The Case of the Missing Scholar

Success Academy began 11 years ago with a group of 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders.

This past December, Success Academy published a blog post about their first graduating seniors in this post, principal Andrew Malone wrote “I’m proud to report that 14 of the 17 seniors have already earned an admissions offer, with 23 acceptances overall! ”

I had been following the attrition of the 73 first grades as they had shrunk to 59 fourth graders then, a few years later, 26 9th graders.  By December they were down to 17 12th graders — a 77% attrition rate.

Just 10 weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal did a piece called “How Success Academy Got Its First Seniors to College” with the subtitle: All 17 seniors at the New York City network’s first charter school have been accepted to four-year colleges.

Well, the graduation ceremony happened today and I noticed something unusual:

16, not 17.  Somehow in the past 10 weeks, Success Academy lost another student.

I know that this is just one student, but I find it pretty strange that a student should go through 11 3/4 years of the pressures of Success Academy and not get to the opportunity to graduate.  There must be an interesting story behind this missing scholar.

Either way, with one fewer, the official tally is 16 which is 22% of the original 73.


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16 Responses to The Case of the Missing Scholar

  1. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: The Case of the Missing Scholar | Diane Ravitch's blog

  2. zamanskym says:

    I posted a comment about this on Diane Ravitch’s blog when she posted about this a few weeks ago. Here was my comment noting that the test results would mean fewer graduates:

    This also means that only 15 out of the 16 survivors are actually graduating and only 13 out of the 16 with a NY State Regents Diploma which could call in to question some of the college acceptances.

  3. A few cents:

    1) To be fair any analysis or judgement of attrition rates at SA should state attrition rates for other schools with similar demographics. Year to year attrition starting in K through 12, doesn’t necessarily mean much – there is a lot of moving around in schools in NYC and also a lot of migration out of Manhattan unrelated to SA (or any schools) policies and decisions. I think publishing that alongside would give SA numbers some perspective. The three elementary only attrition rates (for various 3-5 year k-6th grade window) I’ve seen have attrition rates of 40-45% for regular public schools and lower numbers for charter schools (35-40%). Projected out into high school this is not outside the “normal”..

    2) let’s suppose SA is indeed such a challenging place that they do have higher attrition rates that comparative other public schools, but very very high success with those that “survive”. I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Black and Hispanic minority parents don’t have the elite private school option and can’t seem to crack the highly selective public schools option,, that say Asian minority parents have. Eva seems to be building schools for highly committed, high performing, high conforming families. This is probably needed in NYCDOE where mediocrity, in the box thinking, reigns (my own kids in a relatively elite West side Elementary school don’t even have a second language, science is weak, sports program virtually nonexistent, academic level even in the GT totally unimpressive, teacher quality highly uneven, – I mean I’ve gone into one of Eva’s schools in Harlem and compared to our kids school it’s shocking the difference.

    • parent010203 says:


      1. That class of 16 graduating seniors at Success Academy began as 26 ninth graders, and 19 of those 9th graders were economically disadvantaged. This year, only 16 seniors are graduating and the number of economically disadvantaged students is at most 9, and very possibly as low as 7. (Only 7 of 16 students who took the Algebra 2 Regents were economically disadvantaged).

      So it is very possible that only 7 of the original 19 economically disadvantaged students who began 9th grade at Success Academy are graduating with their cohort. And that is despite all of those students coming in with state test scores that were significantly higher than the state test score of the average economically disadvantaged students in NYC public high schools.

      In what world is that “normal”? And why would anyone be as overly impressed as you are at the education of 9 or more likely 7 economically disadvantaged students in a high school that guaranteed them small class sizes and subsidized their education with millions in donations from private donors? Are you willing to establish more public schools like that?

      Maybe you can find a NYC public high school that teaches only low-income students who achieve a 3 on their state exams that can’t manage to graduate even half (or possibly even 1/3) of those low-income students who come in for 9th grade. I can’t imagine you’d be impressed by them.

      So why do you hold charters to a lower standard? If a high school can’t graduate even half of its at-risk students despite limiting themselves to at-risk student who have scored proficient on their state Math and ELA exams, is it a sign of excellence in a charter and a sign of “mediocrity” in a public school?

      By the way, it’s interesting that it isn’t only this graduating class where economically disadvantaged students go missing at Success Academy.

      The following two grades — students in 9th and 10th grade in 2016-17 — had 227 students and only 106 of them were economically disadvantaged that year. Less than half of the students in 9th and 10th grade are economically disadvantaged and at the attrition rate that you are claiming is perfectly acceptable, one wonders how many of those 106 will actually graduate with their cohort.

      It mystifies me why you would be so impressed by a school subsidized with millions of dollars with guaranteed small class sizes that seems to fail with more than half their entering 9th graders. Especially when all those entering 9th graders come in with a level of academic achievement that is much higher than those at public schools.


      If a public school was subsidized with millions in additional federal funding and private donations and got those kind of results, they’d be accused of wasting money and there would be calls for investigations as to how much the administrators were paid at those schools.

    • Steve M says:

      Zamanskym, below, has it right, and I agree with his assessment that, rather than being a devil’s advocate, you are likely being disingenuous.

