Success Academy High School Students Do Not Take Regents Exams

In New York State the standardized tests for high school students are called ‘The Regents Exams.’  The first Regents exams were administered way back in 1866 and they have been one of the more successful examples of a standardized testing program in the country.

Like all standardized tests, the Regents exams serve many purposes.  One is to make sure that students in all schools are learning mostly the same things in their courses.  In more recent times the Regents have also served as a basis for ‘growth’ and ‘value-added’ scores on which to evaluate (and close) schools and to evaluate (and fire) teachers.

The Success Academy Charter Network is the education reformer poster child on the basis of their 3-8 Math and ELA test scores.  Though the vast majority of Success Academy students are in elementary school, there are a small number of students in their only high school.  Their oldest students are in eleventh grade and there are at most twenty students in that cohort.

In New York State students at nearly all the schools need to pass five Regents exams to receive what is known as a Regents diploma.  If they pass nine Regents exams, they get something called an Advanced Regents diploma.  There are 28 schools in New York, known as The Consortium Schools, that have gotten permission to have their students exempt from taking the Regents exams as a graduation requirement.  Those school have been permitted to use other assessments and things like portfolios and projects instead.  Success Academy, to my knowledge, is not a Consortium School.

Success Academy has gotten so much attention (and money) for their high 3-8 test scores that it is only natural to wonder how the few older students they have in their schools have fared after 8th grade.  One thing we know is that Success Academy eighth graders have not done well on the specialized high school entrance exam to gain admissions to one of the eight specialized high schools.  They have had three cohorts of students take the entrance exam and the first two cohorts had no students gain admission and the third cohort had six students out of two hundred eligible gain admission to one of the eight specialized high schools.

Last year I checked to see how their students had done on the Regents exams and was unable to find their scores on the public data site.  I made some calls to the state, but they said they did not have the scores or know how to get them.  This year I tried to find their 2016 Regents scores and also had no luck.  I speculated that either Success Academy is not reporting their Regents scores or that maybe their students are not taking the Regents.

After my last post about this, I have learned from two credible sources that Success Academy students do not take the Regents exams.  So one mystery is solved, but an even bigger one rises to take its place:  Why don’t Success Academy High School students take the Regents exams?

I have three theories:

Theory 1:  They think that the test prep they do for the 3-8 tests will not work for the Regents exams and that their students will bomb these tests so they got permission for their students to not have to take them so it doesn’t become public knowledge that their students peaked in 8th grade.

Theory 2:  Since ‘growth scores’ that evaluate schools and teachers are based on how high school students perform on the Regents relative to their scores on the 8th grade tests, Success Academy would risk getting low ‘growth scores’ since their students do so well on 8th grade tests so even average Regents scores could lead to low ‘growth scores’ which would be a blemish on their reputation.

Theory 3:  When Regents data from a school is reported and posted on the public data site, a lot of other information comes along with it, like the breakdown of how students in the different subgroups scored.  Since Success Academy is so secretive about their data, having all these numbers to analyze could reveal something they are trying to hide.

Whatever the actual reason is that Success Academy does not have their high school students take the Regents exams, it is certainly not for the benefit of the students.  Reformers are supposed to be all about ‘exposure to rigor’ and things like that.  In some states they even force students to take the AP exams and even when students do poorly, the districts brag about how the number of test takers has increased and they are doing students a service with their ‘exposure to rigor.’

For Success Academy, the champions of the standardized tests, to evade ‘accountability’ by not having their own students take the Regents exams is one of the more ironic things I have ever seen in my years following the modern education ‘reform’ movement.  Who would have ever guessed that the highest profile ed reformer of them all, Eva Moskowitz, would be such a fierce proponent of the opt-out movement?

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20 Responses to Success Academy High School Students Do Not Take Regents Exams

  1. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein Solves the Mystery of the Missing Regents’ Exam Scores for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Students | Diane Ravitch's blog

  2. ira shor says:

    Thank you, brilliant detective work! Lies, myths, under-the-table deals and outright propaganda drive Eva and her Success Schools as the poster child for how privatization can loot the public schools with make-believe results.

  3. Laura H. Chapman says:

    Thanks for your persistence in disclosing the frauds in the Moskowitz empire.

  4. Wangu says:

    Thank you for disclosing this. I was waiting nderimg about the data on SHSAT scores too.

  5. Tara says:

    That is fascinating. I have mixed feelings about the Regents in general, but for Success Academy in particular to opt out of them… raises a lot of questions. Thank you for your work on this!

  6. J. C. says:

    Figures do not lie; but liars can surely figure!

