Quixotic, Herculean Diane Ravitch takes on claims by charter-school maven Eva Moskowitz that her schools (Success Academy) achieve greater success than public schools, with school #4 the "highest performing school in New York State..." in 5th-grade math:
On the fifth grade state math test, the students at Success Academy 4 are, in fact, #8 in New York City (tied with another school) and presumably even lower when compared to schools across the state. The fourth grade math test scoresare #54 in New York City (tied with six other schools). The third grade math scores rank #63 in New York City (tied with 6 other schools). The school’s rankings are even worse in English. The fifth grade English test scores rank #59 in New York City (tied with seven other schools), the fourth grade English test scores rank #81 in New York City (tied with five other schools), and the third grade English test scores rank #65 in New York City (tied with eight other schools)....
Moskowitz’s interviewers have said that the students at Success Academy 4 are the “most disadvantaged kids in New York City,” to which she assented. She has said “it’s a random lottery school. We don’t know who they are.”
We do, in fact, know who the students at Success Academy are. They are not the most disadvantaged kids in New York City. Harlem Success Academy schools have half the number of English Language Learners as the neighboring public schools in Harlem. The students in Success Academy 4 include 15 percent fewer free lunch students and an economic need index (a measure of students in temporary housing and/or who receive public assistance) that is 35 percent lower than nearby public schools.
Moskowitz’s Success Academy 4 has almost none of the highest special needs students as compared to nearby Harlem public schools. In a school with nearly 500 students, Success Academy 4 has zero, or one, such students, while the average Harlem public school includes 14.1 percent such students....
Moskowitz said, referring to the students in her schools, “we’ve had these children since kindergarten.” But she forgot to mention all the students who have left the school since kindergarten. Or the fact that Harlem Success Academy 4 suspends students at a rate 300 percent higher than the average in the district. Last year’s seventh grade class at Harlem Success Academy 1 had a 52.1 percent attrition rate since 2006-07. That’s more than half of the kindergarten students gone before they even graduate from middle school. Last year’s sixth grade class had a 45.2 percent attrition rate since 2006-07. That’s almost half of the kindergarten class gone and two more years left in middle school.
There are many noteworthy bits in this exchange. ONE, however, is that there is a boatload of data that enables Ms Ravitch to take down Ms Moskowitz easily and effectively. Big data and transparency cut in many directions.