Broad success

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz is having a very good week

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy

New York City’s largest school charter network, Success Academy, has won the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The announcement comes during an already victorious week for the network, which just won a favorable ruling in a long-standing fight with the city over pre-K.

The Broad Prize, which includes a $250,000 award, goes to a charter network that demonstrates “outstanding academic outcomes among low-income students and students of color.”

The award was announced Monday morning by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Success Academy — which serves 14,000 students in New York City across 41 elementary, middle and high schools — came out on top against the two other finalists: DSST Public Schools in Denver and Harmony Public Schools in Texas.

“At the core heart of Success Academy’s incredible academic achievements are its teachers, students and families,” said a statement from Gregory McGinity, executive director of the Broad Foundation. “Their dedication has made it possible for Success to grow rapidly to serve thousands of students, all without sacrificing academic progress.”

Critics have long questioned aspects of Success Academy’s approach, but this win marks the second major victory for the network and its controversial CEO Eva Moskowitz in a matter of days.

On Thursday, a state appeals court ruled that New York City cannot regulate pre-K programs at charter schools. Success and other local charter schools have been battling since 2015 for the right to participate in the city’s universal pre-K program without signing the required contract. Despite initial losses, they won an appeal and the case has now been sent back to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who will review the court’s decision.

Announcing today’s win, the 10-member Broad Prize review board singled out some of Success Academy’s achievements.

In 2016, for example, all of Success Academy’s elementary and middle schools placed in the top 10 percent of schools in New York state for advanced academic performance in English, math, and science, according to a press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The network’s black and Hispanic students performed better that year, on average, than white students across the entire state of New York. And its low-income students performed better, on average, than non-low-income students across the state in English, math, and science.

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”