Behind the Headline: A Tale of Two Schools, One Building

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A Tale of Two Schools, One Building
Wall Street Journal | 10/7/15

Behind the Headline
What Explains Success at Success Academy?
Education Next | Summer 2015

Wadleigh Secondary School in New York City occupies the same building as a charter school, Success Academy Harlem West, and the students at both schools come from the same neighborhood. Last year, 0% of students in grades six through eight at Wadleigh met state standards in math or English.  At the charter school, 96% of the students were proficient in math and 75% were proficient in English.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Simmons, the vice principal of Success Academy Harlem West, reflects on this state of affairs.

I often think about those Wadleigh students, navigating unruly hallways and classrooms. They hold the same promise as my students, but of those who move on to high school, fewer than 10% graduate with the skills to complete college-level work. What if those Wadleigh students had attended the public school only two floors above them?

Simmons laments the response of political leaders in New York City

Last month, instead of acknowledging the astounding lack of learning at schools such as Wadleigh, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a hodgepodge of feel-good programs. He will create new Advanced Placement courses that students from Wadleigh won’t be prepared to take. He will enlist “literacy specialists” to try to counter chaotic classrooms and poor instruction. In short, he will do nothing effective.


To understand what goes on inside Success Academy charter schools, please read “What Explains Success at Success Academy?” by Charles Sahm in the Summer 2015 issue of Education Next. He writes

Outwardly, Success is similar to other “no excuses” (Moskowitz dislikes that term) charter schools: students are called “scholars” and wear uniforms; a longer school day and year allow for about one-third more instruction time than district schools provide; rooms are named after the teacher’s alma mater; a culture of discipline and high expectations reigns. What separates Success, in my opinion, is a laser focus on what is being taught, and how.

– Education Next

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