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August 1, 2011
Matt Damon criticizes Eva Moskowitz's charters at D.C. rally
A contingent of New York teachers joined thousands of protesters from across the country in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to march against the Obama administration's education policies. Joining them was actor and budding philanthropist Matt Damon, who railed against "corporate reformers." In an interview with GothamSchools, Damon exhibited a familiarity with New York City education politics, criticizing co-locations of charter schools and district schools and calling out the Success Charter Network in particular. The march was the main draw of a four-day event called "Save Our Schools," which included a conference and a film festival. A coalition of more than 100 teachers came down from New York City, including groups from the United Federation of Teachers (this reporter embedded with a UFT-sponsored charter bus) and the Grassroots Education Movement. GEM also hosted a workshop at the conference and showed its documentary film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman to an audience of about 250. More than a dozen speakers - including Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier - spoke at a rally that directly preceded the march. The lineup featured songs, performances, poem readings, in addition to a pre-taped message from The Daily Show host Jon Stewart (here's an excerpt).
June 23, 2011
Charter school backers decline offer to apologize to NAACP
A small window of opportunity to resume settlement talks between dueling sides in the charter school co-location lawsuit has been slammed shut. On Tuesday, an…
June 20, 2011
Charter supporters seek kindred spirit to succeed Bloomberg
A screen shot of the web site registered 9 days ago that touts Eva Moskowitz for mayor in its title. Two websites registered recently — one earlier this month — raise an intriguing possibility: Could a charter school leader jump into the next mayoral race? The website addresses tout Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Charter network, and Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone and Promise Academy charter schools, for mayor. Neither site includes any content. The websites, EvaMoskowitzForMayor.com and GeoffreyCanadaForMayor.com, might reflect mounting concern among charter school supporters that Mayor Bloomberg's successor will not continue his level of support for charter schools. The nervousness may have increased when Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress last week. Of all the likely mayoral candidates, Weiner had appeared to be one of the more supportive of charter schools. "Personally, as a New Yorker, Bloomberg's successor has weighed heavily on my mind," Democracy Prep charter network founder Seth Andrew, who registered the URL touting Canada in December, said in an e-mail statement. "While I think Mr. Canada would be a great choice, we've never talked about it and he's made it publicly clear that he loves his day job." Andrew used his personal email and mailing addresses to register the Canada site. EvaMoskowitzForMayor.com was registered anonymously through a hosting service based in California on June 6, according to WhoIs.Net, which publishes records of web site registrations. Responding to a request for comment by e-mail, a spokesperson for Moskowitz said that she had never heard of the domain. "Looked into it. Don't know anything about this domain. Let me know if you find out who bought it," Jenny Sedlis, the director of external affairs at Moskowitz's charter network, wrote via e-mail.
March 25, 2011
A union skeptic, converted by Steve Barr, befriends the UFT
Steve Barr argues that education activists need to move from campaigning to governing. When Gideon Stein first picked up the 2009 New Yorker profile of California charter school leader Steve Barr, he put the article down without finishing it. The story was all about Barr's decision to work with the teachers union rather than fight it. "I was like, eh, how great can his schools be?" Stein, an entrepreneur and real estate developer based in Manhattan, recalled in an interview this week. A board member of at one of Eva Moskowitz's Success Charter Network schools, where teachers are determinedly not unionized, Stein didn't believe that anyone working with a teachers union had a shot at turning a school around. But at the urging of his family, he finished the piece and was so impressed that he asked Moskowitz to broker an introduction. Soon he flew to Los Angeles to visit Locke High School, the school that Barr's group, Green Dot, took over in 2008. The trip was "transformative," Stein said. In Barr, he saw the solution to the problem that troubles many education philanthropists: Successful transformations urban and rural schools are too rare. They have not achieved "scale." "While I love my work with Eva, and I think Eva is just an unbelievable educator and advocate for children," Stein said, "if you really want scale, I think you're going to have to make some compromises." He asked Barr how he could help Green Dot's mission of re-making schools in partnership with labor. Now Stein is the president of Barr's national organization, which changed its name today from Green Dot America to Future Is Now Schools. And he's rejiggered his social calendar. "I've now had dinner and drinks with Randi 10 times in the last eight months," he said, referring to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Winning the Future
February 2, 2011
Seven things you need to know about last night's PEP meeting
Seven takeaways from last night's marathon Panel for Educational Policy meeting, for those who don't have time for 6,000-plus words, minute-to-minute updates, or actually traveling to Brooklyn Tech in the storm: 1. Bloomberg's agenda was unsurprisingly approved: 10 schools will phase out, four new co-locations will occur. But on the panel, opposition now comes from more members than simply the Manhattan and Bronx appointees. Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president's appointee, is no longer the sole voice of opposition on the panel. And while Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.'s appointee has been making opposition known for a while now, the other borough representatives are beginning slowly to join. Only mayoral appointees, for instance, voted in favor of proposals that would benefit the Success Charter Network schools run by CEO Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member and perennial mayoral hopeful. Besides 'no' votes, another manifestation of opposition to Bloomberg came in the form of a skirmish. From 9:53 p.m.: Audience members told Anna that they saw Sullivan push Morales from behind. Then Tino Hernandez, the panel’s chair, and Deputy Chancellor Santiago Taveras got between them and escorted Sullivan back to his seat. Sullivan then told the audience that one of the mayoral appointees on the panel had approached him to "taunt" him, kicking off the clash. He proposed that the panel postpone their votes to another day on account of the bad weather, but this motion failed. When the parents behind Anna saw the tussle begin, they started yelling: “Security! Where is security?” A few security guards did edge onto the stage but then backed away, Anna reports. Sullivan told the Daily News that he was just tapping Morales on the back. 2. Families reached out across the closure aisle, sometimes poetically. From Anna's 9:12 p.m. report: … some MCA [Metropolitan Corporate Academy, slated for closure] kids are rapping about racism and school closure. The charter school kids and parents are clapping the beat.
