The Battle for New York Schools: Eva Moskowitz vs. Mayor Bill de Blasio by Daniel Berger

Moskowitz’s Strategies

  • Success Academies share the following strategies with many other charter schools: uniforms, longer days, a no-excuses policy on homework and behavior, immediate discipline, and an atmosphere of strict order. To this Eva has added a fierce engagement with literature starting in kindergarten with picture books. She seeks to avoid torpid sentences that flood the children’s book market, and sees publishers like Scholastic as part of the problem. At the same time, classroom discussion in any subject and grade should be about 80% in student voices.
  • When selecting teachers she sees intellectual capacity as the main concern. Accordingly, the focus is not teaching teachers to teach, but teaching them to think and read in the deepest way that they then model for students. She refuses to blame public school failure on students, but rather on the adults they face. You can guess how the city’s teachers’ union (The United Federation of Teachers, U.F.T.) feels about this. They have long fought her on all fronts and are the main reason the mayor continues to fight her efforts.

Test Results

  • When it comes to the new state tests that align with the Common Core standards, Success Academy results are nothing less than amazing. Last year 82% tested at or above grade level in math and 58% did so in English. The closest charter competitor scored at 60% and 40%, and most city schools that service similar populations are in single digits. David Levin, CEO of KIPP schools, states that “I’m blow away by the quality of teaching and learning. What is inspiring is the intentionality of what the teacher is doing. And even more impressive is the intentionality of the kids during discussions about books or during problem-solving in math.”

Liberals vs. Charters

  • In spite of the results of the Success Academies, charters haven’t proven to be a panacea. Critics like Diane Ravitch see the movement as undermining the public’s commitment to public schools. Liberals in general don’t like what they see when businesses and wealthy donors provide funding for charters. For charter opponents, liberalism is in jeopardy. From this perspective, Moskowitz, with her results and her readiness to trumpet them poses a great risk. This lies near the heart of mayor de Blasio’s aversion to charters and his attacks on Moskowitz’s schools. There is also the protest from public schools with help from the U.F.T. about the fact that when charters share buildings with public schools, crowding can occur. The union has resorted to packing community meetings, heckling and spitting at Moskowitz, and bringing lawsuits. Their resistance to other charter networks has been much more tepid.
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