inside success

A college student is teaching economics at Success Academy — founder Eva Moskowitz’s son

PHOTO: Success Academy
Eva Moskowitz, the Success Academy founder and CEO.

When students arrived at Success Academy’s high school last week, some found a surprising figure at the front of their class.

Their economics teacher from day one was gone, having resigned just hours into the school year. In his place: Culver Grannis Moskowitz, the son of Success CEO Eva Moskowitz.

“I was kind of confused,” said Keyarah Gadsden, an 11th grader in Culver Moskowitz’s economics class.

Culver Moskowitz, who is 19 or 20 and has yet to earn a college degree, is teaching economics classes at the network’s high school. Now, parents — some already frustrated by the school’s policies — are questioning his role teaching a course that will culminate in an Advanced Placement test.

“Isn’t AP supposed to be college-level material?” asked Amanda Santiago, whose daughter is in one of his classes. “If he hasn’t graduated college, how is he teaching college-level material?”

Success confirmed that Culver Moskowitz is enrolled in Columbia University’s School of General Studies, which grants bachelor’s degrees, and said he is one of several curriculum interns at the network. A roster obtained by Chalkbeat lists Culver Moskowitz as the teacher of a course titled “political economy,” though Success says he is only filling in temporarily and is not the class’ teacher of record.

“Last week, he filled in after one of the high school teachers left,” Success spokeswoman Anne Michaud said in a statement. “The economics teacher is in training and is starting on September 4.”

Culver Moskowitz’s role is the latest move to raise eyebrows at Success Academy High School for the Liberal Arts, part of New York City’s largest and most controversial charter network, which posts top test scores and graduated its first students last year. The high school spent last year in chaos, Chalkbeat reported last week, as students protested new dress code and grade retention rules. Most teachers left the school at the end of the year.

The all-hands-on-deck staffing effort also raises questions about whether Success will be able to find the personnel it needs as it continues to expand, both at the high school and across the 47-school network. Eva Moskowitz has said she hopes to reach 100 schools in New York City.

Success officials argue that their high standards are essential in getting its students, most of whom come from low-income families, through college. Natasha Venner, a former teacher at the high school, said allowing someone who hadn’t graduated from college to enforce those standards smacks of hypocrisy.

“It’s insulting as a teacher,” she said.

Still, multiple students said they are enjoying Culver Moskowitz’s economics class. Some said it was odd having a teacher only a year or two older than some students, though.

“It’s just weird,” said senior Reanna Phillips.

Michaud says Culver Moskowitz makes minimum wage, as he did last year as an intern at Success Academy Harlem East, a middle school. Santiago, Venner, and a former student said he taught eighth-grade math classes there last year.

Charter schools operate with fewer rules around hiring than district schools, which have specific anti-nepotism policies that prohibit city employees from hiring close relatives as well as certification requirements. A share of each charter school’s teachers can be uncertified.

SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which oversees the Success schools, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Eva Moskowitz has been a vocal advocate for rules that would allow charter schools authorized by SUNY to certify their own teachers, which has drawn criticism from some of New York state’s top education officials. Those rules were approved in 2017 but recently struck down by a judge.

“In the midst of a widely recognized teacher shortage, SUNY’s vote today ensures that kids of color will have access to great teachers and exceptional educational outcomes,” Eva Moskowitz said when those rules were first approved.

Top teacher

Franklin educator is Tennessee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year

PHOTO: TDOE
Melissa Miller leads her students in a learning game at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin Special School District in Williamson County. Miller is Tennessee's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.

A first-grade teacher in Franklin is Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Miller

Melissa Miller, who works at Franklin Elementary School, received the 2018-19 honor for excellence in the classroom Thursday evening during a banquet in Nashville.

A teacher for 19 years, she is National Board Certified, serves as a team leader and mentor at her school, and trains her colleagues on curriculum and technology in Franklin’s city school district in Williamson County, just south of Nashville. She will represent Tennessee in national competition and serve on several working groups with the state education department.

Miller was one of nine finalists statewide for the award, which has been presented to a Tennessee public school teacher most every year since 1960 as a way to promote respect and appreciation for the profession. The finalists were chosen based on scoring from a panel of educators; three regional winners were narrowed down following interviews.

In addition to Miller, who also won in Middle Tennessee, the state recognized Lori Farley, a media specialist at North City Elementary School in Athens City Schools, in East Tennessee. Michael Robinson, a high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown Municipal School District, was this year’s top teacher in West Tennessee.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen praised the finalists for leading their students to impressive academic gains and growth. She noted that “teachers are the single most important factor in improving students’ achievement.”

Last year’s statewide winner was Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher in Nashville who has since moved to a middle school in the same Franklin district as Miller.

You can learn more about Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year program here.

PSA

Have you thought about teaching? Colorado teachers union sells the profession in new videos

PHOTO: Colorado Education Association

There are a lot of factors contributing to a shortage of teachers in Colorado and around the nation. One of them — with potentially long-term consequences — is that far fewer people are enrolling in or graduating from teacher preparation programs. A recent poll found that more than half of respondents, citing low pay and lack of respect, would not want their children to become teachers.

Earlier this year, one middle school teacher told Chalkbeat the state should invest in public service announcements to promote the profession.

“We could use some resources in Colorado to highlight how attractive teaching is, for the intangibles,” said Mary Hulac, who teaches English in the Greeley-Evans district. “I tell my students every day, this is the best job.

“You learn every day as a teacher. I’m a language arts teacher. When we talk about themes, and I hear a story through another student’s perspective, it’s always exciting and new.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has brought some resources to help get that message out with a series of videos aimed at “up-and-coming professionals deciding on a career.” A spokesman declined to say how much the union was putting into the ad buy.

The theme of the ads is: “Change a life. Change the world.”

“Nowhere but in the education profession can a person have such a profound impact on the lives of students,” association President Amie Baca-Oehlert said in a press release. “We want to show that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession.”

As the union notes, “Opportunities to teach in Colorado are abundant.”

One of the ads features 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year Christina Randle.

“Are you ready to be a positive role model for kids and have a direct impact on the future?” Randle asks.

Another features an education student who was inspired by her own teachers and a 20-year veteran talking about how much she loves her job.

How would you sell the teaching profession to someone considering their career options? Let us know at co.tips@chalkbeat.org.