School Choice & Charters

Success Academy Teacher Disciplines Student in Video Leaked to N.Y. Times

By Arianna Prothero — February 12, 2016 3 min read
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A 1st-grade girl sits next to her teacher in a circle of students, who are arranged in cross-legged positions with hands folded in their laps.

As the teacher tells the girl to try counting again, this time correctly, the girl breaks formation, shifting from side to side.

“Count,” the teacher orders in a low voice.

Barely audible, the girl counts to two before looking back at her teacher. The teacher grabs the girl’s paper, rips it in half, and, with a raised voice, tells her: “Go to the calm-down chair and sit.”

The scene unfolds in a little over a minute-long video recorded secretly by the assistant teacher and leaked to the New York Times.

The teacher, Charlotte Dial, works at a school that is part of the Success Academy charter school network, a political lightning rod in the New York City education debate, as well as the broader debate over charter schools. Dial has been held up as a model teacher at the network and helps with training other teachers, according to the Times.

Success Academy spokeswoman Ann Powell told the Times that Dial had been suspended from the classroom while the network investigated the incident. She has since returned to the classroom, the Times reports.

“We can’t get a fair shake from the so-called paper of record,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz during a press conference Friday. She said that Dial had made a mistake, but had apologized to her students and undergone a week of additional training.

“I’m not going to throw Charlotte Dial under the bus. She has helped hundreds of children thrive and be successful.”

Although Moskowitz has repeatedly called the interaction portrayed in the video an anomaly, the incident has further stoked an ongoing debate over discipline in charter schools—especially those that serve mostly minority and low-income students.

Most Success Academy students are black and Latino and come from poor families. They regularly perform significantly better on state standardized tests than their peers in the New York City public schools. On the one side, critics of the network say that academic achievement comes at too high a cost and accuse Success Academy of using discipline to inflate its test scores by pushing out low-performing students. On the other side, supporters of Success Academy see a union-led witch hunt targeting a success story in the charter movement.

This is the second time in five months that Success Academy has come under scrutiny as a result of a New York Times article. In October, the Times published a story about a Success Academy principal who drew up a “got-to-go” list of disruptive students.

Moskowitz has also been locked in a high-profile standoff with New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, over co-locating Success Academy schools in the city’s district schools. After de Blasio rescinded four co-location agreements in 2014 with the fast-growing network, Moskowitz responded by rallying thousands of supporters in Albany.

For more reaction to the video from Moskowitz, the teacher, Charlotte Dial, and Success Academy parents, read the New York Times story here.

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

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