Extra study, higher scores

Eve Moskowitz — “Evil” Moskowitz to her many enemies —  is profiled in New York magazine. A former New York City councilwoman, she founded a high-scoring, all-minority charter school, Harlem Success Academy, which is expanding rapidly.

Harlem Success Academy’s first class of third-graders outperformed “all but seven of the city’s 788 elementary schools, including perennial high fliers like P.S. 6 and P.S. 321” and “trounced every third grade in Mamaroneck, Chappaqua, and Rye.”

. . . in contrast to their drill-and-kill competition, Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. . . . After some red-flag internal assessments, Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal — four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on.

The schools also provide enrichment, including “classes in chess and dancing, Greenmarket field trips, 150 science experiments per year. Their art is shown off at Sotheby’s, their essays at Barnes & Noble. It’s a college-bound culture, stem to stern.”

Moskowitz wanted to create schools “where I’d want to send my own children,” and now she has, the magazine notes. “Harlem Success Academy 3 enrolls Dillon, 7, and Hannah, 5, the lone white students there.”

P.S. 172 in Brooklyn, also known as Beacon School of Excellence, also posts very high test scores despite serving many low-income Hispanic students, reports the New York Times.  Like the Success Academies, the school schedules extra learning time for students who need it.

P.S. 172’s principal “finds money for coaches in writing, reading and math. Teachers keep detailed notes on each child, writing down weaknesses and encouraging them to repeat tasks. There is after-school help and Saturday school.” The school hired a speech therapist to figure out why seven or eight students were having language problems; a psychologist recommended how to help. There’s even a dental clinic on campus.

Students at P.S. 172 who need more help stay in their classrooms until 4:45 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, after a short snack break at the regular 3:05 quitting time.

The school benefits from consistent leadership: Jack Spatola has been the principal since 1984, the Times reports. He has a simple formula: “Teach, assess, teach, assess.”

Mr. Spatola attributed the coaches and other extra help to careful budgeting and fighting for every dollar from the Department of Education; the school’s cost per pupil, in fact, is lower than the city’s average.

Years ago, parents asked for their children to be “placed directly in English-only classes, with extra help from teachers of English as a Second Language.” The school dropped bilingual classes.

Anna Phillips of Gotham Schools visited a B-rated school where bored students filled out test-prep workbooks — or played computer games or slept or stared into space. She saw no teaching by teachers, who were “were barely present.”

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  1. Thank God and goodness for people like Eve Moskowitz and Jack Spatola. They’ll be a special place in heaven for them.

    More, faster please.

  2. Did you read the article? The school actually ends up looking pretty bad.

    The article documents a school whose “success” seems to come mostly from getting rid of difficult students. Only 2% of their students are English language learners compared to 15% in the surrounding schools. This doesn’t appear to be an accident. The school refuses to provide any services for English language learners.

    As for struggling students that are not English language learners,”When remediation falls short…families are counseled out.” It’s pretty easy to have high scores when low scoring students are asked to leave.


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