Open Letter to NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña
Dear Chancellor Fariña,
I was saddened and disappointed, on behalf of the students, families, and teachers of Success Academy Harlem 5, that once again you have found it necessary to misrepresent our schools.
Yesterday, while touring reporters through PS 123, which shares a building with Success Academy Harlem 5, you were quoted by Capital New York as explaining the discrepancy in math and English proficiency at the two schools (96% passing math and 68% passing English at Success Academy, vs. 4% and 8% at PS 123) in this way:
“This is a zoned school,” Fariña said. “They take every child who lives in the neighborhood and they have to do what they do with those students.”
“Charter schools use another system, just the fact that it’s a lottery means parents have to go the extra mile,” Fariña added, echoing remarks about charter school enrollment that landed her in trouble with charter advocates last year. “I don’t want to get into apples and oranges, but it’s definitely apples and oranges. We would like to be at that [Success’] percentage, but we keep all our kids from the day they walk into the building.” [emphasis added]
Rather than celebrate the hard work of dedicated teachers and principals who have achieved remarkable results in a disadvantaged neighborhood, you instead disparaged their efforts – and the efforts of our hardworking children and parents – with accusations that have again and again been proven false.
Chancellor, the fact is that half the kindergarten parents in the PS 123 zone have applied to Success Academy’s random lottery — not a select few going the extra mile, but 50% of the population. Last year, Success Academy Harlem 5 retained 94% of its students while, at PS 123, 24% of the students enrolled in 2010 had left by 2011. Which school is keeping more of the kids from the day they walk into the building?
Our students succeed not because they start with advantages, but because of the education they receive. Students with disabilities at Success Academy Harlem 5 outperform general-education students at PS 123, with 90% passing math. Of Success Academy students in Harlem who are classified by the state as homeless, 70% pass math – 14 times as many as all PS 123 students.
It has long been one of my goals to share our best practices, which is why we open our doors and offer professional development to educators both inside and outside the charter sector. In fact, one session in October – held, coincidentally, at Success Academy Harlem 5 – drew a number of DOE principals. But for some reason, rather than seek to work together, you denigrate our school communities with accusations that are false.
You have claimed that Success Academy throws out struggling kids to boost our test scores. But given our test scores and the number of students we have, getting the results we do with the method you claim would be mathematically impossible. Not to mention that we have student retention rates much higher than those at our co-located district schools.
You have claimed that Success Academy does not help children with special needs – which is refuted by the results listed above.
You have claimed that we send “postcards” to high-performing students to get them to enter our lottery – a particularly ludicrous allegation, since our incoming kindergarteners and first graders have never taken a test, and any mailing list of children ranked by test scores would have to come from your own office, which would mean a serious breach of confidentiality.
Chancellor, you and I are educators. We share a passion for children and learning and want all students to succeed. You have spoken eloquently about the need for collaboration and cooperation among co-located schools, and I wholeheartedly agree. You are supposed to be chancellor of all city school children, including the 9,000 kids who attend the 32 Success Academy schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. Yet your rhetoric has been nothing but dismissive of Success Academy and our students, and you have played fast and loose with the facts.
I urge you to put aside any personal animus and negative views of public charter schools and stop maligning the great worth of Success Academy educators. Our principals and teachers, our scholars and families would greatly appreciate it.
Founder and CEO
Success Academy Charter Schools