Jim Batterson:  “Success Academy results are amazing — but thought you might comment on this,” which addresses the issue of “backfill.”

. . . Between 2006 and 2014, the proportion of students at Success Academy who scored proficient in math ranged from 94 percent in third grade to 97 percent in eighth grade, according to the report.  But the number of test-takers declined with each passing year, as students departed, and the number of proficient students [at one of the schools] fell from 88 students in third grade to 31 students in eighth.  By contrast, many traditional schools see their numbers increase in later grades. In District 7, for example, between 2006 and 2014 the average number of test-takers increased from 77 to 109 between third and eighth grade, while proficiency fell from 30 to 28 percent.

“Without backfilling, a school can maintain the illusion of success,” Lyles and her Democracy Builders colleague Dan Clark wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in February. The organization is supporting a bill before the New York City council that would require schools to make public far more information about student attrition and backfilling.

In a recent WNYC radio interview, Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz . . . said her schools now accept new students through fourth grade. Accepting older children who were not prepared academically for Success Academy’s rigors would be detrimental to other students, she said.

“It’s not really fair for the seventh grader or high school student to have to be educated with a child who’s reading at a second or third grade level,” she said, according to a report in Chalkbeat New York.

I’m told that Success Academy attrition on average is less than half that as similar public schools — less than 10 percent a year compared with 20 percent in the “co-located” public schools with which many Success schools share space.  And the attrition seems to come more from family circumstances — having to leave — rather than “failing to make the grade,” as it were.

“When we looked a couple of years ago,” says my friend at Success, “there was no difference in the scores of students who leave versus those who stay.  They are doing great, too; they just have to leave because their families move.  Success has only expelled one student in its history (this year).  However, as our schools mature, it would be fair to adjust for the lack of backfill and compare apples to apples through fifth and make adjustments (easy to do) to compare only scores of students who have been in same district since 5th grade.”

So this is a fair point, and we should figure out ways for more kids’ families to stay put — and/or to expand the number of Success-type charters so that those who depart could be “backfilled” with others deparating from similarly good schools, who’d have little trouble fitting in.

That’s actually sort of the situation in New Orleans, as I understand it from the article I linked to yesterday.  There, all the schools now follow a charter model.  No one has been turned away, and if they move from one New Orleans school to another, it, too, will be a charter.

Not that all charters everywhere work — by any means.  It’s important to restate that every time.  Some are awful!  A few are scams!  Many are mediocre!  But the New Orleans model appears to work . . .

. . . Researchers studying the enormous gains registered in New Orleans have been able to rule out the usual sources of skepticism. The schools are not using stricter discipline to expel higher numbers of troublemakers — the city’s suspension rate is lower than it was before 2005, and also lower than the statewide average. (The system has a citywide process for major discipline, eliminating even the ability of principals to use suspensions to push out low performers.) Nor is New Orleans shortchanging students with disabilities, whose graduation rate in the New Orleans system (60 percent) dramatically exceeds their graduation rate statewide (43 percent). Nor is there any reason to believe the gains have come from schools “teaching to the test” — student performance on tests that have no accountability measures for the staff (such as the ACT) have also risen, as have graduation and college entry rates.

New Orleans is the breakthrough in social equity liberals have been waiting for. “We tried to make urban districts better for 50 years. We tried more funding, more accountability, more pipelines of talent, more [professional development], more training, more certification rules, and on and on and on. After all of that time, and all of those cities, we still don’t have a single high-performing urban district in America. Not one,” Andy Smarick, an education-policy analyst, told me. “But the very first time we try an all-charter system, the first time ever, we get dramatically better results in only a decade.” And some liberals, like the Obama administration, have encouraged and praised its success. . . .

. . . and the Success Academy model seems to produce even more spectacular results.  It’s time for the progressivres among us to start embracing these successes in a big way.

Mike M.: “You seem oblivious to how ridiculous it is to say Success Academy didn’t start off with the cream of the crop because ‘their families applied and won the lottery to enter Success.’ Okay, how many of those children had parents who were incarcerated? How many parents were junkies barely able to survive? How many parents were mentally ill? How many parents didn’t speak the language sufficient to know to apply? How many of the parents smoked during pregnancy? How many of the students suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome? How many parents and/or students suffer from chronic lead poisoning? These are the realities of students in the real world of the ghetto, and those students go to ordinary public schools. Research shows that students with parents who are active in their children’s education do far better academically than average students. Just having parents who are intelligent and competent and concerned enough to apply for charter school makes them the cream of the crop in those kinds of neighborhoods. . . . You really should be ashamed of these posts.”

☞ “Thanks, Mike [I replied]. Did you know that, at least last I heard, fully 80% of the parents in Harlem DID enter the lottery for Success Academy?  So if you call 80% “the cream of the crop,” okay, but it’s better than, say, the most motivated 5%.  Also, half of the 20% who didn’t enter the Success Academy lottery did enter the lottery for some other charter school . . . so, actually, 90% are motivated enough to enter a charter lottery.  And here I’m just guessing, but if the mother is a drug addict or in jail, might it be the grandmother who’s there for the kid?  Does this change your view at all?”

(It did not.  But Mike also made important points about the ravages of the lead-paint poisoning that’s such a scourge, especially in poor neighborhoods.  Some of the kids affected by it doubtless have parents who apply for the lottery, and from the statistics, it would appear Success must do a pretty good job of rescuing them; but the lead paint stuff seems really important to me.  I wrote about it here . . . and feel bad I’ve not done more to push the case.  What an amazing infrastructure investment this would be: de-leadifying these housing units*.  The studies I’ve seen suggest a terrifically high return on the tax-dollar investment.  Why haven’t we moved on this?  GET THE LEAD OUT!)


*Bonus: creating a lot of decent jobs in tough neighborhoods for the five or ten years it would take to do the work.



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