Charter Schools

If You Don't Approve of Success Academy, Don't Send Your Kids There

The latest controversy at Success is a reminder of why we need more school choice.


Success Academy |||

A secretly recorded minute-long video clip of a Success Academy teacher scolding her first-grade students led to a public outcry when it was published in The New York Times last week, but will the incident result in fewer parents vying to get their kids into one of the network's 34 schools? I doubt it.

Success Academy schools are charters, so parents get to decide if they want to apply or take their business elsewhere. And charters aren't part of the traditional public school district, which helps insulate them from the kind of district-level interference that can be easily provoked by attention-grabbing articles in The New York Times.

The charter network's founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz, says that the video clip, in which a first-grade teacher scolds her class and rips up a student's work, depicted an isolated moment. Parents interviewed by the Times described the teacher as unusually loving and nurturing towards her students.

"Nobody would ever argue the video displayed that teacher's finest hour, but she's there, swinging away, trying to get the kids to strain for something a bit higher and more rigorous," writes Belinda Luscombe in Time. "But is misdirected passion worse than teaching by the books?"

The answer, Luscombe concludes, is that the approach may be right for some kids but not others. My guess is that Success Academy will continue to get at least five applications for every kindergarten spot because there are enough parents who think that its intense approach to teaching and learning is right for their kids.

How about all the rest? In a column at The Seventy Four, Derrell Bradford, who's the executive director of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN) and a Success Academy board member, has some sage advice for the "haters:"

If you want Success, or other "no excuses" schools to go away because you think your own brand of education is superior, because you don't respect that other parents like it and seek it out, you don't value the structure, or you want your kid to be a grass-fed open-range child, then you just have to, counterintuitively, do one thing: open more charter schools.

Reason's Nick Gillespie recently sat down with Robert Pondiscio from The Thomas B. Fordham Institute to discuss how Success Academy and other charters are helping to dispel the myth that every schools must be designed to serve every type of kid. Click below to watch:

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  1. a first-grade teacher scolds her class and rips up a student’s work

    The horror! The horror!

  2. Discipline is overrated.

  3. I heard Success Academy was like the Spartans in 300, discarding the weaker and flawed children in a large pit at the edge of town.

    1. ^^This is what they (mostly economists) actually believe!!!!^^

      1. I like the bit about making sure autonomous schools don’t act in their own self interest. Because teacher unions and public school administrators never act in their own self interest

  4. I once got a paddling in school, and look at how I turned out. Had I never been subjected to such harsh discipline that turned me against authority*, I might even now have a nice cushy government job instead of being the tax-paying schlub that I am.

    *Actually it just turned me againt Tim Murphy for being such a dickhead tattletale goody-two-shoes and telling on me to the teacher.

    1. I once got a paddling in school, and look at how I turned out.

      Hmm . . .

    2. Were you talking out of turn, looking out the window, or staring at the teacher’s sandals?

  5. I saw this story about a week ago, and the proggies were already crowing about how this proves that the free market creates brutal schools that abuse children.

    I went to public schools from K through 12, and I can’t count how many times teachers yelled at me even worse than that.

    1. I saw a sixth grader get his lights knocked out in school by a teacher. The rest of us thought he was asking for it and were disappointed when the teacher was fired.

      Of course it was the early 80s…

      1. I saw a sixth grader get his lights knocked out in school by a teacher.

        I don’t support teachers laying one finger on kids. However, your anecdote highlights how milquetoast this supposed affair actually is. She scolded a girl and stated she was “very upset and very disappointed” by how she did her work. That doesn’t mean the teacher was correct, the little girl could have an as of yet unrecognized math learning disability like dyscalculia, or she could have honestly been confused. However, where is the strident rage when actual physical abuses happen in public schools? Where was the outrage when a “14-year-old girl with special needs allegedly was raped at school after a teacher’s aide persuaded her to act as bait to catch an accused sexual predator, a fellow student“? Where were Lisa Delpit and Diane Ravitch then?

        1. I don’t support teachers laying one finger on kids.

          Kids are barbarians. Raising them is the process of civilizing them. If a barbarian doesn’t believe, somewhere deep down, that you can light his ass up, he is going to tune you out. So, in very limited circumstances, I think a credible threat of corporal punishment is a good thing. And sometimes, to keep the threat credible, you have to actually do it.

          1. Good for you. I don’t. That’s why we should have wide-spread school choice.


              Yeah, pluralism is a great thing. I do recall one of my nephews was an absolute terror as a toddler, utterly defiant and destructive. His parents were from the no corporal punishment camp. This went on for years, and he outgrew it in grade school(?). Turned out to be a nice kid after all. So, there’s that.