    Thank you.

  7. Jennifer Borgioli Binis says:

    A 4th option is that they haven’t had a cohort large enough to report publicly. If the cohort is too small, the data would be suppressed and not public. (Also if folks want more information on the history of the Regents exams, we featured it on an episode of Ed History 101.

    • Jennifer Borgioli Binis says:

      And to clarify – I saw that you have evidence they don’t take the tests. IMO, short a statement from the state or the school, the jury should still be out on that detail.

    • Rebecca deCoca says:

      Where is the information and explanation on the Regents’ data being “suppressed” if the cohort of a particular school is “too small”?

  8. kk says:

    There are actually now around 40 schools in the Consortium (not 28); a cohort of schools who had been waiting for inclusion were added in 2014. There is no way that Success could be a part of the Consortium as its pedagogy is markedly different; Consortium schools tend to be progressive, inquiry- and project-based and include the International Schools and the Expeditionary/Outward Bound schools. All Consortium staff have shared PD and participate in “moderation studies” that are meant to assure consistency across schools in the performance-based assessments.

    –Parent at Consortium school

  9. Pingback: Ed News, Friday, December 16, 2016 Edition | tigersteach

  10. what is going on? says:

    I’m curious about their data on credit accumulation in high school and the next level readiness data. The next level readiness data is supposed to show credit accumulation by former 8th graders . The number for this past year at Harlem 1 make it appear as if 0% of the former 8th graders accumulated enough credits in 9th grade to be on track for graduation and 21% did in 2014-2015. It appears as if none of the students in their own high school are accumulating at least 10 credits in 9th grade or 10th grade.

  11. Lexi Torres says:

    I am a student at Success Academy High School and I can surely tell you the truth behind the way our school functions in terms of testing.

    • garyrubinstein says:

      That would be great, I’d be happy to have you write a guest post if you’d like, or if you just want to leave a comment. Whatever your feelings about the testing culture at Success Academy, I’d be interested and the readers of this blog would be interested in learning more about this mysterious school.

  12. Success Academy HS Student says:

    To answer your questions, there is a long explanation behind why our school is the way it is. The vision that Eva Moskawitz had for this school aligns with the idea that minority children should have the opportunity to receive an outstanding education. I just want to say that if it were not for Success Academy, myself and my classmates would not have the opportunities that we have. As of right now, our rising senior class is composed of 18 students. The reason why many of the students left was because some of them moved out of New York City, some were expelled from Success Academy for not following our honor code and others, well I do not know about the others. About the regents exams, this past year, Junior year, myself, my classmates and the sophomores did in fact take regents. However, Success Academy does not normally administer the regents exams. When the high school was being developed, the plan was not to take the regents because it is believed that the SAT, SAT 2 Subject Tests and AP exams reflect more of our academic abilities than the regents. This year, the junior class took the SAT (we beat the national average and was honored by the College Board), SAT Subject Tests (Math Levels 1 and 2) and the AP exams for both English and World History. Our principal felt that our scores from these tests better reflect who we are as students. Our founder and principal believe that we would have outstanding applications for when we apply for college and quite frankly they are right. I tested this theory on my own. I attended College interviews and visits and they all said the same thing. With my test scores, I qualify admission to nearly every single SUNY and CUNY school as well as schools outside of New York City. As a stated earlier, if it weren’t for Success Academy, I would not be where I am right now. Yes, there are some flaws but not every school is perfect. However, if anyone would want to find the right education for their child, Success Academy would be a school for them.

    • Jack says:

      You have only 18 students in your senior class, with the other 80 or so having been kicked out or leaving for various reasons during the last four years. That must be nice … totally impossible to replicate in an actual public school system that is mandated to educate millions of students… but nice for you, I suppose.

      Also, you get to pick and choose which tests you will take: “YES” to the ones that you do well on: and “NO” to the ones that you don’t, as in the case of the latter, certain tests don’t “reflect who (you) are as students,” (to quote Eva.)

      Word to the wise: such a strategy might not actually be good preparation for real life after Success Academy. For example try telling the medical school admissions departments to which you apply that you’re not taking the MCAT’s for that same reason. It’s just a hunch on my part, but you might run into a problem.

      Ditto for law schools & the LSAT’s.

      Ditto for other graduate schools and and the GRE’s.

      Ditto for state & county civil service departments and the tests which they require.

      Also, I don’t think having Eva call those respective admissions departments and civil service agencies and them telling them that her former students should be permitted to opt out of such tests is going to work. Again, that’s just a hunch.

