By Stanley Crouch
When looking at the statistics for the Harlem Educational Activities Fund and Success Academy Charter Schools, two public education efforts in New York City — one a supplement to the system, the other a constellation of charter schools — we see how well things can be done by leaders and teachers who make themselves indispensable to their young charges.
They do that, in part, by using objective measures to evaluate their students — and refining their methods when the efforts fall short. They are not swayed by dubious political battles that too often distract us from what should be the fundamental and unchanging objective: reaching effectively across the lines of class, color, religion and gender to achieve real learning.
Our nation needs such people, and such organizations, if we are going to compete against countries like India and China. The same old schools, fighting their same old battles, will only leave our children further and further behind. Essentially, quality education is as important to the citizenry today as quality medicine.
The briefest look at modern medicine shows that, for all of the failures and all of the mistakes, all of the snake oil and incompetence, our unrivaled ability today to diagnose, cure and prevent disease makes us better off than we have ever been.
Now’s the time for our schools.
That is exactly why the numbers for HEAF and the Success schools provide us with substantial morale. They quite simply prove that good education can work anywhere, with anyone.
Eva Moskowitz started her charter network in Harlem, to show critics what she can do with so-called disadvantaged children. The city recently released standardized test data for grades 3 through 8, and the kids in Success Academy schools easily outdid their public school peers, where union rules make it hard to retain the best teachers — and fire the worst.
While citywide 47% of kids were at or above grade level in English and 60% in math, the kids at four Harlem Success Academy schools did much better, with 80% at or above grade level in English and a whopping 95% in math. These schools are 99% black or Latino, with 80% of the students on free or reduced lunch.
Moskowitz said in a statement: “I could not be more proud of our teachers, leaders, scholars and parents who collectively work their hearts out every day to show the heights that all children can reach in the classroom. They are showing that we can not only narrow the achievement gap, we can shatter it through a combination of excellent teacher training, rigorous and well-rounded curricula and time in the day to allow kids to just be kids.”
HEAF also does what is an astonishingly successful job. It serves students beginning in the sixth grade with after-school, weekend and summer programs and stays with them until they graduate college.
All of its participating students graduate from high school, while 98% enroll in college and 95% graduate — far above national numbers that have only about 70% of American students graduating high school.
So I salute educators like Eva Moskowitz. They are leading the way by proving that our population always remains our most valuable resource. School leaders like Moskowitz dedicate themselves to facts that are able to overshadow all meaningless whining and cynicism about our children.
They know that realized potential, astute self-criticism, imagination and consistency will save the day — not all the time but often enough to heat the shared morale that underlies our civilization.