              1. Corporal punishment is a “good kid” thing. Kids understand dominance and submission, and they will be more obedient when made to be submissive when they act out… I don’t necessarily think that it’s all that influential on adulthood (unless it’s abusive).

                Because of that, I’m only a proponent of corporal punishment in cases of open defiance and when the child is in imminent danger if they don’t comply.

                I do notice that no-corporal-punishment parents tend to have little shits for children, but I don’t know if that’s merely correlative. Most of the no-corporal-punishment parents have some fucked up parenting idiosyncracies that would probably be more causative.

            2. Yeah, I don’t want him on my school board — or influencing how my child’s education.

          2. I don’t think it’s necessary at all. The reason to behave in a civilized way needs to be an understanding of why that is better than the alternative, not fear. Though I won’t condemn parents who occasionally use reasonable physical discipline. I draw a hard line when it comes to other people physically disciplining kids, whether or not the parents approve.

          3. Agree, that’s why we dont sign the opt out form for paddling here.

          4. One of the best disciplinarians I’ve ever seen in a school, bar none, was Ms. Mansfield from my elementary.

            First, her room was too cool for school. Her brother played for the Steelers, and his picture lived in the spot of honor on her wall. She drew caricatures – damned good ones. When the class was busy working, heads down pencils up, she liked to sit and draw whomever she thought was doing a great job. The pictures were displayed along the tops of the walls, with the newest always nearest the door on the left (you got to take yours home when it finished working it’s way around the room).

            And she was awe-inspiring. Note-passers had to read their notes aloud to the class. Watch a student read out loud that he wants to feel up his love of the week – the horror in his eyes a mute appeal to all witnesses – and the meaning behind Sun Tzu’s “terrify ten thousands” becomes all too clear. This was always followed by writing lines.

            For whom the bell tolls, the bell tolled for me. I was passing perverted notes in class when I should have been working on my social studies and my teacher caught me.

            Copy that out a hundred times by hand. The pain is real.

            And then there was her paddle. She had students sign it afterward. Legends say she went through several, and hung the retired paddles on her walls at home.

            We walked in fear and awe.

          5. “Raising them is the process of civilizing them” Agreed, and it would be nice if we could be honest as a society and admit that public school is more about subsidized babysitting than education.

            1. *knowing applause*

        2. In a way I agree with both of you, I don’t think teachers should use physical force as punishment but some kids don’t respond to anything but. Which is one many reasons why public school shouldn’t exist. Period.

        3. A teacher slapped me in the face in the 10th grade but it was a private school so no one gave a crap. My mom was a teacher there too and she said I probably deserved it which I did.

    2. That’s the thing. If this were a video of an inner-city public school teacher, they would point to it as evidence of how stressful the poor thing’s job is and why she needs a higher salary, more vacation time, and her district needs more funding.

  6. You mean, unlike public schools, Success Academy wants to actually teach children and not simply function as a daycare?!

  7. “I felt sick about the teacher I had become, and I no longer wanted to be part of an organization where adults could so easily demean children under the guise of ‘achievement,'”

    I love the outrage from the left. They think the teacher should be fired for this sort of behavior, yet in a public school, there’s likely no one recording and even if a teacher were caught yelling like this, the union would fight for them. And they support that. They support bad teachers getting that support.

    Only, here you have a teacher doing what most public school teachers don’t do. She is yelling and demanding higher academic standards. I was yelled at a lot as a kid. Way worse than anything in this video. Those were public school teachers doing it. Anyone who thinks that public school teachers don’t loose their shit is incredibly naive or a liar/political hack.

  8. I also love all the piece of shit ‘experts’ and public sector employees quoted in the article:

    “Because the child’s learning was still a little fragile ? as learning always is initially ? she made an error,” he said in his email. “Good classrooms (and schools) are places where error is regarded as a necessary byproduct of learning, and an opportunity for growth. But not here. Making an error here is a social offense. It confuses others ? as if deliberately.”

    Clearly. This is proven by the great results in the schools that use those methods. Hey, if these guys are so brilliant, why not start their own charter school and put it into action? Or, hell, reform the public system.

  9. I worked with several Brits who had come over with a newly purchased subsidiary, and I will never forget what one of them said for why he came over: he had been taking night classes to better himself, and all his friends gave him the cold shoulder for wanting to be better than them. There was also an old pensioner in the neighborhood who used to defy the locals by hanging potted plants on her porch; they were regularly turn down because she was putting on airs.

