The annual PARCC assessment is underway. The Performance Assessment for Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) is a multi-state assessment designed to provide “better information for teachers and parents to identify where a student needs help, or is excelling, so they are able to enhance instruction to meet individual student needs”(parcconline.org).
I don’t want to get in to the discussion about what PARCC is or isn’t, but I will note some of the flaws: It is only one measure of student achievement, it is not an efficient way to identify where students need help, teachers are not allowed to see test questions (for obvious reasons) to offer prescriptive assistance to individual students, and even so, by the time teachers get test scores back their students have moved on to the next grade. So I’m not sure how it provides better information for teachers and parents, or enhances instruction to meet individual student needs. But that’s not what I want to write about today.
There has been controversy over the “Opt Out” movement from the last few years in which parents are choosing to have their children opt out of PARCC testing, seeing little value to the testing. New York had the largest percentage (20%) of students who opted out last year (Washington Post). New Jersey just passed a bill which will reverse a decision to require PARCC for graduation. But that’s not what I want to write about today.
As many parents, teachers, and students across the country are considering whether or not to opt out of the testing as they see little value in the results compared to the cost, and the loss of instructional time to prepare, one charter school director is doing something very different.
Today I am writing about Eva Moskowitz, Director of Success Academy, a charter school chain in New York City. There has been plenty of press about Moskowitz over the years- I’ll summarize. She was briefly considered for the Secretary of Education, supports Trumps move to increase charters (currently she has 41 Success Academies in NYC with 3 more in the works), and fully supports Betsy DeVos. Additionally, Moskowitz has faced scrutiny on how she runs her charters. While boasting high test scores, Success Academy has also been criticized for aggressive teaching tactics.
One more thing- “Success Academy reported $49 million in net assets in 2014 and received at least $35 million from hedge fund billionaires in 2016 (Daily News).
Why am I writing about her? On March 24, 2017 Moskowitz and her students will be taking over Radio City Music Hall for the annual “Slam the Exam” rally. Apparently she has outgrown previous venues, and rented Radio City to hold roughly 3,600 Success Academy students. The aim of the event is to help reduce test anxiety.
According to the New York Daily News, “The charter network’s dance team will perform, school officials will present awards to students for academic excellence and Moskowitz will deliver a keynote speech”(Daily News).
Moskowitz is a strong proponent of the PARCC assessment. This is revealed in the words of a nine year old Success student who said, “We’ve been preparing very hard. Everyone is counting on us” (Daily News). This is also revealed in the cost of the pep rally. No one at the Academy would say exactly how much she paid for the venue, but they were clear they’re only paying labor costs, and no one will profit from this arrangement. Word on the street is in 2015 she spent roughly $750,000 on the event-including the venue, busing, lunches and T-shirts.
While Success Academy is not the only school offering testing incentives (raffles and parties for perfect attendance on testing days), Moskowitz by far has spent the largest amount of money.
Imagine what $750,00o could do for a few low-income schools in New York City – services, books, technology, special education teachers, arts, music, STEM programs.
Now imagine this administration supporting the increase of vouchers and unregulated charters so public money can be spent on pep rallies, buses, lunches and T-shirts.
I just can’t.
These are my reflections for today.