      All inner-city, public elementary schools have very high transiency rates but, other than kids moving out of a region or dropping out, they generally enroll in other public schools with similar demographics and issues. Those students also tend to be lower performing than their peers. But this is not the case with Success Academy, which limits the number of replacement students…it’s a weeding process. Inner-city secondary schools have, historically, had approximate 9th to 12th grade dropout rates that hover around 50% (which have been improving somewhat around the country, by the way), but that is not really the dynamic that is taking place with Success Academy. Don’t pretend like it is.

      What you observed in Eva’s school is the concerted effort of parents and staff to separate problematic students from their children; to limit the negative influences that would interfere with their children’s development. That, in a nutshell, is what charters are all about, and you, Gabriel, need to be honest about that. Is that a bad thing? Perhaps, but it’s debateable and could/should probably be handled in an entirely different fashion (such as society, as a whole, making an effort to solve the myriad social issues that plague our nation.) Here in Los Angeles that parent/charter effort has taken a sick, twisted turn, and is often infused with racism, elitism, ethnocentrism, nationalism and religious bigotry. I would be more than surprised if those elements were not also present in New York’s charter schools.

      Eva Moskowitz’s schools are shams. She portays them as accomplishing more than they do, drains resources from those schools, programs and institutions that need resources the most, enriches herself and villifies those who are actually do care. She and her ilk are disingenuous scum; you are free to go that route if you so wish.

      • Windbag says:

        Your last para nails it. Why oh why are we spending so much ink on such a tiny, unscalable program?? What alarms me more than the 16 vs 17 vs 20-whatever is the untested, ridiculous idea that this is the start of an exponential function reaching to 1600 or 7000 or whatever. By then EM will be long gone from the radar and laughing while she’s got a gig that pays even more.

  4. Informed parent says:

    16 students? That’s not even a full classroom of students in a typical public school classroom!

    The high attrition is alarming. But what’s even scarier is that politicians and philanthropists totally fall for this this faux miracle. This just goes to show that people will believe what they want to believe. Eva Moskowitz’s spell combined with the smell of money must be awfully powerful!

    • zamanskym says:

      Gabriel – you’re points aren’t accurate of fair.

      1. When a kid leaves a public school they usually end up in a public school so the overall stats are a wash. Also, since they take in students when they lose them they graduate full(ish) classes. When SA gets rid of a kid they don’t replace them. With many (most?) charters following this model of getting rid of hard to teach kids and dumping them to the public schools without taking similar replacements you get skewed stats and tiny graduating classes.

      2a. Screened and test schools are open about taking academic high achievers. SA portrays itself as taking everyone fairly which just isn’t true. They compare themselves to the schools they dump the kids on which creates the illusion of a good school. If they compared themselves to the screened / test schools they wouldn’t look good but that’s a fairer comparison.

      2b. It would be interesting to see how many high performing black kids have been taken in on scholarship to pad private school diversity stats and see the affect that’s had on NYC specialized school stats but that’s just a side note

      2c. There’s no indication that SA has better teachers or better methods. In fact, when they published videos on their masterful techniques they were promptly taken down when real educators exposed them as poor practices. Likewise for leaked video.

      • Dear Parent,

        I’ll avoid reiterating too much since your response seems to miss most of my points entirely: a) without normative Data on cohort attrition rate Eva’s school attrition rate means nothing. It could be high, low or average. The cohort attrition data I have seen, doesn’t suggest Eva’s class attrition is particularly high. Attrition is very high in most schools in NYC (most of which is moving, not dropping out of schools). SA attrition may standout naked because she decides not to replace them, unlike most other schools. A fair critique of SA attrition should show the comparative Data, which Gary’s note does not.

        b) I’m not sure what your characterization of disadvantaged has to do with anything. Even after accounting for an academically stronger entry student population, SA results in standardized tests, are so high and so extraordinarily different from virtually any other school regardless of sociodemographic school, that they are difficult to explain. Remove all sped, esl etc kids from any other school and they are nowhere close to SA results. You might argue (as I have), that these tests are nonsense and that we need other measures of school quality, but this doesn’t mean SA hasn’t cracked the code for these tests (and there may be important lessons in this).
        C) getting millions of extra funds for her students is a remarkable achievement. While I’d probably be doing lots of other things with those millions (and work for a much lower salary!) than Eva is, I can’t fault her for using her connections, marketing and forcefulness to benefit her organization and the children they serve.

      • Dear Z,

        I agree with pts 2a. On 1 – attrition rates in public schools are very high (not to be confused with high school completion rates which are low and a national disaster, even with grade inflation, low standard diploma mill mentality.)

        I’m not sure why SA has cracked the testing code. But the results speak for themselves and no amount of removing challenged kids will bring up average school scores to the SA level.

        Let me add I’m not an Eva junkie but actually an observer and critic. She’s gotten some things incredibly right, and some disastrously wrong. Those of us actually running schools (I’ve founded 4 schools in 4 countries) have some things to learn from Eva – the good, the bad and the ugly.

      • parent010203 says:


        Actually, you were the one who ignored the data of the graduating class at Success Academy and grasped at generic numbers.