November 24, 2010
As charter apps trickle in, Upper West Side debates demand
Hundreds of families have submitted early-bird applications to the newest charter school in Eva Moskowitz's chain, which so far lacks a home but has seen no shortage of controversy. Upper West Success Academy reports that 357 families have filed applications since the school was approved last month. Two-thirds live in District 3, the diverse and relatively wealthy district stretching from 59th Street to 122nd Street on the West Side of Manhattan where the school will be located. "Given that every great elementary school on the Upper West Side is overcrowded and the terrific private schools cost more than $30,000 a year, it's hardly surprising that Upper West Side parents are lining up for a high performing charter school," Moskowitz said in a statement. Her organization is also touting the results of a phone poll that found 70 percent of neighborhood parents would support the school opening in the area. When told that the school would share space with another public school, support dropped to 59 percent. But applications from 269 district families and a poll of 300 households does not "demand" make, according to parent leaders who are pushing back against the school. They say the city would do better to invest in existing schools rather than to carve out space for a charter school.
October 27, 2010
SUNY trustees approve Success Academy for Upper West Side
A screenshot from Upper West Success Academy's website. The State University of New York's Board of Trustees unanimously approved Eva Moskowitz's application to open a charter school on Manhattan's Upper West Side this morning. But the approval is unlikely to dampen any of the controversy surrounding the Upper West Success Academy, which Moskowitz's charter network plans to open in the fall of 2011. The fight over the school has centered on two questions: Is a new charter school the answer to the district's overcrowding? And, if so, should that charter share another school's building? This is the first time Moskowitz's charter chain plans to open a school in a neighborhood that is not predominantly low-income. Moskowitz has said she intends the school to provide an alternative to parents who have been crowded out of the neighborhood's most popular schools or who cannot send their students to one of the city's gifted programs. Moskowitz has said she would like the charter to open in P.S. 145, which the city currently lists as underutilized. City officials have told the school they are likely to site the charter there, according to P.S. 145 parent leaders, though the city says no decision has been made.
October 1, 2010
Inside the dropping charter school grades, a wide range
PHOTO: Brian CharlesKim Gittleson's report on charter schools' performance on the city's progress reports lets users sift through every school. We already know that charter…
May 11, 2010
Eva Moskowitz: bill lifting charter cap gives away "too much"
Harlem Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz took her fellow charter school supporters to task today for backing a bill that would force the schools to admit more special education students. In an email sent to leaders of the city's charter school movement, Moskowitz said that charter schools already serve the same percentage of special education students that district schools do. Her email came after the State Senate voted to more than double the state's charter school cap on the condition that charter schools serve at least half the percentage of special education students that their nearby district schools do. Though Department of Education officials and the charter school lobbying group, Education Reform Now, consider the vote a major victory, Moskowitz told them they gave away "too much."
April 14, 2010
Harlem Success Academies lottery low-key, but high-tech
Yesterday evening, in a tiny room on the second floor of a Harlem school building, staff of the Success Charter Network of charter schools admitted 1,100 students for next year — in just over an hour. Charter school lotteries have a reputation for being emotional public spectacles. Last year, thousands of Harlem Success Academy hopefuls filled the Fort Washington Armory for what was part enrollment event and part political rally led by the network's controversial director Eva Moskowitz. But many charter school admissions decisions are actually computer-generated, made in private days or even weeks before names of admitted students are announced at public events in front of anxiety-ridden parents. And this year, Moskowitz's network, which currently runs four schools and is set to open three more in Harlem and the Bronx this fall, has quietly scrapped its boisterous public event. Instead, parents will be notified of the lottery's results by mail, online and through a phone hot-line next week. Success Charter Network spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis said the public event was abandoned because the sheer number of applicants — nearly 7,000 for 7 schools this year — would overwhelm organizers and because of tighter school budgets this year. Leaders of the network may also be feeling camera-shy this year after a winter of intense public scrutiny of charter schools and accusations that Moskowitz's schools benefit from favoritism from Chancellor Joel Klein. Yesterday, Matt Zacks, a software programmer from the educational data software company InResonance, peered at a large computer monitor filled with tables and lists of names. A smattering of Harlem Success staff, parents and visitors munched pizza and watched over Zacks' shoulder as he moused and clicked through the lists.
