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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Educating Eva

The Education of Eva Moskowitz, a memoir by Success Academy founder, describes her evolution from charter skeptic to crusader.

Moskowitz is always described as “controversial.” She plays New York City politics fiercely to get space for her growing network of schools, which boast very high test scores for low-income, black and Hispanic students.

After teaching at Vanderbilt, Moskowitz and her husband moved back to New York City. In 1999, she won a City Council seat and joined the Education Committe, where she probed for the sources of the dysfunction and mismanagement rife in the city’s schools,” writes Seth Mandel in the New York Post.

Moskowitz writes:

 Teachers felt they’ve been dealt an impossible hand: their principal was incompetent or their students were already woefully behind or their textbooks hadn’t arrived or all of the above. They didn’t feel they should be held accountable for failing to do the impossible so they understandably wanted job protections. However, since these job protections made success even harder for principals who were already struggling with other aspects of the system’s dysfunctionality to achieve, they too wanted job protections. Nobody wanted to be held accountable in a dysfunctional system, but the system couldn’t be cured of its dysfunction until everyone was held accountable.

She left the council in 2005. The next year, she founded Harlem Success Academy. The 46-school network “outperformed every other school district in the state in the 2017 exams,” writes Mandel.

Writing about dealing with disruptive students in 2006-07, Success Academy’s first year, Moskowitz notes that when teachers are unable to stop even one student’s incessant misbehavior, it “can have a domino effect . . . and soon the teacher is playing whack-a-mole rather than teaching.” That meant imposing “cultural expectations” on the classroom, which soon developed into a barometer Moskowitz calls “culture data.” Standardized test scores can only tell you so much so quickly. But monitoring “latenesses, absences, uniform infractions, missing homework, incomplete reading logs, and whether our teachers were calling parents about these problems” can serve as a “canary in a coal mine.”

A successful charter school leader can’t just focus on education, writes Ed Post’s Peter Cunningham in New York School Talk. “The required skill set” includes media, marketing, fundraising, community engagement, politics and bureaucracy-busting,

If the bureaucracy can’t stop you, the unions will by buying the state legislature or ginning up community opposition, and the media is often complicit, amplifying shortcomings and downplaying success.

Also in New York School Talk: Of top 10 public elementary schools in New York City, most accept only “gifted” students who score very high on an exam; very few students come from low-income families. But four open-to-all, mostly minority schools make the top 10 list: three Success charters and one district school.

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