      Furthermore, you put a lot of stock in the SAT’s. However, you should know that increasingly universities have lost faith in the ability of those tests to predict a student’s future performance in college. Accordingly, over a thousand schools (and counging) have dropped SAT as an admissions requirement.

      Universities have discovered that far more accurate predictor of such success in the college classroom setting is the a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), which is determined, of course, by actual teachers — you know, those folks so often derided by the corporate ed. reformers — who are monitoring and grading students’ efforts and their innate abilities to write papers, perform well on teacher-created tests, and maintain disciplined study habits.

      I’m pointing this out because many of the high profile charter schools here in Los Angeles have been accused of grade inflation — i.e. a “C” in a traditional public school translates to an “A” in one of these charters, or an “C” in a traditional public school translates to an “A” in one of these charters, and on and on.

      Now, you take all of the following:

      —- an inaccurate and high GPA because chatter teachers are pressured to give higher grades;

      — a high SAT score brought about by massive test prep;

      — glowing letters of recommendation that charter school students garner from their teachers, as well as from prominent, pro-charter community members, letters written by folks who, though well-intentioned, have no actual familiarity with those students for whom they are writing such letters;


      — no real education in concepts such as independent critical thinking — something that public school students are not just receiving, but the ability to think critically is demanded of their students — as the authoritarian “no excuses” military model of instruction in charter schools often does not deliver such instruction.

      … and sadly, what results is an insanely high number of charter school graduates — (the small minority that survive to graduation, that is) — needing remediation and/or dropping out of college. In Los Angeles, the percentage of charter school graduates needing such remediation or just plain dropping out is sky high, much higher than their public school counterparts. (Robert Skeels is ferocious in his efforts to obtain, track, and record such data. Google his name and remediation for the hard data.)

      In my experience, the statistic of ANY school’s or a charter chain’s students’ college acceptances is the single most misleading statistic I’ve ever encountered in education. The true gold standard: college completion within 4-6 years after high school graduation, which even charter proponents concede is not happening to a large degree. In comparison to their public school counterparts, charters seem to be falling down on the job when it comes to delivering students who are truly prepared for college. That probably has to do the inexperienced and or low quality of their poorly-compensated charter school’s teaching staffs, the schools authoritarian structure, and the over-emphasis on test prep.

      A couple years ago, I read a statistic that over 70% of KIPP students who begin college drop out without finishing (that stat only includes those who survive to graduation, mind you, which is already 30-50% of the students who start at KIPP.) As you know, KIPP is touted as the cream of the crop in the charter school industry. (along with Success Academy, of course.)

      What’s up with that?

      • Zack says:

        A “word to the wise” – don’t pick on high school students who are proud of what they have accomplished with your pathetic attempts at “insights”. It makes you look petty and ignorant at best.

        By the way, it took about 12 seconds of Googling to find many schools that don’t require the MCAT. Ever hear of Brown? Or Dartmouth? Last I checked they were pretty decent higher centers of learning. I happened to go to a small school in Boston with the Latin motto VERITAS that doesn’t require the GMAT for business school as well, but I’m sure you missed that in your extensive research.

        As a parent deciding whether to send his children to the Success Academy they have been accepted to, one of the private schools they gained entry to, or the city’s G&T program, I have to say out of hundreds of hours of research on the topic, both pro- and con-charter, you win the prize for single most offensive post – congratulations! As a rational adult, I can make arguments on both sides for Success – one of the reasons I have spent so much time researching it. But your bias and complete illogic is just so baffling and wondrous that I couldn’t help but re-read it a few times to make sure it really was as nonsensical as I thought upon first examination. It “must be nice” to live in a world where you are clearly so right and everyone who disagrees with you is so wrong. Nice for you…I suppose.

        Just out of curiosity, what is it that you think gives you the right to belittle this young adult and their family’s choices and know what’s the best path forward for them? Are you their teacher or a guidance counselor at their school? Do you know what they got on the SAT, or Regents exam, or what their grade point average was? If not, maybe you should consider relegating your comments to adult bloggers and posters before you hurt someone who is going through an important phase of self-discovery.

        And to the Success Academy HS Student original poster – you have every right to celebrate your accomplishments and I offer you, your classmates, and any friends you have at the many fine non-charter schools in NYC my sincere congratulations. You sound as though you have exciting choices ahead; best of luck in doing whatever is right for you!

  13. Charles Fedrine says:

    Hello! My name is fedrine charles i research you guys the internet i see you school im enteresting to come on it but my problem is im 21years old i don’t know if u guys can take because i want to graduate i really want to get my diploma.

    Thank you so much
    Fedrine Charles

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