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Who's In Charge?

by Susan Ohanian

I post the article below because it brings to mind the time Ms Moskowitz publicly insulted me while we were both standing at the dais as participants in a conference at Queens College. I had shared Michael's asparagus letter because I do that every chance I get.

I offer Michael's asparagus letter (13) every chance I get.

When I announced to my 7th and 8th graders, who tested out below the 20th percentile in reading, that we were going to exchange notes every day, kids looked at me like I was nuts. Why would they write me a note when I was always standing right there? And Michael was the loudest complainer. Michael had been told since first grade that he had a severe reading dysfunction and certainly the signs were all there. But there was a whole lot more to him than these glitches.

It didn't take long before Michael was a devoted note writer. The lure was when a kid wrote a note, he got one back. During the winter, as I complained a lot about shoveling sidewalks, Michael's notes advised me, "I just take the months as thae come."

As spring approached I began mentioning that for me the first sign of spring was the asparagus ads in the newspaper. Kids thought this was a hoot--Asparagus! Such a typical teacher obsession.

But they also began tearing ads out of the daily newspapers that were omnipresent in the room and leaving these ads on my desk--who could find the best asparagus buy for Ms O.

Michael won.

Dear Mrs. O,

As you no I want to Boston firday. It was a lot fo fun. Wen I first got to Boston we drov aron looking for a parking plas. We fon one and then we got out of the car. We walkt to a fance market and had a bite to aet.

Then we went to the aquarium and that was eciting. There was a show with dolphins and seals. Wan we got out we want by a fruit markt. I thogt of you and chekt the pric or asprgus. It is $1.00 a lb in Boston and 3 heds of letis for $1.00. Boston is a long way to go for asprgus tho.

Your frend,

Every time I talk to teachers I show them Michael's letter. I don't have to explain things or apologize for the spelling. Anyone who cannot look beyond Michael's rotten spelling and see the humor and wit, the responsiveness to audience (Imagine a seventh-grade rotten reader going to this trouble for a teacher! Michael told me his fmaily thought he was nuts when he said he had an urgent need to go into a vegetable market for Mrs. O), should not be making decisions about children's learning.

Every time I show teachers Michael's letter, the response is delight and admiration for the wonderful letter it is.

Not Eva Moskowitz. She took the microphone and sneered, "Some of us care about spelling."

I wrote a book about Michael and his classmates: Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum, in which I share a great story about Michael's post-school career. I'll just say here that Michael was my student in 7th and 8th grades and when he graduated from 8th grade, his mother wrote me a beautiful letter:

I was going to call to thank you for everything. But Michael urged me to write a letter. He said when you're going to say something important, you should write a letter.

Co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker has explained how Paulson made nearly a billion off the US taxpayer on credit default swaps: The Multiple Scams of Goldman Sachs. Paulson's gift to Success Academy is about half of what he paid Goldman Sachs for its services on the credit default swap deal. And endowing the Alan Greenspan Chair in Economics at NYU cost him $20 million.

Dirty money goes with dirty pedagogy.

Success Academy Gets $8.5 Million to Add Charter Schools in New York City

by Kate Taylor

Success Academy, the fast-growing network of sought-after charter schools, announced on Thursday that it had received an $8.5 million gift to add schools in New York City.

By helping Success Academy continue its expansion, the gift, from the hedge fund manager John Paulson and his wife, Jenny, could add pressure on the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to find space for the new schools or to pay toward their rent.

Success Academy, which was founded in 2006 by Eva S. Moskowitz, a former member of the City Council, is known for its high student test scores, as well as its sometimes polarizing methods. The network will have 34 schools as of this fall, but there appears to be enough demand for it to grow. This year it received more than 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 seats.

Ms. Moskowitz has plans to grow to 70 schools within five or six years, and last year, she said she would like to have 100 schools within 10 years.

Her aspirations got a boost this year when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators agreed to increase the limit on the number of charter schools in the city by 25 to 279.

But Success Academy's growth has posed a problem for the de Blasio administration. Under a law passed last year in Albany, the city will have to either find space for the new schools in public school buildings or pay a portion of their rent.

Mr. de Blasio is a critic of charter schools and said that as mayor he would halt the practice of giving them free space. But when, not quite three months into his tenure, he sought to block three Success Academy schools from getting space in public school buildings, a group of charter-school supporters financed a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign criticizing him. The mayor ultimately backed down.

Asked if the city would be able to provide space for all the schools Success wants to open, Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said only, "There's a clear and fair process in place for any school to seek space in D.O.E. buildings or to apply for public support to secure private space."

Test scores of Success Academy students far exceed the average scores of students in regular public schools and have drawn the attention of wealthy philanthropists who see Success as delivering good results for their investment. Across the network last year, 94 percent of students in third through eighth grades passed the state math tests, and 64 percent passed the state reading tests. In the city's regular public schools, 35 percent of students passed the math tests, and 29 percent passed the reading.

The network raised $28 million in private donations in the year that ended in June 2014. (Success says it uses the private money only for the start-up costs of new schools, not for the operations of schools that have reached their planned size.) Some of Success Academy's supporters have also given money to advocacy groups that in the past two years have spent millions of dollars on lobbying in Albany to increase the number of charter schools.

Mr. Paulson said in an interview that, given the dismal performance of some of the city's schools, the city should allow Success to expand as rapidly as possible.

"The underperforming schools are underperforming by a fairly wide margin, and that is sort of dooming these children to a life of potential misery," he said. "Success has a model that completely reverses the outcome for these children."

"We should really, irrespective of politics or political affiliation, do all we can --unless the existing schools can raise their standards -- just to move as many resources as we can to Success to allow them to help these children," he added.

If Success Academy grows as rapidly as Ms. Moskowitz envisions, and if the cap on New York City charter schools remains in place or is increased only slightly, her network, already the largest in the city, could dominate the sector, which would leave less room for charter schools with different approaches.

— Kate Taylor with Ohanian comment
New York Times





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