Long an object of protests by teachers unions and other school choice opponents, New York City's Success Academy charter network is not letting objections stop them. Already operating 20 schools around the city with 7 more scheduled to open their doors this fall, the Success Academy is boldly predicting that by the next decade, the total will grow to 100 or more.
Its aggressive growth plan is underwritten in part by a $5 million grant from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Meredith Hoffman of DNAInfo.com writes that the grant was awarded in part because Success Academy has been so successful in its efforts to rapidly expand. There are SA schools operating in many neighborhoods in New York, including Hell's Kitchen, Harlem in Manhattan and trendy Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
"They're trying to grow up to 100 schools in the next decade," said Rebecca Wolf DiBiase, the foundation's managing director of programs who has worked closely with Success Academy since their inception.
"The current plan is in New York but they'll see where there's a need."
A Success Academy spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the 100-school goal, but she did note that Success was trying to accommodate a "very very high demand" for seats.
The high demand is not just idle talk. Hoffman writes that 10 students applied for every single open seat in SA schools this year. According to DiBiase, the high number of applications made the grant a no-brainer. With the money, Success Academy can serve more students who are looking for a way out from underperforming local public schools.
The grant represents a continuation of an largely fruitful relationship between Success Academy and the foundation. Back in 2006, the group was a major initial investor, donating more than $11 million.
Opponents of the charter have argued that Success schools drain space and resources from the public schools with which they co-locate, that the charter advertises mainly to middle class families and that the rigorous program with extended days and tough discipline is "punitive" for children.
But Success' spokeswoman said the charter had a "representative" student body of New York's public school kids and noted the network's large applicant pool and high test scores.
"There are many, many applications per seat," she said.