Education Funding

Success Academy One of Three Finalists for Broad Prize for Charter Schools

By Arianna Prothero — May 18, 2016 3 min read
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New York City-based Success Academy is a finalist for the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, a prestigious award for charter management organizations.

This is the first year that Success Academy—which has been at the center of highly-politicized debates in New York City over special education and discipline in charter schools—has been eligible for the award.

The other two finalists, both based in Texas, are familiar names: Yes Prep Public Schools, which won the inaugural Broad Prize, and IDEA Public Schools, which was a finalist for the award last year.

Funded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the annual award recognizes charter management organizations in urban areas for closing achievement gaps between minority and low-income students and their higher-income peers. Finalists are selected based on student performance and college readiness data.

(The Broad Foundation helps support Education Week’s coverage of policy, government and politics, and systems leadership. Christopher B. Swanson, the vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corportion that publishes Education Week, is a member of the review board for the Broad Prize for public charter schools.)

The winner, which will be announced at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in June, receives $250,000 to spend on college-readiness efforts for its students, such as scholarships and campus visits.

Philanthropy dollars from foundations such as Broad and the Walton Family Foundation have been central to the growth of charter management organizations in urban areas aimed at getting low-income students into college. But with the rise of CMOs has also come a debate over whether some such schools rely too heavily on strict rules and exclusionary discipline.

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Success Academy, which includes 34 schools, is in many ways a microcosm for that argument. Its schools are some of the highest-performing in the state and serve mostly low-income minority students.

But critics say the network pushes out harder-to-educate students to inflate its test scores—a long-standing accusation revived recently by a video leaked to The New York Times in February showing a teacher harshly disciplining a young student, and a list of “Got-to-Go” students a principal drew up, which was leaked to the Times in October.

Several parents, with the help of legal aid groups, also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights against Success Academy in January, claiming that the network is violating the rights of students with disabilities.

The network’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, passionately defends her schools, saying the video and the list leaked to the Times were anomalies, and that the Times has been ignoring more serious accusations of abuse within district schools.

Another group of parents along with a charter advocacy group recently sued the New York City Department of Education and Chancellor Carmen Fariña, alleging that unchecked problems with violence and bullying have created an unsuitable learning environment for students in district schools.

On the opposite coast, the Broad Foundation also recently found itself in the middle of a media frenzy stirred up by a leak when, last October, The Los Angeles Times obtained and published an early draft of a plan to greatly expand the number of charter schools in the city.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.