Success Academy convenes 1,500 students to "slam the exam"

Success Academy students aren’t scared of higher standards, they proclaimed in step routines, songs, and call-and-response routines during a pep rally held at the Washington Heights Armory on Friday.

The charter school network held the rally, called “SLAM the EXAM,” to get its 1,500 test-taking students in seven schools ready for this week’s state exams, the first to be tied to the Common Core standards. (A highlights reel that the network released is above.)

The rally came a day after Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent a letter to principals in Department of Education schools, asking them to “turn the pressure down” around testing. Teachers, parents, and students are especially nervous this year because because state and city officials have predicted that scores are likely to drop significantly as the tests offer a more realistic assessment of students’ skills.

In a press release, Success Academy’s founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz, said those predictions underestimated students’ capacity to adapt to higher standards.

“We’ve heard a lot lately about how hard these tests are going to be and how the bar has been set too high for our kids,” she said. “We simply don’t believe that. Are these exams going to be challenging? Yes. Can children continue to meet higher and higher standards? You bet. We’re here today to let our scholars know that we believe in them and that they have a whole community who values their intelligence and hard work.”

Success Academy — whose students regularly posted very high scores under the old standards — isn’t the only school setting aside time to pump students up about the state tests. Explore Endeavor Charter School rallied its students on Wednesday, telling them that they can earn the highest scores, and Walcott himself joined students at P.S. 169 in Queens for a “Common Core-themed song and dance” on Friday.