    It seems such a typical proggie thing — if your own individual work improves your lot, you are scum. Better rot in equality with everybody else than try to do better.

    1. That sounds more like a weird British class thing to me.

        1. Well, there you go. I figured there must be a term for it.

        2. Crab Mentality is another good one to know.

          1. Or you’re acting white because you study

        3. Old Russian joke: Ivan prayed and prayed for a cow, and one day God granted his wish. Now, Ivan’s family had fresh milk and butter, and the beast could pull the plow instead of Ivan’s wife.
          His neighbor, Peter, was very jealous and complained that it wasn’t fair that Ivan had a cow and he did not. Ivan told him, “just pray to God like I did.”
          So that night, Peter prayed “God, please kill Ivan’s cow.”

          1. This reminds me of the recent complaints that “Tax cuts benefit the rich, so must therefore be opposed”

          2. Here’s another one:

            A Soviet bureaucrat says to a farmer, “Comrade, if you had two houses, would you give one to your neighbor?”
            “Absolutely!” the farmer says.
            “If you had two cars, would you give one to your neighbor?”
            “Certainly!” replied the farmer.
            “Now, comrade, if you had two cows, would you give one to your neighbor?”
            “Hell no!” the farmer shouted.
            The confused bureaucrat asked, “but why would you give away a house or a car but not a cow?”
            The farmer replied, “Because I actually HAVE two cows!!”

      1. Yes, I’m sure it was. But it’s that idea of equality above all else that matches proggies. They’d rather we were all equally poor than let anyone get ahead by hard work or smart thinking, even if that is what pulled the world out of global poverty with the industrial revolution.

        1. Yeah, that’s true (though they do seem to be perfectly happy to have some people get ahead by going to the right school and expressing the right views).

          1. Sometimes, I think that the “progressive” viewpoint is not that there shouldn’t be a super-rich 1 percent, but rather that there should be different people occupying that spot.

            1. Isn’t all of Hollywood good enough for them? I wonder what the pay ratio is between the star and the key grip.

    2. “if your own individual work improves your lot, you are scum'”

      I was friends with a young single mother from Washington Heights who was putting herself through college, and basically said no one from her old neighborhood – half of whom were ‘cousins’ – would even talk to her anymore. She talked about it a lot. If you stayed “in the community” – a poor puerto rican slum – it was one big happy family. But if you had any ambitions? You were considered to be whoring yourself out to the blancos because you thought you were better than everyone else.

      I don’t think its like that everywhere or linked to any particular ethnicity more than others. But i think its definitely a thing when there’s very tight-knit communal poverty. I heard a few similar complaints from people in college who grew up in poor rural white areas.

      1. I was primed to raise your point about the rural whites till seeing it at the end of your post. The single greatest divide in America remains that of class. In black areas, pursuing education is seen as “acting white” and in poor, white areas, doing so becomes “puttin’ on airs” at least in the Southern colloquialism. It says far more about those who know they’re being left behind than about the person taking action.

  10. A secretly recorded minute-long video clip of a Success Academy teacher

    Funny how none of the people using this for political advantage seem concerned at all for the privacy of the children in that classroom.

    And, who recorded the video, anyway?

    1. And, who recorded the video, anyway?

      An assistant teacher who’s trying to stay anonymous because snitches get stitches.

      Funny how none of the people using this for political advantage seem concerned at all for the privacy of the children in that classroom.

      I’m curious about that. From what I understand, such issues are the domain of state law. NH, just recently, passed a law that prohibits making audio or video recordings in classrooms for “any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student“. I don’t know what NY law states on the matter, but it would be interesting to see how that would bump up against whistleblower protections.

      1. In CA, the parents have to sign a release to allow any school kid to be photo’d or video’d in the school setting. Absent that positive approval, by default, the kid is not allowed to be so.

      2. Ironically those laws were meant to protect Union teachers from kids cell phone vids

    2. I think I remember reading that it was either a teacher’s aide or a teacher in training who was sitting in the classroom.

  11. “The charter network’s founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz

    the name rings a bell


    “As a City Councilmember from 1999-2005 she chaired the Education Committee”

    oh, right. She’s like the biggest enemy of the teacher’s union cabal in NYC.

    and those people make the mafia look like mormons. I have no doubt there’s like a new scheme hatched every month to try and catch someone associated w/ her and her schools and publicize it as emblematic of everything wrong with the charter school movement.