March 2, 2010
Looking back on school closure vote, officials question rationale
More than a month after the citywide school board voted to close 19 schools, City Council and Comptroller John Liu are reexamining the criteria that city officials used to declare the schools failures. Liu, who campaigned for comptroller on the promise of auditing the Department of Education's data, announced today that his office is beginning an investigation of the DOE's progress reports — the annual report cards that assign each school a letter grade, largely based on students' test scores. Later this afternoon, the City Council's education committee held a hearing where members accused department officials of targeting large, struggling high schools without considering what would become of their current students. Department officials defended the schools they chose to close, citing the schools' abysmal graduation rate. "This is not a random list," said Deputy Chancellor for Strategy and Innovation, John White. "These are the lowest performers even considered among a set of schools where students are not achieving at acceptable levels."
March 1, 2010
We read the Moskowitz/Klein e-mails so that you don't have to
Joel Klein and Eva Moskowitz at the Harlem Success lottery in April 2009. (<em>GothamSchools</em>) There's a lot more than school siting and closures in the 77 pages of e-mails between Chancellor Joel Klein and charter school operator Eva Moskowitz. The e-mails, obtained by the Daily News, include a little bit of news — such as that Bill Clinton considered weighing in on the charter schools fight — and a lot of insight into the way Klein and Moskowitz think about the politics of education. We've read every word of the 150+ e-mails and have collected the highlights below. A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Moskowitz puts her expansion goal in personal terms, in an April 2007 e-mail to Klein: "I plan to be educating 8,000 of your children by 2013." SHE DIDN'T LIKE THE TWEED WORKFORCE, EITHER. We know that district school leaders and parents often clashed with Garth Harries, the Tweed official who for years led efforts to insert small schools and charters into their buildings. Now we learn that Moskowitz fumed at him, too. On May 16, 2007, she praised a new Department of Education official, Tom Taratko, to Klein. "He got done in 2hrs what garth could not accomplish in 9 months," she declared, adding, "look out for him and hire more!!!!!" The more typical Tweed worker she describes this way: "maddening sluggishness and people afraid of their own shadows." POLITICKING FOR EXPANSION: In July 2007 Moskowitz described to Klein how she and her main financiers, John Petry and Joel Greenblatt, shored up support for her application to open three copies of the original Harlem Success Academy. They courted New York State Republican Committee chairman Ed Cox, who was at the time chairman of SUNY's charter board.
February 10, 2010
East Harlem parents pre-emptively organize against charter school
Some East Harlem parents aren't waiting to find out whether a charter school will move into their school building before organizing against the possibility. Parents at the Manhattan East School for Arts and Academies recently got wind that the Department of Education was considering placing Harlem Success Academy 5, one of three new charters Eva Moskowitz plans to open next year, in their building. The plan would call for Manhattan East to move to another building across the street to create space for Moskowitz's school. The founding principal of Manhattan East, Jacqueline Ancess, said that the DOE did not tell the school that it could be moved; rather, the current principal and parents association head found out that a move was under consideration at an unrelated DOE meeting "by accident," she said. Ancess and the school's parent association responded by sending out a letter yesterday asking parents and supporters to call the city's information hotline today to ask the city not to relocate the school. "Manhattan East is a very successful school," the message urges parents to tell the city. "Moving Manhattan East from its home is unconscionable."
November 5, 2009
Tisch calls on charters to take on city's worst high schools
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch yesterday called on city charter school operators to move away from elementary education and take on the problems of fixing large failing high schools. Speaking at Hunter College, Tisch said that charter schools have benefited from being the political "darlings" of the city and state, blessed with the most qualified teachers and some of the highest-achieving students. Instead, Tisch said, charter schools need to branch out to serve more struggling high school students, English language learners and special education students. "It's really time for charter schools to say to me, 'I don't want to just grow my own, I don't want to operate in this zone where I am the darling,'" Tisch said. "I want them to dig in and say, 'what can we do to help?'" Currently, thirteen of the city's roughly 100 charter schools serve high school students, though more are slated to grow to include ninth through twelfth grade classes. Tisch was speaking on a panel organized by the group Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century about the future of the city schools post election. The panel also included teachers union head Michael Mulgrew, founder and CEO of Success Charter Network Eva Moskowitz and Democrats for Education Reform director Joe Williams.
October 23, 2009
Success Charter Network advertising for open spots at new, current schools
With all the talk of budget cuts and the hiring freeze, it's difficult to remember that some city schools are hiring. But there was an eye-catching reminder on the New York Times' home page yesterday — a bright orange and blue ad from the Success Charter Network asking for applicants. Success Charter spokeswoman Jennifer Sedlis said the recruitment drive is aimed at attracting applicants for next school year, when Eva Moskowitz, the network's founder, plans to open three more schools. Harlem Successes 5, 6, and 7 are steps in Moskowitz's goal to open 40 of her charter schools in Harlem in the next decade. "We will have a lot of new positions," Sedlis said.
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