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Where to Find Success in New York

• Mike Thomas

The students and teachers of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York continued their remarkable record of success this past year.

Ninety-four percent of students passed the state’s math assessments, despite having higher academic standards and harder tests.  This was almost triple the passing rate in the city’s regular public schools. Sixty-four percent of students passed the language arts assessment, more than double the passing rate in the regular schools.

This builds on Success Academy’s results from 2012-13, when 82 percent of students tested proficient in math and 58 percent tested proficient in language arts.

How does Success Academy do it? The schools embrace accountability. Adults take responsibility for the education of children. There is constant measurement as student progress is closely monitored through assessments. It is assumed all children are capable of learning. There are no excuses for failure because of a student’s circumstances.

The charter network now ranks in the top 1 percent of all 3,560 New York State schools in math and the top 3 percent in language arts. This proves its model not only is sustainable but scalable. The first Success Academy opened in Harlem in 2006, serving 165 kindergartners and first graders. The network, started by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, now serves 6,700 students in 22 schools.

It is disappointing that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did not acknowledge this achievement when he held a press conference last week announcing test results. Instead he talked about the relatively small gains made by the rest of the city’s public school students and noted that “we have a lot of work ahead of us.’’

Mayor de Blasio has long opposed charter schools, going so far as to try and block three Success Academy schools from opening in city buildings earlier this year. That earned him the support of the city’s teachers union, but caused a widespread backlash from parents, legislators from both political parties and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A school should be evaluated by one criterion – are students learning. It shouldn’t matter if it is a traditional public school, a charter school, a voucher school or whether the teachers are unionized or not. Schools that excel should be allowed to expand and schools that fail should be shut down.

Mayor de Blasio shouldn’t try to restrict the Success Academy. He should learn from it.

He could begin by looking at these results from the latest assessments.

If you believe that student learning matters most, join the movement to make education in America focused on students’ success.


About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at