Success Academy, New York City’s booming—and at times controversial—network of charter schools, has been awarded the charter sector’s most prestigious prize.
Success Academy was selected over networks based in Colorado and Texas for the sixth annual Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, which recognizes nonprofit charter networks that are aggressively closing academic achievement gaps between low-income students and their wealthier peers.
But the network, the largest in the city with 41 schools and 14,000 students, has also been at the center of heated debate over special education and discipline in charter schools.
Critics of Success Academy have long claimed that it uses strict codes of conduct and discipline policies to push out harder-to-educate students which, in turn, boost its test scores.
But as the Broad Prize review board notes, Success Academy’s students, the vast majority of whom are low-income students of color, do really well academically. All of the network’s schools ranked in the top 10 percent in New York state for their performance in English, math, and science.
“As a nation, we must do more to close persistent gaps in opportunity and achievement that, too often, separate students of color and students from low-income families from their more advantaged peers. Success Academy has been successful in closing those gaps,” said John B. King, Jr., the former U.S. secretary of education under President Obama, in a statement. King is also the president and CEO of The Education Trust and a member of The Broad Prize review board.
Success Academy Controversies
A little over a year ago, the network was the focus of two New York Times exposés. In the first, a school principal drew up a list of “got-to-go” students which was leaked to the Times. A few months later, a video that showed a teacher harshly disciplining a young student was provided to the Times.
Around the same time, a group of parents filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights against the network, claiming that it was violating the rights of students with disabilities.
Success Academy’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, a highly political figure in New York City’s education scene, is a passionate and combative defender of her schools. She has led rallies in the thousands in both New York City and in the state capitol, protesting restrictions on charter school growth.
A former city council member, Moskowitz has publicly clashed for years with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio over charter school expansion in the city. The network, which has grown to over 40 schools in just 10 years with no plans to slow down, has a voracious need for space, and often ends up co-locating with local district schools—arrangements which are often fraught.
Moskowitz was also courted by the Trump administration as a possible secretary of education, but the job ultimately went to Betsy DeVos.
The Broad Prize
The Broad Prize was created by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The Broad’s are well-known and well-heeled charter school advocates based in Los Angeles.
As the winner of the Broad Prize, Success Academy will receive $250,000 to put toward college readiness efforts for its students. Success Academy was a finalist for the prize last year. The other two finalists for this year’s prize were the Colorado-based DSST Public Charters and the Texas-based Harmony Public Schools.
The winner was announced at this year’s National Charter Schools Conference hosted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the country’s largest charter advocacy group.
- DeVos, Philanthropist Heavyweights to Speak at Charter Schools Conference
- Los Angeles Offers Playbook for Charter School Expansion Efforts Nationally
- Trump’s Budget Disappoints Many School Choice Advocates Too
Photo: Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz accepts the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools at the National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.