a few days ago.  Randomly clicking on a few of them I found four videos among the nearly 500 that I analyzed, three in the first post and one in the second post.  I noticed in a comment today on the most recent post that the video I wrote about was taken down from the site.  Then I looked at the first post and found that two of those three videos were also removed from their site.  I went back to their site to find that all that remains of the 485 videos that were up just 24 hours ago is now down to just 56 videos.

Now you can go back and read my posts and you will see that I encourage readers to watch the videos and make their own judgements before reading my opinions on them.  Surely by posting these videos they should expect that someone might watch them and critique them, you’d figure.  But I think it is pretty sure that it isn’t a coincidence that a few days after I posted the links to these videos not only are three out of four of them removed, but over 90% of their videos are removed.

Now these videos were posted originally, presumably, to help the public schools learn what they can do to be as high performing as Success Academies.  These videos were a public service.  If this is true, it seems very harsh, cruel even, to take them down just because some blogger links to four of them and criticizes them.

If they’re going to do this, why leave up 56 videos?  The truth is that I did not sift through the 485 videos looking for incriminating stuff.  Basically, I can pick pretty much any video they have and the issues I had with the other videos I wrote about are all clearly there.

For example (and let’s see if this video gets taken down now), here’s one that remains.  In it the teacher is demonstrating a classroom management technique called ‘behavior narration.’  It’s a form of positive reinforcement where you praise kids for following instructions.  In theory it encourages kids who get praise to want to get more praise and it also encourages kids who are not following instructions to follow them so they can get that praise.  I’m all for positive reinforcement but, as you will see in this video, when taken to its logical extreme it becomes an annoyance.

In this short video, kids are trying to read silently.  While they do, the teacher praises the kids for things like reading with straight backs.  Many of the narrations are about things that the teacher cannot possibly know are true like “Adrian is thinking about the setting of the book, how it is impacting the rest of his story” and “Max is thinking about the problem his character is encountering as he’s reading.”


One thing about this video is that the teacher seems to have some warmth while in the videos that were deleted, the teachers were somewhat hostile.  The other videos had teachers doing some very bad things, for example, making kids raise their hands to reveal to the entire class that they got a poor score on an assignment.  Another deleted video had an assistant teacher putting a sticker on a child’s face as the assistant teacher circulated around the room.

The videos seem to show that Success Academy is a place where students live in fear of their over-controlling teachers.  It does not look like a place where kids get the opportunity to be kids.  I do think there there is a subset of kids who can do well in this environment, but most, I think, can’t.

I think that the taking down of 430 out of 485 videos is an extreme — even paranoid — response to the analysis of one blogger about four of their videos.  I hope they put the videos back up soon but I’m assuming they won’t.

Update:  On Thursday September 6th the videos, for a brief while, temporarily reappeared, all of them, but a few hours later every video became password protected.  So we went from 485 to 56 to 485 and then to 0 all in 24 hours.

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23 Responses to Success Academy Scrubs Their Public Video Page: Updated

  1. Scott Draper says:

    It does not look like a place where kids get the opportunity to be kids.


    I’m not public school educator and it’s difficult to put in context the conflicting opinions that I see on the subject. I have read a number of books on the subject, and some of the arguments on both sides make sense to me.

    Outside of education, my observation of the real world is that many people who fail to be successful do so because they have a philosophy that causes them to fail. In other words, they refuse to replace their philosophies with more effective ones. I sort of view entire states in the US as demonstrating this; the state of Mississippi, for instance, is one of the poorest and least educated, yet the citizens pursue political goals that ensure that this will always be the case. They despise California, but would be better off becoming more like California.

    Likewise, one might interpret the philosophy of “let kids be kids” as a route to failure if the sort of control that Success Academy provides has led to academic success. I see charter schools criticized for failing to produce results, and here I see them criticized for producing results. This makes it seem to me that much of the criticism might be ideological, implying that many will dislike them no matter what they do.

    So I remain on the fence regarding charter schools; before reading about Success Academy, I would have said that most evidence indicates they aren’t effective, but now I wonder if SA has cracked the code? I suspect not, because in every field of endeavor, early signs of success often don’t pan out long term, but my doubt is enough to keep me in a perpetual state of anxiety.

