Some educators regard the highly publicized Success Academy Charter Schools operation as a godsend for disadvantaged kids. Others believe it subjects its young students to unreasonably harsh discipline.
According to an April 5 New York Times article, “At Success Academy Charter Schools, High Scores and Polarizing Tactics” by Kate Morgan, there are scholastic advantages and generous rewards for kids who toe the mark at Success, but there are also severe punishments for those who fall behind in its race to transform disadvantaged kids into college-bound scholars.
Many feel public education has failed and that nearly anything is worth a try, even the draconian practices at Success Academy. After all, its test scores have been much higher than inner-city public schools in New York City, where the chain operates under the auspices of its millionaire hedge-fund board members.
But the Times article details some serious drawbacks at Success. For one thing, despite the hedge-fund wealth behind the operation, the school has been using public money to fund private schools housed in public buildings, with free rent, security personnel, janitors, water, light and electricity.
Also according to the article, Success does not accept all applicants, has had no foreign-language students, and has swiftly dismissed difficult kids. Not surprisingly, some of the school’s critics think that these policies have contributed to the high grades and test scores for which Success has garnered praise, as it did through the highly publicized film “Waiting for Superman.”
Perhaps worse, some Success schools may have sacrificed the dignity of their students in the drive to turn out college-ready kids.
And in fact, students have repeatedly been singled out for their poor performance. They have routinely been disciplined to sit at attention and maintain excellent eye contact and posture at all times in the class. Reportedly, staff has even gone so far as to praise children who wet their pants to avoid going to the restroom during practice tests. In short, Success schools have been characterized by both students and teachers as grueling for kids throughout the overlong school days that last from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
One statistic in particular bears witness to the Success schools’ approach to education: after a single school year, 64 percent of all the teachers at one school in the chain were not teaching the following year. And despite the good press the Success operation may have received early on, astute critics like Russ Walsh in his April 20, 2015 article, “How Do You Spell Success (Academy)?”, have concluded that what they regard as the failure of the operation to deal compassionately with children at the schools suggests abuse.