Detroit Public Schools, Education, Eva Moskowitz — December 9, 2017 at 2:17 pm

The Educational Malpractice of Ms. Moskowitz


Elizabeth Green, the founder of “Chalkbeat,” an online education site, is out with a fawning, sycophantic puff piece on Eva Moskowitz, the leader of the Success Academy network of charter schools in New York City. Some of my favorite edubloggers have already responded with their thoughts (Peter Greene, aka Curmudgication; Mercedes Schneider here), so I’ll make my comments on this “article” brief…

  1. Eva Moskowitz is not an “education leader”. When your approach to teaching children is based on union busting; hiring unqualified, uncertified edutourists instead of real teachers; draconian and abusive disciplinary policies; and substituting canned curricula and standardized test prep for actual curriculum content taught creatively and relevantly by certified professionals who are committed to their careers, you’re not a school “leader”.
    You’re a school arsonist.
  2. Whether you like it or not, Eva—and Elizabeth—charters are *technically* public schools. So if you want to congratulate yourselves on this “bold new experiment in saving education,” try doing it without public tax dollars, then get back to me.
  3. I’m still trying to understand what’s so “innovative” about Ms. Moskowitz’s approach to teaching. Is it innovative for your “model teachers” to scream at little kids when they act like…little kids? Is it innovative to expel more students of color than your neighborhood public schools do? Is it innovative to be against “poor kids…get(ting) medical, nutritional and other services at school“? I’m struggling with how anyone, including Ms. Green, could consider Eva Moskowitz’s approach at Success Academy to be innovative–but then, I’ve only been teaching for 37 years, and attended a state university for my undergraduate degree in education.
  4. I am beyond tired—beyond exhausted, really—of persons who have never taught anyone anything lecturing the rest of us who have about what we are doing wrong, how stupid we are, how lazy we are, and how they know better than we do when it comes to everything about teaching and learning. How about this, Eva and Elizabeth?–instead of pontificating about things you are equally arrogant and ignorant of, why don’t you each go back to school, get an education degree, or two, or three, get certified, do an internship (for free–in fact, pay a bunch of money to do so), or two, or three, then see if you can find a job in a school. Then, teach.I don’t care what you teach; what grade level; what subject. But stick it out for at least a school year. Write your lesson plans. Grade your papers and projects. Go to all of those grade level meetings, and IEP meetings, and school board meetings, and budget negotiation meetings, and union meetings, and curriculum revision meetings, and curriculum re-revision meetings, and teacher evaluation meetings, and “special area” meetings, and state department of education meetings, and professional development in-services, and parent-teacher conferences, and open houses, and attend all those concerts, and football games, and dance recitals, and basketball games, and soccer matches, and lacrosse games, and honor band concerts, and school musicals, and tennis matches, and plays, and debates, and quiz bowl competitions, and marching band shows, and cheerleading competitions, and swim meets.Then do it all 10, or 20, or 30 more times, and let me know how you feel about someone who never did ANY of these things, even for a “few lessons“, telling you how stupid, and lazy you are, and how you’re being a “defender of the status quo” if you’re not really excited to immediately implement their “radical, disruptive” ideas about how to “save public education.”
  5. If this quote doesn’t raise your eyebrows, something is wrong with you: I had visited impressive schools before, but none quite like this one. The kids, who congregated in a corner of a large public-school building on West 118th Street. Here’s why–what Ms. Green is describing here is known as “co-location”. This is the practice of a charter school setting up shop in a traditional public school (TPS), taking advantage of the school district’s facilities, utilities, maintenance staff, and other services, and then often expelling the kids who are more difficult (read: expensive) to teach, sending them back to the TPS, and keeping those sweet, delicious public tax dollars. Don’t believe this happens? Read on

    In addition to having a greater ability to be selective in admitting students, charters also have a much greater ability to aggressively “counsel out” students who are performing worse. A study by the city’s Independent Budget Office found that 80% of charter school students with special needs left the school within three years, compared to 50% of their traditional public school counterparts, raising the question over whether charters pushed out these students. Some parents of charter school special needs students say their children did not get state-mandated help, which charter schools deny or sometimes argue is due to a lack of resources, but skeptics think is done to intentionally sabotage these students so they will transfer out before they can drag down student test score averages.

  6. Treating young black and Hispanic children as interchangeable widgets (Eva can call them “scholars” all she likes, but if you check out some video of how Success Academy “teachers” treat their students, you’ll think “widgets,” too), stamping out any shred of excitement about learning, and replacing natural curiosity and exuberance with regimentation, unnecessary “strictness”, and military-like rules and regulations, is not a “classroom management approach”—it’s institutionalized racism. Pure and simple.

  1. How big should Success get? She doesn’t specify, but says that “maybe a public school system consisting principally of charter schools would be an improvement.”
    Um, maybe ask the folks in New Orleans and Detroit how that’s worked out for them, Elizabeth. I mean, it’s not like we don’t know that these “Achievement School Districts”, or “portfolio management school systems” have been a disaster wherever they’ve been tried. Why the lies?
  2. Ms. Green writes this sentence, which disqualifies her from further consideration of credibility: Of all the reforms that have set out to free schools from this trap, to date I’ve seen only one that works: the implementation of charter-school networks.
    If Ms. Moskowitz’s charter network has been so successful, why hasn’t it been “scaled up” (another bit of “charter jargon” I really hate) successfully in other places? Because it doesn’t work–it actively targets children of color and expels these students disproportionately–and it isn’t actually working in NYC, either
  3. Pet Peeve #43: Don’t use the term “teacher training.” We “train” dogs; we “prepare” teachers. When you use that term it tells us you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, and have zero respect for teachers or the profession of teaching. Just stop it.

That’s all for now. I’m off to dream up my radical new solutions to our country’s failing* health care, intelligence, and military systems. I don’t have a scintilla of experience in any of these disciplines, but who knows? Maybe The Atlantic will publish my articles, too!

* not really failing