    • parent010203 says:

      Success Academy is by far the “best” charter school in NYC, with passing rates that are nearly twice as high as any other charter school. It isn’t just that Success Academy is a little better, or quite a bit better. Success Academy has results that no other charter school even comes close to matching. They are an outlier that makes every other charter school look like failures. They have 90% passing rates while other charters have 40% or 50% passing rates.

      Not only do they get top results, but they have the money to offer their students things that only private school kids usually get. Free catered lunches. Famous coaches in chess and soccer who are well-paid to teach students. The best education money can buy. Their annual dinner can raise tens of millions of dollars in one night. And that’s in addition to generous federal grants and NYC subsidies per student, with free rent thrown in.

      But look closer — it also has one of the highest rates of attrition of charter schools in NYC. And one of the highest out of school suspension rates for kids exactly the age we saw in the video. More 5 and 6 year old students acting violently at Success Academy than in any other charter school. More elementary school kids disappearing than in almost any other charter school. Success Academy Bed Stuy 1 had 93 3rd graders and 103 2nd graders at the start of school in 2013-14. But in 2015-2016, 2 years later, only 56 of those 93 students are in 5th grade, and only 71 out of those 103 students are in 4th. Do you realize that in 2 years, 40% of that 3rd grade class and 31% of the 2nd grade class went MIA? And it could very well be even more, as we have no idea if some new high-scoring students from public schools replaced even more students. Other charter schools can’t match their 90% proficiency rates and they don’t come close to losing as many students. It’s counterintuitive unless you buy into some nonsensical racist belief that low-income parents go running from extraordinarily well-funded high performing charter schools. Apparently they do go running, but the question is why.

      So, saying that test results prove that Success Academy “cracked the code” ignores the fact that “cracking the code” involves a whole lot of disappearing children. Way too many. The videos that they took down showed exactly how their model teachers work. Ignore little behavioral issues of some kids while actively targeting certain ones. Is it any wonder that some Success Academy schools had a shockingly high 20% out of school suspension rate for children age 5 to 8? How many of those kids kept getting that nice little sticker on their forehead to mark them for their inability to sit very straight with legs folded for long periods of time? How many stickers on your forehead until a 5 or 6 year old internalizes how bad she is? Were these videos taken down because that child left? Or maybe targeted for a hopeful “voluntary” counseling out in the future?

      Target low-performing kids and get them out of your school. No one will ask questions. No one cares. And then you can brag about how your system works for 99% of the kids. It’s just wrong.

      • Scott Draper says:

        I agree that the results are stellar to the point of being suspicious. The article I read said that the attrition rates are misleading…they don’t take into account students moving to other Success schools. Once you account for that, the attrition rates don’t look bad.

        As for suspensions, etc, as I understand it, those don’t affect test scores…only attrition would. Yes, it may create a crappy culture.

        While I understand how attrition can raise scores, saying that the entire rise is due to this is a bit of hand-waving. How do you know? It might well be true, but the numbers need to be run to show that it is. Has anyone done this?

      • parent010203 says:

        What article did you read that said attrition rates are “misleading” because so many students move to other Success Academy schools? What other Success Academy school do you think that the missing 37 students from that 5th grade cohort at Bed Stuy 1 are attending? Especially since there weren’t any other SA 5th grade classes in the entire borough last year? There were very few schools that even went through 4th grade, and one of them, in Cobble Hill, only tested 54 4th graders despite having 77 3rd graders in that cohort the year before (another 28% of the kids disappearing in one year).

        Nearby Bed Stuy 2 did not have a 5th grade class at all, so the missing 37 students didn’t end up there. But at Bed Stuy 2, the 109 students who started in 1st grade lost 31 kids (more than an entire class!) by the time the remaining 78 of them took the 3rd grade exams this year.

