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The Hidden Side of Charter School Success

One of the reasons that charter schools have often managed to post better outcomes than traditional public schools is that they push out underperforming and defiant students.  Although they deny it, the practice is not uncommon. The latest evidence involves Success Academy, the media-savvy charter school network in New York City ("At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have 'Got to Go,'" The New York Times, Oct. 30).

In what I believe is a damning indictment, 10 current and former employees at five schools in the network said that some administrators have a list of students whom they do not want there.  To achieve that goal, they use a variety of tactics that would never be permitted in traditional public schools anywhere.  These include not sending annual re-enrollment forms, calling parents into frequent meetings to inconvenience them, and using repeated suspensions.  The goal is to make it abundantly clear to parents that their children should go to school elsewhere.

Confronted with this evidence, Eva Moscowitz, the head of Success Academy, admitted "mistakes are sometimes made."  That has to be the understatement of the year.  Until the story broke, Moscowitz had been the darling of the no-excuse crowd.  She attributed the superior results to exacting methods that had allowed her schools to become New York City's largest network of charter schools.  (She had already received the green light to have 43 schools by next year, with the ultimate goal of 100.)

I hope that the network will now be subjected to far greater scrutiny than ever before.  I've written often that if traditional public schools were allowed to operate by the same set of rules as charter schools, there would be little, if any, difference between them.  The latest expose is proof that this is true. I wouldn't be at all surprised if further evidence appears calling into question the superiority of the network and - by extension - that of other charter schools across the nation. It's high time that the truth is made known.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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