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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

They call her ‘Evil,’ but the kids are learning

When Eva Moskowitz left the New York City Council to found a Harlem charter school, public-school teachers called her “Evil Moskowitz,” writes Alia Wong in an Atlantic interview.

Her Success Academy charter network is “closing race- and income-based achievement gaps at its 45-plus schools,” writes Wong.

Eva Moskowitz visits a Success Academy charter in Harlem. Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

Success students — predominantly from low-income black and Hispanic families — outperformed every district in New York state on statewide exams for grades 3-8, notes The 74.

“Success schools are widely perceived to be harsh, ‘no-excuses’ places where students are incessantly disciplined,” says Wong.

Success doesn’t follow the no-excuses philosophy, Moskowitz replies. “I send my own children to Success, and I certainly didn’t want to send my own children to a place that was harsh,” she responds.

She’s also pro-teacher, she says.

After I graduated from college, I worked for Prep for Prep [a nonprofit program that works with gifted children of color] as a teacher. I taught fourth grade. And the reason I got into academia was to be a teacher at the college level—at UVA [the University of Virginia] and Vanderbilt. I took my teaching responsibilities very seriously. … I taught some great courses: Legal history to feminist theory, courses in American mass culture … I love teaching—I mean really love it.

Moskowitz doesn’t see herself as “combative.”

Even though we’re the highest-performing elementary schools in the state of New York, I can’t get the mayor of the city of New York to give us space for our middle schools. So I have to hold press conferences and protests and write op-eds and, I don’t know, jump up and down. I get accused of being aggressive and combative, but my schools got [evicted by de Blasio], so why am I “combative”? Why isn’t the mayor of the city of New York “combative”? I’m trying to get along with as many people as possible so I can get kids what they need and deserve.

In her book, The Education of Eva Moskowitz, the charter founder explains how to create a culture that supports learning, writes Rick Hess.

Moskowitz writes, “My highest priority was creating a school culture that had a low tolerance for laziness and dysfunction and high expectations for student achievement and teacher performance.”

She had high expectations for parents too. “When one of our parents simply wouldn’t read to her son even after she’d promised me she would, I invited her to a meeting at which there was a surprise guest: her mother.”

Charles Sahm wrote about What Explains Success at Success Academy in Education Next.

Maureen Kelleher appreciates how Success Academy works with principals and teachers.

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