        The attrition rates look bad, period. They look bad because the test results are so high and the school has every bell and whistle a parent could dream of. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the very thing that very high attrition rates give Success Academy is the very thing that makes them so suspicious. Generally, Success Academy will point to a failing, underfunded neighborhood public serving the most transient families and say “our attrition rate is better than that school, so it’s all fine”. They expect people to be stupid and say “sure, you are losing far more students than any decent charter school in all of NYC, despite being by far the best and richest charter school, but as long as you can find a terrible public school and claim you are better, we know nothing odd is going on.” I know exactly why dedicated parents who care about education pull their kid from a failing public school. Don’t you? But I don’t know why they are pulling their kids from the best charter school money can buy that has 99% guaranteed proficiency rates? Do you? Aren’t you curious at all? If white affluent parents were leaving a top performing public school in droves, don’t you think people would wonder why? And not just assume that white affluent parents prefer their kids be in terrible underfunded schools instead of excellent ones? The inherent racism in people’s acceptance of these extraordinarily high attrition rates is truly appalling. Oh, those families just hate good schools. Right. It’s about as believable as “oh, so many of those 5 year olds just happen to be extremely violent and dangerous so we had no choice but to suspend them to protect the other students”. I wonder how many of them got the special sticker of humiliation.

        “Saying that the entire rise is due to this is a bit of hand-waving. How do you know?”

        I don’t know. Why is that relevant? Are you saying that Success Academy did not have to target the low performing kids in order to get those high test scores but they just did it for sport? If anything, that would make it even more shocking. “We didn’t HAVE to make those kids feel misery to get them out of our school so we could brag about test scores. It was just fun to do and we decided to keep at it.” You have an incredibly low opinion of Success Academy administrators if that is what you claim is really going on. They don’t have to target and humiliate those very young kids to get their results, but it’s really fun, so why not? Yikes!

      • Scott Draper says:


        “What article did you read that said attrition rates are “misleading” because so many students move to other Success Academy schools”

        “Aren’t you curious at all? ”

        Please notice that I am asking here, so yes.

        “They don’t have to target and humiliate those very young kids to get their results, but it’s really fun, so why not? Yikes!”

        Agree that it’s a question worth asking, but I’m really interested in the mathematics, rather qualitative arguments. Without the math, arguments are guided by intuitive probabilities, which are notoriously unreliable.

      • Scott Draper says:


        I misremembered the article I referenced regarding attrition rates; I paraphrased teacher attrition rates, not student rates. Here’s what the article said about student attrition:

        Traditional public schools annually lose about 14 percent of their students, while Success loses about 10 percent. The difference: Success doesn’t accept new students after the start of 3rd grade, claiming that its restrictive backfill policy is necessary to build its unique academic culture.

        If I understand what this paragraph means, it doesn’t reflect poorly on Success Academy.

      • parent010203 says:

        @Scott Draper

        You quoted an article written by a pro-charter writer who provided absolutely no source for that number.

        I quote data from

        It is very simple to look at SA Bed Stuy 1 3rd grade enrollment numbers reported in October of 2013-2014 school year and compare that number with the number of students who took the 5th grade exam in 2015-2016. 93 third graders were there in October (who knows how many churned through the school earlier), and only 56 5th graders remained. Forty percent of those 3rd graders were missing by 5th grade, but the ones who remained did get 99% passing rates! You can provide no explanation except happenstance for 40% of a 3rd grade going missing by 5th grade. Nor any of the other “anomalies” where high scoring grades are missing large numbers of students who were there just a year or two earlier. SA Cobble Hill loses 28% of its 4th graders in a year? And because you read an article in EdNext with no source you are satisfied it’s all okay.

        It’s odd that you did exactly what I said racists do. Look at this terrible failing public school losing lots of students. It loses more than Success Academy so I’m sure the parents who leave Success Academy are just like the parents who leave terrible failing schools, except just the opposite! The parents who hate failing schools pull them from the public schools and the parents that hate top notch charter schools pull them from Success Academy. Not a bit of difference. You want to distract from the fact that Success Academy’s attrition rate is significantly higher than almost every other charter school. Why? Surely you wouldn’tt imply that low-income parents prefer to stay at low-performing charter schools far more than they want to stay at the best charter school in the entire state of the NY. Do you have any idea how offensive that underlying assumption is?

        Most people without an agenda would say: “yes, that’s pretty odd that 40% of the 3rd grade class was MIA by 5th grade and someone should tell us exactly what happened to all those students.” I mean, if it was 40% of the affluent white 3rd graders at the top performing suburban school in the state who suddenly disappeared by 5th grade, I doubt you’d simply say “look at that terrible failing school that loses kids, so I’m sure there’s no need to wonder why those college educated white parents pulled their kids from the top school to send them to a much worse school instead.” You’d never have such a low opinion of white college educated parents as you seem to have of the parents who leave Success Academy schools. They just don’t like good schools, right? No need to wonder why they don’t like good schools, they are obviously not like you and me.

