Let all public schools play by same rules

So much has been written about Success Academy’s ability to post results with disadvantaged children on a par with affluent children from the New York suburbs that people are wondering if the outcomes are too good to be true (“The Parent Trap,” The New York Times, Sep. 29).  Yet a closer look reveals that there is no miracle there.  It’s that Success Academy functions essentially as a private school, albeit supported by taxes like traditional public schools.

Traditional public schools by law must enroll all who show up at their door regardless of motivation, ability or interest.  Moreover, they can’t expel problem students except for the most egregious behavior.  As a result, they can’t possibly compete with Success Academy, which requires parents to sign a contract to agree to read aloud six books to their children every week through second grade and monitor their children’s reading and homework through high school.  Parents of students with behavior problems are pressured to withdraw them.  Other public schools can do none of the above.

It’s little wonder, therefore, that Success Academy is in a league of its own, operating by its own rules.  That’s why I continue to believe that if all public schools were allowed to do what Success Academy does, there would be no significant differences in outcomes.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Let all public schools play by same rules”

  1. The separate but somewhat related advantage that Success Academy enjoys is the passive screen inherent in the fact that all the Success Academy students have parents who are sufficiently concerned to learn about Success Academy and sufficiently functional to complete the application process (as well as, in most cases, provide daily transportation).

    In other words, Success Academy — like all charters — enrolls via application rather than via geography.

    In NYC (like virtually all inner-cities), there are many parents who are relatively unconcerned/dysfunctional and there are some parents who are very unconcerned/dysfunctional. Very few of the children of the relatively unconcerned/dysfunctional parents will enroll in Success Academy; most will enroll in the neighborhood schools. None of the children of the very unconcerned/dysfunctional parents will enroll in Success Academy; all will enroll in the neighborhood schools.

    Certainly, there will be some concerned/functional parents who enroll their children in the neighborhood schools. But, those children — and those neighborhood schools themselves — will suffer from the presence in the neighborhood schools of the children of the relatively unconcerned/dysfunctional parents and the children of the very unconcerned/dysfunctional parents.

    Even if Success Academy did not expel discipline problems or counsel-out LD students, the passive screen inherent in Success Academy’s enroll-via-application approach would give Success Academy a huge advantage over the neighborhood schools in terms of student quality.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: Correct! Self-selection is the reason that Success Academy is able to post outcomes that equal or exceed those posted by affluent suburban schools. That’s why they are essentially private schools, albeit supported by taxes. There is no way that traditional public schools can ever compete with Success Academy.

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