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New York Daily News

 

Eva Moskowitz for New York City Schools Chancellor

October 14, 2013

By Charles Upton Sahm

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Diane Ravitch made the suggestion mockingly but all city public schools could learn from what Success Academies have accomplished

Mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio cites education scholar Diane Ravitch as an inspiration, and Ravtich has enthusiastically endorsed de Blasio. So perhaps de Blasio should take Ravitch’s advice and, if elected, appoint Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academy network of charter schools, as the next schools chancellor.

When Brian Lehrer interviewed Ravitch on his WNYC radio show last month, he mentioned how Moskowitz’s schools outperformed almost all other public schools and asked if they should be considered a model.

Ravtich responded: "I think that Eva Moskowitz needs to take over an entire school district so that she can show what she can do when she takes all the kids. The kids with disabilities. The kids who don’t read or speak English. That would be a proof of her methods."

Ravitch was trying to smear Moskowitz by suggesting that Success schools’ success is due to the fact that they "skim" the best students (a theory not borne out by close analysis of the evidence). But Ravitch’s proposal actually merits serious consideration by de Blasio (or Joe Lhota).

The idea might seem far-fetched: De Blasio has gone after Moskowitz personally during the campaign and Moskowitz has responded in kind. And the teachers’ union would surely not be happy. But de Blasio could do worse than take a page from Lincoln’s "Team of Rivals" approach and consider appointing someone with such an outstanding track record.

It’s undeniable that Moskowitz gets results. On the rigorous new state tests, Success Academy students boasted pass rates of 82% in math and 58% in English-dramatically outperforming the city, state and neighboring schools. If the 14 Success schools were grouped together as one school, it would rank among the top 1% of all New York schools in math and the top 7% in English.

And, despite critics’ insistence, they do this with heavily minority and low-income student populations. The key is a rigorous school culture, intensive teacher development, longer school day and year and a laser-like focus on curriculum.

Even her critics agree that Moskowitz is a very good manager. They often complain: She got the PCB-ridden light fixtures out of her classrooms, why can’t our school? She took over an unused courtyard and turned it into a beautiful greenhouse, why can’t our school? She gave the classrooms and hallways a new coat of paint, why can’t our school?

Well, what if Eva were in charge of all the schools?

De Blasio says he wants students to be exposed to richer curriculum that includes the arts. At Success Academies, all students participate in art, chess, sports, and cultural enrichment activities. There is a particular emphasis on science: Every student, beginning in kindergarten, takes a full-period, experiment-based science class every day. No wonder 100% of all Success Academy scholars passed the 2013 state science exam, the majority scoring an advanced rating, the highest possible.

Instead of denigrating Moskowitz, de Blasio should be asking: What lessons can we learn from the success of her schools? How can we incorporate the basic tenets of her schools more instructional time, high-quality teachers, use of data to drive instruction and extra help for those students who fall behind, parent involvement, a culture of discipline, rigor, and high expectations in all schools? (Some of these reforms would require modifications to the teachers’ contract, but perhaps de Blasio could convince the union to reimagine what is possible.)

The original idea behind charters was that they would serve as laboratories of innovation that would help inform and reform practices in regular public schools. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out that way, and the relationship between charters and traditional public schools has become one of competition and acrimony. The truth is that education, like so many issues these days, has become needlessly polarized.

It’s time for a truce in the ed wars. It could start with de Blasio paying a visit to a Success Academy school to see what can be gleaned from its remarkable record of achievement. And maybe if de Blasio appoints Moskowitz as schools chancellor, and Moskowitz accepts, it could usher in a new era of reform. An era of cooperation and collaboration centered on one simple question: What works best for kids?

Original Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/eva-moskowitz-new-york-city-schools-chancellor-article-1.1484821

 

 
 
 

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