        This graduating class went from 26 ninth graders — including 19 who were economically disadvantaged — to a graduating class of 16, with no more than 9 economically disadvantaged students (and likely only 7).

        Since those facts are absolutely not in dispute — the data is at the NY State data website — what is your point? Your only point seems to be that charter advocates like yourself are perfectly satisfied with charters graduating only 62% of their 9th graders and less than half of their economically disadvantaged 9th graders.

        And since that is what all your posts come down to — that you are impressed and satisfied with less than half the at-risk 9th graders graduating if it is a charter school — then I’m glad you charter advocates are finally willing to speak the truth about how low your standards really are.

        Your racist claim — with absolutely no data to support it — that less than half of the low-income African-American and Latino 9th graders who come in with 3s (or higher) on state tests do not graduate from NYC public high schools is shocking. I suppose you are willing to say anything to avoid criticizing what is obvious to non-racists.

        Graduating 47% or more likely only 37% of the economically disadvantaged 9th graders who began in your charter is terrible. Why do you keep insisting that it is acceptable and good?

      • parent010203 says:

        Gabriel Maldonado says:

        “no amount of removing challenged kids will bring up average school scores to the SA level.”

        A great example of the racism of people who ignore that in a city of 1.1 million students, there were 60,000 African-American and Latino public school students who scored a 3 or higher on their state Math exam and over 74,000 who scored a 3 or higher on the state ELA exam.

        No amount of education will convince a racist lacking basic math skills that if 25% of the African-American and Latino students in a city of over one million students are scoring proficient or higher on state tests, a charter school that teaches less 1% of that number and uses ruthless methods to eliminate low scorers can very easily bring up average school scores.

        As you well know, because if you didn’t you would be criticizing Democracy Prep Harlem and KIPP and almost every other charter school in NYC for their failures with so many students when Eva Moskowitz has shown them the way.

        It always shocks me to view the hypocrisy of charter advocates like yourself who insist that Moskowitz could not be shedding enough students to explain her scores (since the African-American and Latino students in public schools who do well are invisible to you). It always shocks me to view the hypocrisy of charter advocates like yourself who insist that Moskowitz results are not due to shedding students but pure excellence who then turn around and excuse the mediocre to failing results of other charter schools who have nothing stopping them from doing exactly what Moskowitz is doing (no unions and bureaucracy) but who refuse — according to your theory — because of the greed of their CEOs who accept high failure rates instead of turning their schools over to Success Academy. You keep insisting that no amount of removing challenging kids can ever explain why the other charters in NYC are so terrible compared to SA. According to your theory, the only reason other charters can’t match that result is just their lousy management and teaching. Is that the case with your own charters, too?

  5. Jack says:

    The following might be worthy of an article all its own:

    NTCQ has links to both Success Academy and TNTP.

    With that in mind, check this out.

    Thanks to that notorious legislation, BELOW is Success Academy’s new, revised job offering — in cooperation with TNTP — that’s now on-line (as of June 12th, when it was posted).

    Success Academy teachers now have to meet *a mere 4 requirements* prior to hiring:

    ” – *Bachelor’s degree, with an outstanding record of academic achievement and leadership;*
    ” – *Flexibility and openness to feedback;*
    ” – *Grit and perseverance;*
    ” – *Interest in working in a collaborative environment.”*

    As Porky Pig used to say …

    *”Thuh- thuh- thuh-* *THAT’S all folks!”*

    No certification or credential of any kind required, nor even one hour of college credit in education, nor any credits in *”Science”* or *”Math”* (the postings are for new middle school “Science” and “Math” teachers) any training in education, nor one day working in education, or prior experience working with children in *any* capacity.

    Apart from the Bachelor’s Degree, Eva’s new *teacher-disruptor* Math and Science teachers may as well be applying to work at McDonald’s.

    Thank you, Joe Belluck & the rest of the charter-authorizing folks folks at SUNY!!!

    (NOTE the posting’s cliches about how these new, untrained teachers whom Eva hires will be *”disrupting the status quo”* as part of *”a revolutionary K-12 school model that is nationally recognized for achieving outstanding academic results for students,”*

    You mean that *”Got-to-go List”* model where 80% of S.A. students get kicked out or get (COUGH! COUGH!) *”counseled out”* prior to graduation? )

    Here’s Eva’s job posting:

    • Jack says:

      One thing that someone mentioned to me off-line is something that’s missing from the job posting:


      *How much money* is the $600,000-year-salaried Eva paying the untrained folks she will hire for the respective positions:

      *Associate Teacher*

      *Lead Teachers*


      Unlike the vast majority of teacher job postings, the salary that Eva will pay is conspicuously absent.

      If Eva’s not including this in the job posting, it can’t be all that great, and thus what caliber of folks will she be able to hire at these presumably miserable salaries?

      Now combine that with the dreadful reputation of the working conditions at Eva’s schools. Read here for some details on that:

  6. Pingback: Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy High School Faculty: 70% Gone in a Single Year | deutsch29

  7. Pingback: Success Academy Extends Its 75% Attrition Streak | Gary Rubinstein's Blog

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