Gary Rubinstein: Success Academy Parents Speak Out. Part 1 “They banned me from attending my son’s graduation.”
Gary Rubinstein, a former Teach for America member, has long chronicled the problems of TFA and the charter schools they support. He was contacted by a Success Academy parent about some of the problems she encountered there. It’s a story of what “parent power” school choice really provides.
When parents in a public New York City school feel that they are being mistreated, there is a chain of command that they can work their way through. They can complain to the superintendent’s office, the chancellor, the mayor, even to the New York State education department. But when families in charter schools feel that they have been mistreated, they can complain to the CEO, but beyond that, there is no clear way to get grievances settled. One such parent had such a humiliating experience recently and with no clear place to file a complaint eventually ended up googling for reporters who have written about things like this especially involving Success Academy. Since the newspapers are also pretty friendly to Success Academy, she contacted the only person that she could find who she could tell her story to, and that was me, sole writer of “Gary Rubinstein’s Blog”. Though I’m happy to do my part and help this parent, I do wish that she had better options than me since I can’t promise that relating her story here will definitely help her get closure on this incident. She hopes that the network will reconsider their policies so that future families don’t have to experience the same humiliation that she and her son did.
Here’s the history leading up to the incident, as related to me by this parent. If Success Academy wants to challenge any of the details, they are welcome to in the comments:
A single mother, I’ll call her D, entered her son for the Success Academy lottery after he had completed kindergarten and first grade at a district school. He was accepted to Success Academy as one of their ‘backfill’ students (they admit new students to replace the ones who leave up until 4th grade).
Something unusual happened right away, though. Success Academy said that since her son did not attend Success Academy for kindergarten and first grade, he would not be able to go into second grade at Success Academy, even though he had just passed first grade elsewhere, but would have to repeat first grade at Success Academy. She was ok with this and it seems to have worked out for her as her son has been exceptional academically for the past four years there. But it is still something worth thinking about. Is this what they do for all their backfill students? If it is, this would be a way of replacing the weaker students who leave the school with students who are a year ahead of their grade and are even more likely to do well on the state tests later on because they had an extra year of schooling. I also wonder about the ethics of this. Is there any consideration to the possibility that the student is not best served by repeating the grade they just completed? I feel like this policy would not fly with affluent white families.