There have been accusations that charter schools seek to skew performance data by prioritizing affluent students and sidelining children with disabilities or disadvantages. Eva Moskowitz from Success Academy Charter Schools defends against these accusations, and in the New York Times School Book argues that what they’re really trying to do is bring real diversity to schools.
Sadly, New York City’s schools are shockingly segregated. Most are either more than 90 percent minority or less than 10 percent. Watching documentaries about segregation in the South 50 years ago may make us feel morally superior, but the truth is that segregation is alive and well in 21st Century New York City.
Moskowitz argues that even in areas that should have natural economic and racial diversity such as Manhattan’s District 13 — where Success Academy Upper West opened last year — in reality most of the schools primarily cater to one type of child. She further accuses those schools that do have a superficial diversity of shrouding the real situation where affluent white and middle class students are in gifted and talented programs while the poor minority students are effectively segregated into lackluster general education classes.
Success Academy was criticized for launching an outreach campaign that targeted affluent parents and students, with critics accusing them of wanting to bolster performance targets with an influx of easy-to-teach students. Moskowitz instead argues that their own success at teaching disadvantaged children had earned them a reputation for only serving low-income students with a rigorous ‘back to basics’ style education. So, actively reaching out to and recruiting affluent students was the only way to create real diversity in the classroom and avoid the fake integration model that so many other schools operate under.
These efforts are clearly paying off when you look inside the classrooms at Success Academy Upper West. Forty-nine percent of students are African American or Latino and 40 percent qualify for free and reduced price lunch. More importantly, these students actually learn together without intra-school programs that segregate students.
Moskowitz argues that their integration and diversity policies are a proven success as Success Academy Upper West has become one of their most popular schools, attracting seven applicants per open seat. She contends that this is because parents of all race and classes want diversity accompanied by academic success. Says Moskowitz:
It’s time we embrace integration models like these and make school diversity a priority so that we can finally offer students the academically and culturally rich education our country promised them more than 50 years ago.