Saturday, December 16, 2017

School Scope: How Do You Spell “Success”? – Part 2

Continuing my series in The WAVE. Part 1 from last week is here.

School Scope:  How Do You Spell “Success”? – Part 2
By Norm Scott

Last week I began a series on the 46 NYC Success Academy schools run by Eva Moskowitz and focused on a New Yorker article written by Rebecca Meade ( which tried to reconcile the harsh discipline at Success with its aim to have a progressive curriculum. Many maintain that the very idea of a child- centered, nurturing progressive curriculum and harsh discipline in schools with very high suspension rates is contradictory. I agree.

In Part 2, I want to draw attention to the Dec. 11 NY Times Sunday book review of the memoir recently written by Eva Moskowitz (The Education of Eva Moskowitz).  Reviewer Lisa Miller opens by asking a question:

“How would Eva Moskowitz have fared as an impudent young girl in one of her own charter schools? This is just one of the many unplumbed questions prompted by her new memoir. Founder of the extensive Success Academy charter-school chain, former New York City councilwoman, mother of three, Moskowitz has famously made a virtue — one might even say a brand — of her defiance. New York City’s public-school system has been her proving ground, and she has devoted herself to reforming what she sees as its bureaucratic idiocies and its codified inefficiencies, refusing to submit to any authority that she deems insufficiently worthy (except in those instances it serves her to do so).”

Now I and many others have been frustrated by DOE idiocies. But every bureaucracy has them and the battle should be a public one with allies, and for all students, not just a little niche.

Miller goes on to list the defiance Moskowitz writes about, some pretty outrageous. Like the fact that every pre-k being run under the de Blasio initiative and using tax payer money, public and charters, come under some rules of behavior. Eva refused to accept any rules and went to court and actually won the right to set up her pre-k without any oversight. There are a lot more – and I know a lot more from people who work in the same buildings.

Miller points to the essential contradiction between Eva’s moxie and her schools damping down the moxie of the students: Her “impulsive display of hostility would not, presumably, be tolerated at any of her Success Academy schools, where discipline and conformity are values of the highest order.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t have taught and survived in some very tough elementary schools without having discipline. But in all that time I never had a student suspended, something that happens so often at Success Academy for even minor infractions, even down to kindergarten kids. I actually heard Eva defend this policy because “kids can kill each other” – not an exact quote. The purpose of the suspension is to pressure some parents to pull their kids from the school so as to wean out poor test takers. As I reported last week, of a 73 member cohort (I erred in reporting 72) that began kindergarten only 17 were left to graduate high school.

From the earliest days of Success a decade ago, I was one of the fiercest opponents, especially after seeing how Eva operated. She was out to use our money to build her own political empire, with the intention of using her schools as a political base to run for mayor. I may not be Nostradamus but I was right on that one.

Eva wants to run a 100 schools in NYC  using our tax money to do whatever she wants. And she has an even bigger aim. Miller says, “What, then, is the true aim of this book? A clue is buried in its final chapters. “Part of me would love to be mayor for the simple reason that I love my city.”

Oy Vey! Eva doesn’t get just how much of the city doesn’t love her.

Norm  loves everyone except Eva Moskowitz at

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