  12. This is what happens when schools are not properly staffed with union-approved personnel.

    1. Yeah, about that

      sort of amusing =

      when someone claims something is “really good” and critics want to play it down? the frequent (and often correct) claim is to suggest that ‘a lot of that improvement is just a factor of better measurement’.

      this has often been claimed to be one reason people over-state charter school “success”

      the amusing part is that the NYC chancellor used it as an explanation for 20% increase in teacher-misconduct-reporting in city schools. Which is basically arguing = “We haven’t gotten worse! We’ve *always* been this bad!!”

      Then there’s always stories like this, which provides helpful context of the NYC School System’s perpetual blind-spots to its own faults.

  13. Wow. It’s almost like society would benefit from having multiple schools to choose from so that the schools using effective methods would flourish and the ones using ineffective or genuinely abusive methods would be pushed out by natural market forces…

    1. Government is a protection racket. Teacher’s unions pay the protection money.

    2. It’s almost like society would benefit from having multiple schools to choose from so that the schools using effective methods would flourish and the ones using ineffective or genuinely abusive methods would be pushed out by natural market forces…

      That and the fact that all children don’t learn the same way, and would benefit from their parents being able to choose a school that was most appropriate for that individual child.

  14. Good morning. 73 degrees yesterday, and snow expected Monday night. God I love this place.

  15. charters are helping to dispel the myth that every schools must be designed to serve every type of kid.

    As is Jim’s writing. 😉

  16. I grew up going to public schools and that pales in comparison to things I saw public school teachers doing. Let’s not forget the monthly arrest of public school teachers for fucking their students. Lets also not forget tgat Duccess Academy can fire teathers for bad behavoir and public schools cannot.

    1. Good I hate my phone

      1. Mr. Poe would like a world with you!

    2. “Duccess Academy can fire teathers for bad behavoir”

      Public education

  17. I don’t mind if charter schools are skimming the cream as long as they are creaming the government school scam…

    1. That comment had more cream than a Bill Clinton skit. Not as much scamming though.

      1. I expected the strudel scene from Inglorious Basterds

  18. A secretly recorded minute-long video clip of a Success Academy teacher

    So the teachers aid did basically the same thing any enterprising journalist or activist would do…so it goes without saying that her bond will be set at the same amount as Sandra Merritt’s of the Center for Medical Progress, right? I mean, she’s been indicted at least, right?

    1. nice.

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    1. did you get fired for yelling at a child?

  20. “Good morning, class, I’m Harry the Hippy, and I’ll be filling in for that mean teacher who yelled at a student for getting the answer wrong.

    “OK, now can anyone tell me the name of this river? The one I’m pointing at on the map? The one in Egypt?


    “Yes, Timmy?

    “Wow, Timmy, that was a very creative answer. I suppose in one sense the Brooklyn Bridge is a good way to describe the river. But in another sense it’s not strictly accurate. But for being such a good sport, here is a gold star.

    “Now, all of you sit in a circle and talk about what we just learned. I need to sit at my desk and, ah, do some paperwork. [glug glug glug]”

  21. “Hello, boys and girls, I hear you didn’t like that teacher who yelled at you.

    “Don’t worry, I won’t do that. I speak softly.

    “Now, what I just said is part of a famous quote. Timmy, can you give me the full quote?”

  22. “Ach, you bairns dinna have tae worry about me yellin’ at ye, I only do that in the rarest o’ cases, and under extreme provocation, and…

    “Just a wee minute, laddie, but we’re almost through wi’ lunch and you have nae touched your meatloaf. In fact, I observe that ye have already started on dessert…”

  23. Never really thought about it liek that.

  24. I’m one of those bleeding heart modern child development principles people who is really annoyed by the teacher in the video. BUT there is a point made in the article above: “If . . . you don’t value the structure, or you want your kid to be a grass-fed open-range child, then you just have to, counterintuitively, do one thing: open more charter schools.”

    One of the things I try to get across to people who share my educational values is that our kids in the public schools are in fact being impacted by the kinds of parents who would like their kids to get a more punitive brand of education; they are voters, they are participants in the school system; at least with people sending their kids to private schools, we can kind of wean out the worst case people — they send their kids to success academy, I get to send mine to a school with a more relaxed and playful learning atmosphere.

    Yes, I do feel for the kids who are being sent to the nasty schools but — barring actual child abuse allegations — I feel a lot more for my own kids going to schools that meet my ideas about how children learn best and most freely; AND, if one or another typing of “schooling” actually results in kids who do better on standardized tests or in creativity or whatever one wants to measure, that information will be available to everybody — and presumably affect where people put their schooling dollars. (Sometimes I think “progressives” are actually afraid of democracy and where it can lead).

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