Friday, December 15, 2017


Yesterday while reading Ed Notes, I was intrigued by part of Andrea Gabor's AlterNet article that went into great detail to criticize Elizabeth Green's puff piece praising Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy.

While Moskowitz uses harsh, rigid discipline to motivate her scholars (students) and then councils out those who can't cope with such rigid methods, another group of public schools is doing quite well by taking the completely opposite approach.

Here is part of Gabor's piece:

Charter advocates ignore public-school success stories hiding in plain sight
Forty years ago, it was the successful reforms initiated by Tony Alvarado, best known for his superintendency of New York City’s District 2 and 4, and the founding of the small-, progressive-schools movement by Debbie Meier, the first educator to win a MacArthur genius grant, that grabbed education-reform headlines. It was that movement Sy Fliegel wrote about in his book A Miracle in Harlem.

That experiment lives on in the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of schools that has won exemptions from standardized tests, but that has racked up far higher graduation rates and college matriculation rates than traditional public schools. Among students who started a consortium high school in 2010, 77 percent graduated in four years, versus 68 percent for all New York City students. (The vast majority of consortium schools are in New York City.) Among those who became high school freshmen in 2008, 82 percent graduated by 2014, compared with 73 percent citywide.

Green’s Chalkbeat published this about the consortium schools: “The graduation rates are especially high for students with disabilities and English language learners. Nearly 70 percent of ELLs in consortium schools graduate on time, according to the report, compared to about 40 percent across the city. And half of students with disabilities in the consortium schools graduate on time, compared with fewer than a quarter citywide.”

Today there are close to 40 consortium high schools, the vast majority in New York City. In addition, there are numerous elementary- and middle-schools that emulate the consortium schools—comprising an informal network that is far larger, and of longer duration, than Success Academy.

My question for Elizabeth Green: Why does she rate Success Academy above the consortium high schools, and their like-minded elementary and middle schools, especially given that they have survived, indeed thrived, despite the very bureaucracy that Green, rightly, decries?

The consortium and like-minded schools are noteworthy in other respects: Whereas urban charter networks like Success Academy traditionally have been highly segregated, consortium schools aimed to integrate their classrooms from the beginning, and were successful. Nor do consortium schools engage in creaming.

What makes these schools successful is not only their progressive pedagogy, but also they’re collaborative approach to school improvement—one that gives voice to both teachers and students.

I can back up Gabor 100% after spending three years at Middle College High School. We have a collaborative atmosphere between staff and administration. Our kids generally do well at LaGuardia Community College where they take classes throughout their high school years. We don't "cream" either as many of our students have IEP's.

I'm not sure if the consortium model could be scaled up but I would definitely like to see it expanded, including into some larger high schools. Consortium schools do have a working formula. It is a reasonable alternative to the charters.


Highly Effective King Clovis said...

Having visited some consortium schools, I wonder why there aren't more of them. Sure, some are more successful than others. I was at Eastsude Conmunity High School last year and was amazed at the level of the kids and the diversity. Every student was expected to do independent reading and yeah, building from a base of reading, that makes sense.

James Eterno said...

The system can be manipulated without accountability of Regents but if done right in a supportive environment, the consortium model works. They should try it in a larger setting to see if it can scale up. Thanks for comment King clovis.