Thursday, June 22, 2017

NY: Competition, Shmompetition

Eva Moscowitz has some kind of magical power. Maybe it's money or pheremones or some sort of magical aura, but her record in getting New York leaders to roll over and play fetch for her is impressive.

At the beginning of the month, NY court declared that her Success Academy is not accountable to the taxpayers when it comes to her Pre-K program; the city can not hold her to any sort of performance requirement. That flies directly in the face of the old ideal that a charter works by promising the taxpayer certain results and then is held to those results. Not for Moscowitz-- she remains free to do as she pleases.

Lawmakers in Albany handed her another win. Buried amidst new legislation dealing with mayoral control of schools, there is reportedly this nugget:

The SUNY Charter Institute, the regulations read, “acknowledges that many schools and education corporations it oversees that have demonstrated strong student performance have had difficulty hiring teachers certified in accordance with the requirements of the regulations of the commissioner of education.” SUNY is now planning to create “an alternative teacher certification pathway to charter schools.” 

So New York joins the roster of states where anyone with a pulse and a degree can be certified a teacher.

There are many reasons to be annoyed by this. It degrades the teaching profession, codifying that it is a job that literally anybody could do. It thumbs its nose at all the teachers who went to the trouble and expense to get real certification. And it underlines how charter backers often support ideas for charters that they would never accept in the schools attended by their own children.

But I'm also wondering-- what about the competition?

Charters, particularly in markets like NYC, were supposed to spark competition, as each school worked hard to become the very best, to chart new courses to the Land of Excellence. But isn't that supposed to work like a high jump competition? You know-- we keep setting the bar higher and higher and the jumpers improve their skills-- literally up their game-- to meet the new requirements.

This is the opposite. This is "We can't clear the bar at that height, so we'd like the legislature to lower the bar for us." This is "We'll settle for what the leaders of the best schools and the parents who send children to them would never settle for. We will deliberately not live up to that standard."

Competition is allegedly supposed to weed out those who can't cut it. If you can't manage to adequately staff your school, you aren't cutting it.


  1. Peter,

    Valerie Jablow, D.C. ed. blogger, did painstaking research on her city's charter schools' attrition rates, and wrote about it here (she even included a link to an Excel spread sheet of this data that she made):

    Dr. Ravitch convered Jablow's work as well, while pointing out how TFA's Wendy Kopp and others have pointed to D.C.'s charter sector as a national model to be replicated:

    As you see, numerous D.C. charter school attrition rates went from 60-87%.

    Now, if a school has 87% attrition, (or even 60%, like KIPP AIM), that’s not a school in any real sense of the term. It’s the educational equivalent of a fast food joint.

    Nobody can defend that — other than reformers such as Teach For American founder and leader Wendy Kopp, who celebrated the the new reality in D.C.’s schools in her latest book and who who claims schools with such astronomical attrition work just fine. Her inexperienced TFA Corps Members can deliver the highest quality education — even with minimal training, and even though leave after only two years in the classroom.

    Interestingly however, Wendy, as with all her wealthy corporate reformer allies, sends her own kids to a rich kids’ private school with no teacher attrition, or very minimal.

    High teacher turnover...

    For Wendy’s own kids … not so great.

    For “other people’s kids'” … just fine.

    Could you imagine if, say, Campbell Brown brought her kids back to start the school year at Heschel — the rich kids’ private school where they attend — only to discover that
    60-87% of the Heschel’s teachers were gone. When asked what caliber of teachers their $50,000 /year-per-child tuition is going to buy the Brown-Senor family, a Heschel administrator meets with Campbell and responds:


    “Yeah, Ms. Brown-Senor, we know that the Heschel teaching staff has mostly turned over. … * Why? * .. Well, you know … a lot of ’em quit … *A lot of ’em we canned …

    “But hey, don’t you worry! We just hired over 100 teachers from this really awesome group: Teach For America. Now, I know what some of the other parents have been gossiping about. That these novice TFA’s have ZERO teaching experience, having never taught a day in their lives, and they have no degrees in education, nor have they apprenticed as student teachers. In fact, they majored in subjects other than teaching-slash-education, and that they have only just finished a five-week summer training, but hey, we’re sure they’re gonna be just great!”

  2. One more thing about Eva's version of the Warm Body Law. It says that, regarding those teachers with no state-recognized credential or training who will now be allowed to teach more than one year:

    1) It only applies to SUNY-authorized charter schools (3 guesses as to which charter chain SUNY primarily authorizes)

    2) it says that while a Warm Body Law-christened teacher is working, he/she has 5 years to earn a credential, and he/she cannot continue teaching beyond that 5 years without a state credential.

    Well, that fits Eva's paradigm perfectly. She either burns out or cans the vast majority of her staff within just 3 years anyway. The rest move up and become Success Academy principals at age 24-25 --- i.e. the Doogie Howser-ization of charter school administration. (or the Bugsy Malone-ization... does anyone get those references?)

    Since the word is getting out about this typical tenure of a Success Academy teacher, and also about the horrible experiences that Success Academy endure ... i.e. in the media, through word-of-mouth, and on sites like Glassdoor HERE ...

    ... the pool of credentialed teachers --- or uncredentialed teachers, for that matter --- that will choose and tolerate working for Eva has been continually shrinking. Hence, Eva is in desperate need of this latest Warm Body teacher law.

    However, let's say that you're someone who wants a career in teaching, and, out of desperation, will work for a brief time for Eva before moving on to a public school (or any type of school). Well, that's not going to work, as according to a few of the Glassdoor testimonies, Eva and her fellow administrators refuse to give departing Success Academy teachers letters of recommendation that, in pursuit of a post-Success-Academy teaching position, they can present to a potential employer.