Success Academy is the most well known and controversial charter chain in the country. They are also the most secretive.

In New York state, high school students are required to pass end of the year finals, called The Regents, in order to graduate. In 2006 Success Academy started with their first two cohorts so two years ago I checked to see how their first 9th graders fared on The Regents. I found that they did not post any scores, which was pretty surprising since Success is so well known for their standardized test scores. I then learned that when that first cohort made it to 11th grade, they did have those students take some Regents exams after all. Those results are now on the New York State public data system.

I see various results from the English, Algebra II, Global History, and Chemistry. They did fine on English and Global History, but very poorly on Algebra II.

Unlike the state tests where students are graded on a scale of 1 to 4, the Regents are graded out of 100. Since the common core Regents have been made, the number from 0 to 100 is not a percentage, but a scaled score where a passing score of 65 can be achieved on Algebra II, at least, by getting about 30% of the possible points on the test.

On this public data site, though they have the scores broken down as level 1 to 5. According to New York State, level 4 qualifies as ‘meets standards’ while level 5 is ‘exceeds standards.’ On the June 2017 exam with the generous curve, students needed to get at least 52% of the possible points (45 out of 86 points which scaled, last year, to between a 78 and an 84 on the test) to meet the standards to qualify as a level 4.

Of the 16 students at Success Academy who took the Algebra II Regents, none of them were able to achieve the level 5 which though it was called an 85 it is actually just 72% of the possible points (62 out of 86). Only two students scored a level 4 (which you get by getting 52% of the points for scaled score of at least a 78), officially meeting the standards. Eleven partially met the standards with a level 3. The other three of the 16 students (about 20% of them) failed outright. This is a pretty poor showing for a school that prides themselves on their math standardized test scores for the state 3-8 tests. As a math teacher who has spent a lot of time examining the different math Regents over the years, believe me on this.

As I wrote about in a post called ‘Who Survives Success’ the original two cohorts of Success Academy when they were Kindergarteners and 1st graders were 72% free lunch. These 16 students who took the Algebra II Regents, I think it is a fair assumption that these are from the 17 students who are about to become the first graduating seniors. 7 out of 16 qualify as economically disadvantaged, which is just 44%.

Also notice that the two students who got the level 4s were from the 9 students who did not qualify as economically disadvantaged. Back in 2006 this was a group of 72 first graders of which around 56 were economically disadvantaged. After 11 years, Success Academy was down to just 7 out of those 56 students and of those 7, they were not not able to claim any economically disadvantaged students to meet the standards (which were already pretty low, just needing 52%) on the Algebra II Regents.

“They did fine on English”. You have a gift for understatement.

Relatedly, nice piece by Ms. Moskowitz earlier this month: https://edexcellence.net/articles/the-secret-ingredient-to-growing-great-readers

“You have a gift for understatement”.

I looked at the English Regents Exam results. In a city where 71% of the students are economically disadvantaged, less than 44% of the students taking the English Regents at Success Academy were economically disadvantaged.

In a city where only 29% of the students are NOT economically disadvantaged, at Success Academy, over 56% of the students were NOT economically disadvantaged.

Something smells very fishy, don’t you agree Stephen Ronan? And you have to lack basic mathematical reasoning skills not to understand that if you let a charter network end up with a fraction of the at-risk kids they are supposed to be teaching, that simply leaves a much larger % of those at-risk kids in the public schools which have less money to teach them.

Is that what happened in Massachusetts, too? No wonder the well-educated citizens of Massachusetts rejected more charters like the one you keep praising. Obviously, you don’t see anything odd about a charter ending up with 43% at-risk kids in a city with 71% at-risk kids. So is that what happens in Massachusetts, too?

Ah, mystery solved! The demographics did it!

Success Academy ELA:

Level 5: 86%

Level 4: 8%

Level 3: 6%

Level 2: 0%

Level 1: 0%

Let’s put together a quick list of lots of other schools with similar demographics who did just as well…

Ah, the closest results I find so far: Rye High School out in Westchester County.

Level 5: 86%

Level 4: 7%

Level 3: 6%

Level 2: 0%

Level 1: 1%

Dang, can’t get much closer that that.

But oops. Only 3% economically disadvantaged among the Rye test-takers. I give up. Your turn.

As for Boston… As is no doubt already engraved in your memory according to CREDO, the results for the typical student in a Boston charter equated “to more than twelve months of additional learning per year in reading and thirteen months greater progress in math. At the school level, 83 percent of Boston charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains than their district school peers in reading and math, and no Boston charter schools were found to have significantly lower learning gains.”

Such results were not relative to the broad population of Boston district school students but instead relative to those matched in respect to English proficiency, special ed status, starting test scores, gender, and ethnicity, as well free/reduced price lunch status.

Thank you for that interesting analysis. What happened to all the rest of their students? Why did they all leave? There’s a story there too.

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What curriculum and textbooks do they use for math in Success Academy?

Ths is a secondary school of about 200 students, with approximately 50 eleventh graders. They’re simply not relevant…they haven’t any real impact on anything other than the few kids that have run through their halls. If they were accomplishing anything real the model would have been replicated years ago.

Two thirds of the school’s 11th graders are female, while one third are male. That tells me their institution is an artificial, fabricated situation and reinforces the impression that they are irrelevant to the big picture.

Their students perform extremely well in English Language Arts, but they’ve been in a hermetically sealed environment for years and none of them are English Language Learners. This makes them neither interesting, nor relevant to what is going on in cities across the country.

Their social studies scores are somewhat better than mediocre.

Their math scores on a respected exam are fairly lousy, and seem typical of innner city youth.

Few of their students take chemistry, and those that do post scores similar to their Algebra 2 achievement levels. Not surprising, as I’ve seen that correlation time and again.

So, their only claim could possibly be that they’ve learned how to teach ELA to small groups of hermetically sealed female students.

With their rate of student attrition, it’s more like small groups of cherry-picked, compliant, hermetically sealed female students.

Here’s some SA math: 73 – 16 = 57

Gary, any idea how the other 57 students from that original 2006, SA cohort are doing?

And how about a little cost per pupil math?

Pingback: Success Academy (Again) Takes — And Bombs — The Algebra II Regents | Gary Rubinstein's Blog

Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: Success Academy’s Curious Test Scores | Diane Ravitch's blog

The English Regents is a test that you can easily prep for. Success can use its 3-8 formula. And Success teachers grade the test. Algebra II and Physics and Chemistry are far more important indicators at the high school level.