        Success Academy’s attrition rates are significantly higher than any other charter. If you look at a top notch public school and compare it to a failing public school, which one do you think loses more kids? But when you compare the best (by far — a real outlier!) charter school to mediocre ones, the best one loses more kids? That’s nonsensical. If Success Academy’s test performance scores are that much of outliers — far surpassing any other charter school in NYC by an outrageously high number — then their attrition rate should also be lower than anyone else’s. Parents don’t leave fantastic schools. It’s nonsensical. They leave terrible ones. They leave scary ones. So where did 40% of those 3rd graders at Bed Stuy 1 go? Anyone truly interested in reform would want to know.

        By the way, what if 40% of the kids were flunked and repeated a year? Wouldn’t that be interesting model to follow? But if that was the case, why wouldn’t a charter school who wants other schools to understand how to teach kids hide that fact? If you find that even with at-risk children from the most motivated homes, you still find 40% or 50% or some number of them need at least an extra year or even two to do the work, that’s something that should be made public. It’s important! If Success Academy — even while only teaching at-risk kids with parents so motivated that they are willing to commit to anything that the charter school asks to enroll their kids — if that charter is finding that their vaunted curriculum means 40% of even the most motivated at-risk kids will need to be held back at some point in elementary school, then that is a very important fact. Just think how that might lead to re-thinking of the curriculum for schools where 100% of the at-risk kids are NOT from motivated families?

        Either we are interested in reform, or we are interested in promoting charter schools. Charter schools MAY be part of reform but only if they want to be honest. If their goal is only top test scores to prove some political purpose, and they want to hide the way that they get there and mislead people into thinking they have a special sauce that works for all at-risk kids, then they should be closed down. We don’t need dishonesty to fashion real reform. The kids helped in those schools can be taught in schools that are HONEST about their system.

  2. Ed Detective says:

    Oh my god.

    And I didn’t even get around to my critique of those videos. It was going to be much worse than yours.

    But now we have some good evidence of the cover up, and I’d bet the videos they left are still the same kind of illustrations of “what we should not be doing.” (I’ll get around to viewing them later, if they aren’t all removed by then.) Success Academy, and the charter industry, doesn’t really know better when it comes to teaching and learning, because they are businesspeople, not educators.

  3. parent010203 says:

    It’s truly odd that Success Academy employees work after 5pm on Labor Day to take down all those videos. Did they call in workers from vacation because they felt it was so urgent? No doubt a holiday celebrating workers is something SA finds distasteful, but nonetheless, during a legal holiday it’s odd that they felt the urgency in taking down the videos made it imperative not to wait.

    I wonder if some of those students have already disappeared from the school or if some parents saw them and got angry or if it was just more scrubbing of anything negative.

    • Benton says:

      When I worked briefly for them in 2008, Eva gave everyone keys (against the public school policy) so that the teachers could go in on Labor Day, since they “wanted ” to do up their rooms. Of course she had staff working that day.

  4. Lisa Buchman says:

    I would NEVER be able to read and comprehend if I were in this classroom. Reading is a quiet activity and the distraction from her voice would “drown out” the story. Sure I might have been able to read all the words, but I probably would not have been able to comprehend a single paragraph.

  5. @scott

    Actually, the attrition is a big deal:

    Success claims that its success blows away public schools but attrition is huge:

    public school —> loses a low performing kid –> kid goes back into another public school

    And that public school that lost the kid might pick up another hard case kid.

    The end result is net even for the public school. That hard to reach kid still lowers the public school’s numbers.

    SA –> loses a low performing kid -> kid goes back to public school

    The end result is that SA is left with better stats since they dumped the hard cases back to the public school.s.

    • Scott Draper says:

      “The end result is that SA is left with better stats since they dumped the hard cases back to the public school”

      OK, that makes sense. In that case, though, I’d pin the blame on the lack of inflow, rather than the outflow. The outflow is sort of like a one-way valve. If the attrition rates are accurate, then it doesn’t look like students are desperate to escape as parent010203 intimated.

