Friday, December 15, 2017

Chalkbeat, Elizabeth Green, and Eva Moskowitz

I was once thrilled with Elizabeth Green. She wrote for a small NYC paper and was hands down the best education journalist around. I don't remember exactly what she wrote about, but I remember she was the only one doing it. She cut through the nonsense and noise and reported the truth, something in short supply both then and now.

I remember when Chalkbeat began as Gotham Schools. It quickly became a go-to for those of us obsessed with education. I was pretty excited when Elizabeth called me and asked me to write for them. She said something about my being a natural writer, which I took to mean that, despite never having attended some fancy private school, I was able to think clearly anyway.

One of my first pieces was about a Harlem elementary school being invaded by a Moskowitz Academy. I attended a public school rally there and reported what I saw and heard. Several parents said they only accepted students with higher scores. I was excoriated in the comments (They may or may not still be there. On several of my Chalkbeat pieces, comments have mysteriously disappeared.) by people claiming that wasn't the case. After that, I was subject to a really draconian editing process, more unreasonable than any I've been subject to anywhere. In fact, they let me go from this non-paying gig for suggesting that Cathie Black was sponsored by a billionaire (named Bloomberg), that TFA recruited from the Ivy League, and some other non-debatable point I no longer recall.

Later, when Chalkbeat ran some nonsensical piece about E4E getting 100 signatures on a petition for some ridiculous cause or other, I challenged them to do the same for me, and they said sure they would, no problem. We have 300 members, and it takes me 90 minutes to collect 100 signatures. I followed up, and collected 100 signatures on a petition demanding equity for ELLs in our school. Someone from Chalkbeat called me to follow up, but no article ever appeared. (So much for equity between reformies and public school activists.)

For years I've watched Chalkbeat follow every Momentous Moskowitz Moment, and often ignore activities by the UF of T. So I wasn't entirely surprised when Norm Scott pointed me to this piece by Andrea Gabor about how MSM slobbers all over Moskowitz like she's the second coming. And surprise, surprise, Elizabeth Green is among the prime offenders:

While Green notes that Success Academy students “regularly trounce their peers all across New York on state tests” she never actually gives you the scores. Rebecca Mead does—more on her New Yorker story below: On the latest tests, 95 percent of Success Academy students achieved proficiency in math and 84 percent in ELA; the comparable citywide scores are 36 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

This is important for several reasons. One is that the sole factor in considering Moskowitz Academies superior to public schools is test scores. I think it was Alfie Kohn who said that test scores measure nothing more than zip code. In any case, in a country like the United States, afflicted with extreme poverty, there are a whole lot of reasons why test scores suffer. In NYC, with 10% of its students literally homeless, that's far from a minor issue. With Moskowitz Academies keeping got to go lists and making students test prep until they pee their pants, I wouldn't send my kid (or yours) there on a bet.

Even if you accept the preposterous notion that test scores are the sole factor in determining the quality of a school, Andrea Gabor offers the following devastating tidbit:

We do know that attrition at Success charters is very high with the most compliant students, and the best test-takers, surviving. (Mead, in her New Yorker story, points out that Success Academy’s first high school will graduate just 17 students next spring, down from 73 first graders.)

This means fewer than 25% of the students who started in the Moskowitz Academy have stuck it out. This calls into question their proficiency rates as well. Once we account for the various unfactored losses, Moskowitz Academy percentages fall below those of the dreaded public schools who are supposedly sitting around Waiting for Superman. So despite all the highly compensated, hedge fund supported Moskowitz Mouthpieces, we outperform them in the only area they deem noteworthy.

If you also consider the facts that we do not treat our students like lab rats, that the public has input in how we run our schools (flawed and constricted though mayoral control renders it), and that teachers are not systematically squeezed like overripe tomatoes to be unceremoniously discarded like trash, there are various conclusions here that, alas, have escaped Elizabeth Green. That's a shame because, for my money, Elizabeth Green is as smart as just about anyone I've ever met.

What's worse is that, with Green and others pushing the unexamined Legend of the Moskowitz Academy, a whole lot of people subscribe to the corporate charter myth. There's a whole lot of money and power behind them too.

Just about the only things we have going for us are superior numbers and the truth.
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