A Missed Chance To Press Charter School Leader About Exclusionary Policy

Last week at the Atlantic/Aspen New York Ideas Festival, journalist Amanda Ripley (right) interviewed Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz (left).

A former City Council member and possible mayoral candidate, Moskowitz is a lightning rod for charter school critics and has expanded her charter network outside of low-income, high minority neighborhoods that charters typically serve. A reluctant education reporter, Ripley wrote a book comparing US education to other nations titled The Smartest Kids in the World and is a fellow at the Emerson Collective.

By and large, the 20-minute interview is a predictably friendly affair. Moskowitz talks about how her teachers present challenging materials to kids rather than boring them, and tries to share its methods with district schools but doesn’t get much interest from NYCDOE types including Chancellor Carmen Farina.

At the 16 minute mark, Ripley asks about the network’s eye-popping 11 percent suspension rate, which is nearly three times as high as the rest of the city, but she doesn’t ask about the 22-school network’s refusal to “backfill” (add students to classes to replace departures).

Schools that don’t backfill their classes during the year (or even between years) aren’t playing by the same rules as neighborhood district schools who take kids pretty much any time, are limiting waitlisted students’ chances to get into a school of their choice, and inflating test scores (because lower-performing students tend to be the ones who drop out or seek mid-year changes).

The issue has long been highlighted by reform critics, but has recently been flagged by a pro-charter group called Democracy Builders.  Read about it at Capital New York. Backfill is also being raised by teachers unions who oppose adding more charters in New York.

In addition to the student suspension question, I would have loved it if Ripley had asked Moskowitz to defend the network’s policy, or pressed her about differences between Success Academy’s policy and other charter networks.

Watch the segment above or click the link if it doesn’t load: How Will Charter Schools Change New York Education.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.