After years of trying to improve public education in New York City Eva Moskowitz threw in the towel, but she didn’t walk away.
Instead, the former New York City Council member decided that if her efforts inside the system weren’t working she would work from the outside.
Moskowitz, author of the new book, “Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School,”
tells Newsmax.TV that she “spent about seven years trying to get the monopoly of public education to improve.
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“I looked at art and special ed. and science and math instruction. I looked at all the operational issues. And I was able to maybe move the needle five percent on a good day,” she said.
“But it became very, very clear to me that there had been waves of reform for the last half century and that that just wasn’t cutting it fast enough … and so instead of trying to fix what was wrong, I thought what about trying to get it right from the get go. And that’s why I founded the first Success Academy in August 2006.”
Success Academies are charter schools and there are currently 14 operating in New York City with nearly 4,900 students enrolled in kindergarten through 7th grade. According to their website, the organization plans to open six new schools in August of 2013. One of the hallmarks of the schools is the requirement that parents be actively involved.
“We place an enormous amount of emphasis that the adults are responsible for the quantity and quality of student learning and that if the adults don’t have ownership over student learning then it will not happen at a high level,” she said.
“And that requires an enormous investment in the adult. We do an enormous amount of training at our schools. Teachers come about four weeks before the kids do and during the course of the first two years that a teacher joins our organization, she or he has minimally six months of training during that two year period. But we also, while we invest in the adults and their development, we also hold the adults highly accountable for student outcomes.”
The schools do not let the students off the hook either.
“One of the core principles of the book is that the fastest and cheapest and easiest way to improve your instruction or school or district is to up the rigor bar,” she said. “We have, in this country, underestimated children intellectually. They are short but they are not stupid.
“Our children are incredibly smart and we have to up our intellectual game and the kids will rise to our expectation, and that doesn’t cost any money to raise the rigor bar," she said. "It’s a question of our attitude toward children and what they’re capable of. So one of the solutions in the book, one of the major pieces of advice in the book, is that schools across America need to become much more rigorous.”
The methods have been paying off. In 2009, in New York State’s standardized tests in math and English only 31 other schools scored higher than Success Academy.
Moskowitz bemoans the fact “education is not as prominent in the national campaign” as she would like.
“We are in a crisis in this country and I think a lot of people think of the crisis in American public education as being limited to urban areas or the least advantaged members of society,” she said.
“We see the problems of education as a sort of poor person’s problem. It actually goes far beyond that. All the international data indicate that even our highest performing students in American across the nation perform far more poorly than the lowest performing or middle performing kids across the world. And we are going to be losing the international education race very, very shortly if we do not turn this country around.”
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