Lies, the Denominator, and Charter Schools

Eva Moskowitz, head of the Success Academy charter schools in New York City, is quite the reformist darling these days (even if she turns her kids into traumatized “test-taking machines”). However, a mole in the NYC Department of Education explains why such a high percentage of Success Academy’s students are deemed proficient–regular readers might see this one coming (boldface mine):

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.

As I’ve noted many, many, many times before, charter schools do well because they fail out their poorly performing students (and, oddly enough, there’s never any follow up done on these students by charter-friendly education departments. Go figure). The mole ends on another point I’ve made before–the people running your education system shouldn’t be dishonest:

No sport can be built on a foundation of rampant cheating. No education system can be built on school models that are based on number games.

It can, however, be quite profitable.

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