Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inspecting Eva Moskowitz

With admirable restraint, the head of the New York City Charter Center, James Merriman, pronounced the results “remarkable” and attributed the results to Success’ intensive instruction....A lot of schools, including many charter high-fliers, offer high-octane teaching. None come close to matching Success Academy’s results the last two years....
Robert Pondisio
Poor James Merriman, I almost feel sorry for him having to defend Eva. In a Daily News piece, Pondisio asks the $485,000 question:

How does she do it?

Boosters and critics, put down your talking points. Success Academies' stunning test results demand a deep, independent look.

Poor Robert too, who is a senior adviser at Democracy Prep, which is left looking like belly lint by Eva, has his tongue so deeply in his cheek it is coming out the other side. A "deep, independent look" my ass. He is calling for an investigation - boy Democracy Prep parents must be hammering them.
What is imperative now is for serious, unbiased experts and observers to descend on Harlem and figure out how these extraordinary results are being achieved and, if all that glitters is gold, how to replicate them. Is Eva Moskowitz the Michael Jordan of education reform, or is she Mark McGwire? I have no idea, and you don’t either. But something extraordinary is happening in Harlem. And it’s time to sit up, take notice, and figure out exactly what the hell it is and how it’s being done.
Wait. It gets better. One in three New York City students scored proficient in math, but at Success it was better than nine out of ten. Remarkable? No, these are results that make your jaw hit the floor hard enough to loosen your fillings. Success Academy kids didn’t merely pass the state math test, they destroyed it. For example, 680 fourth graders sat for the state test at seven of Moskowitz’s schools. Care to guess how many earned a “4,” the highest level? Nearly five freakin’ hundred of them! This is Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths. It’s Michael Jordan dropping 63 points on the Celtics in the playoffs. It’s Tiger Woods demolishing the field and winning the Masters by 18 strokes.
Here comes the kicker.
Everything I know about the slow-growing, cumulative nature of language proficiency suggests it is all but impossible to test prep your way to a high score on a third to eighth grade reading test, especially the more challenging Common Core tests. Yet two out of three Success Academy scholars hit proficiency benchmarks anyway. By contrast, results for charter schools as a whole in New York City were unremarkable. ELA numbers edged up by 1.7 points. Math scores were up smartly, a rise of 8.3 points over 2013 results. But compared to Success Academy, the results are downright pedestrian.
What — what exactly — is going on at Success Academy?
Cheerleaders and skeptics will trumpet or attack the scores. Expect to hear that Moskowitz has solved the achievement gap and that the humiliation of Mayor de Blasio, who targeted Moskowitz during his campaign and tried unsuccessfully to squeeze three of her schools out of Education Department space, is now complete.
From the other side of the room, we will hear charges that Success creams top students, gets rid of low-achievers through attrition and test preps kids within an inch of their lives, or even cheats.
Pay no mind to either Moskowitz’s fans or foes.
 Oh yes, I guess it is just speculation that Eva gets rid of low-achievers.

Diane Ravitch, in citing the Pondisco piece, Is Eva Moskowitz the Lance Armstrong of Education?,  puts forth some facts:
OK, so Success Academy may not be doing quite as well as they claim, but there is no doubt that their results are pretty good. To return to the question asked by the Daily News and echoed by many others, “how does Success Academy get their results?”
Well, the same data set that provided the test results suggests an answer. The only Success Academy school that has fully grown to grades 3-8 tested 116 3rd graders and only 32 8th graders. Three other Success Academy schools have grown to 6th grade. One tested 121 3rd graders and only 55 6th graders, another 106 3rd graders and only 68 6th graders, and the last 83 3rd graders and only 54 6th graders. Of course, this data set represents a snapshot from a single year.
Longitudinal analyses have found extremely high rates of attrition within student cohorts and students with disabilities and English Language Learners are over-represented among the students who disappear from Success Academy rosters.
Eva is no Michael Jordan. Her numbers are gimmicks, obtained by removing low scoring students from her schools. The high-scoring students remain and the low-scoring students are gone, along with their potentially disruptive effects on classrooms and the school as a whole. Eva is more like Lance Armstrong. They both win through artificial means. Lance through blood transfusions and EPO. Eva through attrition of students and obsessive test prep. According to the Daily News, while “suppressing the truth” Lance engaged in “an endless behind-the-scenes campaign to bully and intimidate people into silence. Some of it bordered on gangsterism.” Eva employs similar tactics to bully employees at the New York City Department of Education and to take space from special needs students to expand her schools.

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