      I still think this effect could be modeled mathematically to demonstrate that this theory accurately predicts what we see.

      • parent010203 says:

        It would be very easy to model mathematically. The obvious way to do that is via a longitudinal study that examines every child who begins in Kindergarten and makes it to 5th grade. Not to limit yourself to a single year of October to June data where you can’t tell if some kids are leaving and being replaced or not. It’s a very simple question. A class of children have parents who celebrate their lottery win and enroll their child at Success Academy in Kindergarten. How many make it to 5th grade? And how long does it take them? How could anyone object to that information being public?

        If you only limit your study to so that the higher performing children who replace the ones who leave (pre-tested before being allowed to join their grade) are included in order to hide the very high number of the original cohort who are missing, then you are not really interested in how the charter school is working for kids. That’s the study that charters want to do. Only look at a single year from Sept. – June. It makes a 10% or 14% “average” attrition rate seem okay, when it might very well be 28% of the kids disappearing the year before testing. Or even more but some new ones who proved their academic mettle were allowed to join their proper grade. That isn’t the “one way valve” that you describe. That’s large cohorts of students suddenly disappearing from one grade and not another one.

        To date, this is the ONLY longitudinal study of charter school attrition that has ever been done in NYC. Page 9 has data for 53 charter schools that had a kindergarten in 2008-2009 and grade 5 in 2013-2014. As a GROUP, those 53 charter schools had an attrition rate of 49.5% of the students who entered in K missing by 5th grade. An unknown number of the 50.5% remaining weren’t actually IN 5th grade but had been held back at least once.

        Four or five of those 53 charter schools studied were Success Academy’s “best in the state” charter schools. The non-Success Academy schools in the study ranged from mediocre test results to worse than mediocre. Oddly, the IBO only released aggregate data so we don’t know whether the highest performing Success Academy schools kept at least 80% of their entering Kindergarten, as you would expect from a school that offers the best education money can buy, or whether they lost more students than the average charter school. I think it is very odd that the IBO refused to release the attrition data of those charter schools individually so that we could do a direct comparison. It is especially odd because just a few pages later (page 22 and 23) the IBO goes to great pains to show that Success Academy PERFORMANCE on tests dwarfs every other charter school in NYC. On the top of page 23, the IBO states it very clearly: “On both tests, there is a considerable gap between Success Charter Network and the rest of the charter sector.”

        Wouldn’t it have been nice to see if there is also a “considerable gap” in attrition rates between Success Academy and the rest of the charter sector? The IBO wanted us to consider attrition “in aggregate” but make sure to note that test performance of one charter is way above the norm for other charters. The obvious question by anyone who really cared about reform would be “is their attrition rate also above the norm for charter schools”?

        What someone interested in real reform would NOT do is say “but look at these failing public schools that parents want to leave. No need to look closely at why parents would also leave the best charter school in the city”.

        You can justify SA’s attrition rates until the cows come in by comparing them to failing public schools because you want to avoid doing the obvious — comparing them to other charter schools! Parents leave top performing public schools because they move away. Rarely is it to send their kid to the mediocre or failing public school instead. But somehow when it comes to charter schools, we are supposed to accept that “those” parents just don’t like good charters as much as they like the mediocre ones. It astonishes me that you don’t see the racism in that assumption.

      • Scott Draper says:

        It will take me a while to digest what you posted (thank you), but I will address this:

        “It astonishes me that you don’t see the racism in that assumption.”

        And, no, I don’t. Many people are way too spring-loaded to charge racism as a way to attempt to shut down discussion. Among liberals, this has come to be known as the “regressive left”.

        If an implied behavior is irrational, it suffices to point that out, rather than attributing nefarious motives. Even so, sometimes people do engage in apparently irrational behavior. Upon investigation, the behavior usually comes to make sense.

      • parent010203 says:

        ^^^Also, I never said students were “desperate to escape” Success Academy. My point is that their higher than average attrition rates are suspicious because parents are NOT “desperate to escape” top performing schools that make their kids into scholars. So if a high performing charter has a higher than average attrition rate, it indicates the parents are pulling their children for another reason. The fact that no one in the reform movement cares to examine that reason is concerning.

      • parent010203 says:

        @ Scott Draper
        “Even so, sometimes people do engage in apparently irrational behavior. Upon investigation, the behavior usually comes to make sense.”

        I agree with this 100%. Upon investigation, the behavior usually comes to make sense. I am sure that there is a rational reason why so many parents who excitedly enrolled their children in Success Academy’s Kindergarten class ended up changing their minds as the years went by and transferred their child to a much lower performing school instead. And I am sure there is a rational reason why Success Academy finds it so much harder than mediocre charters to convince parents to stay. All the nice things millions of dollars in donations can buy, and they still lose more students than much poorer charter schools with mediocre academics. I am looking forward to hearing why someday.

        That’s why I was very surprised when you posted this: “Traditional public schools annually lose about 14 percent of their students, while Success loses about 10 percent.” I certainly got the impression you felt that meant “case closed”, there’s nothing more to investigate. That unsourced “data” seemed to be all you needed to be certain everything was fine. My citing of the NYSED data that compared real enrollment numbers to test takers didn’t seem to sway you as much as reading an article in a pro-charter publication by a pro-charter writer that you felt aptly demonstrated that Success Academy’s attrition rate was nothing unusual. You can actually go to the NYSED data website and see the numbers of missing students for yourself, so I found it particularly odd that you would instead cite unsourced data about attrition you found in an article by a pro-charter writer and come to the conclusion that “it doesn’t reflect poorly on Success Academy.” That’s the kind of irrational behavior I’m trying to make sense of myself. Upon investigation, do you have any connections to charter schools or the reform movement?

        Having an ideology in hand allows you to ignore almost any quantity of evidence. Or decide which evidence to place great value in and which to ignore. Unfortunately, the reform movement has wanted to believe in miracles for so long that they grasp at any small evidence regardless of its tenuous connection to what is going on. I think Success Academy runs schools in which low-performing students are treated in such a manner so as to encourage them to leave rather than to stay. You might say it isn’t intentional, just a happy accident that it turns out you can claim your school has “high standards” and be given license to humiliate your lowest performing students and make them feel misery. If that worked to turn them into scholars, Success Academy would have one of the lowest attrition rates of any charter. But they don’t. They have some extraordinarily high attrition rates that are not evenly distributed the way a “10% per year attrition rate” would be if it was just parents moving away.

        Another example of your ideology allowing you to ignore almost any quantity of evidence: Documented got to go lists that no one really believes were made up out of whole cloth by a first year principal whose training in education was years of working under Success Academy’s most celebrated principals. One of whom refuses to send home renewal forms with certain unwanted students – something she has stated for the record.

        Look, I certainly have sympathy for a charter school that wants to get rid of problem kids. What school wouldn’t love to do so if they had a chance, so they could spend all their time and resources only on the students who will benefit most from their school. But there is a very fine line between identifying “problem” children for some targeted misery, and running a school in which struggling students are made to feel far less welcome than high performing ones, especially if a year of Success Academy’s system isn’t helping them to struggle any less. Then what happens?

        By the way, for people who say “well Success Academy does so well with kids who stay, so even if you added in all the kids who leave they’d still be better”, I’d say: If that was the case, then why would they have got to go lists and so many missing kids in the first place? If you don’t need to make those kids disappear to prove you are better, then what in the world is making you not spend more of your many millions to teach them? Is it really so important to claim 99% proficiency rates instead of 50% or 55%? So important that you’d abandon those kids to that altar of bragging? And then dishonestly claim you are getting those results with any random kid who walks through the door? Why do you think that assistant teacher secretly videotaped the “model” Success Academy teacher’s treatment of a low-performing child? Because she wanted to “get” Success Academy? Or because she kept witnessing the systematic targeting of low-performing students and knew it was wrong but when she tried to tell people, they told her that SHE was the one who was wrong?

        We both know if Success Academy had truly figured out a way to achieve 99% proficiency rates with at-risk kids, KIPP, Achievement First, and every other charter school chain in America would have already copied them and matched those rates. I doubt you think that every one of those charter chains have inept administrators and teachers but they do have lower attrition rates and less “curated” policies for replacing their missing students. Do you have any doubt that those charter schools may fail with half their students because they try very hard to keep all their students, even the ones who may never be scholars?

        The very saddest thing of all is that I have no doubt that there are a few educational practices that Success Academy does that probably work reasonably well. For some kids. Maybe even for a majority of kids. But certainly not for all students and maybe they work far less well for at-risk kids than Success Academy would like us to think.

        How many students who “survive” the weeding out process really needed the no-excuses program to do well? It could very well be that those are the kids who would have done well in any decent, well-funded public school that excluded all students who needed extra resources or attention.

        No doubt the people who work at other charters wish they could have 99% proficiency rates too. Do you really think it can be done? And how many children are you willing to sacrifice to achieve them?

  6. zamanskym says:

    Didn’t take them long to take that one down

  7. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: The Strange Case of the Disappearing Success Academy Videos | Diane Ravitch's blog

  8. Stephen B Ronan says:

    Scott, you may find of interest my conversation about these same issues with Parent010203 on John Merrow’s blog:

    I am glad to see that in this current discussion, parent010203 is not attempting to extrapolate his/her analysis beyond Success Academy to high performing charter schools more broadly.

    As I indicated at the conclusion of that discussion on Merrow’s blog, the notion that high charter school test scores are consistently correlated with elevated attrition levels doesn’t seem to fit the facts well here in Boston. (My lengthy second-to-last posting can be ignored… it didn’t show up for a long time so I slightly improved then resubmitted it, at which point they both appeared).

    Since that last posting, I did some of the research I had, without success, encouraged parent010203 to do. The first column is a Boston Commonwealth charter school’s scores last year on the principal Massachusetts measure by which schools statewide are compared: “This school’s overall performance relative to other schools in same school type.” These are percentiles with the higher number reflecting higher performance relative to other schools throughout the state that serve the same set of grades, more or less. The second column is their summer attrition rate. Throw those two columns into a scatter plot graph and…

    51 8
    71 6.9
    57 8
    32 10
    93 1.6
    97 5.3
    58 8.6
    42 7.7
    62 12
    23 18.9
    91 5.3
    36 11.3
    78 9.1
    54 11

    As discussed here:
    I’m still trying to improve my understanding of Massachusetts accountability/performance measures

    • parent010203 says:

      Scott, it sounds as if you now are convinced there is something unlikely about Success Academy’s high attrition rate and 99% passing rates. Perhaps you agree with me that the fact that the the SUNY Charter Institute doesn’t care enough to spend a few hours tracking how many of the entering Kindergarten students disappear before 5th grade in a school whose proficiency rates are twice as high as the next best charter is alarming but not at all surprising. Why look too closely at a good thing, as long as that good thing promises to never ever compare her proficiency rates to other charter chains that range from mediocrity to failure compared to Success Academy? Keep that comparison to public schools only and always select out Success Academy’s proficiency rate instead of an “average” of all charter schools while keeping their attrition rate in that “average” so that no one knows exactly what it is.

      I don’t know what kind of scatterplot you have here, but “summer attrition” is irrelevant when you are talking about charters. You see, charters get to send away (sorry, I mean, make miserable until a child “chooses” to leave) their kids at any point in the school year and there will always be a public school that is obligated to enroll him. Always. Charters have no obligation to a child, although if they really want your kid gone they will happily suggest other schools he can immediately go. It doesn’t work the opposite way since charters would never accept a child mid-year. In fact, Success Academy won’t just accept an older kid in September without pre-testing them to see if they are “ready”. And if that “test” – whatever it is – decides your child isn’t ‘ready’ for 1st grade, you get told she must repeat Kindergarten again to enter SA and if that dissuades you, well isn’t that just a shame. It is one thing to fail a child after a year at your school. It is another thing to test every child who has successfully completed Kindergarten in another school and forbid the ones you believe aren’t “ready” from taking those 1st grade attrition spots that are apparently reserved only for high performing students.

      My understanding is that your scatterplots are from schools where students enter in 6 or 9th grade. If you name some high performing Massachusetts charters serving primarily at-risk kids that start in Kindergarten and whose 5th grade class has not lost significantly more students than high performing PUBLIC schools, then I’d be interested in hearing some names of those schools. They should be noticed.

  9. Suzanne Stimson says:

    If there is a password required to watch a video, for whom are the videos?

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