For decades New York City Schools have suffered from low test scores, while “teaching to the test.” Along came Success Academy, a brand of Charter School that is making a difference in the lives of inner-city children. Success Academy recently won the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Part of the reason for this honor is that in 2016 Success Academy middle and elementary school students scored in the top 10 percentile for performance in Math, English, and Science. Mastery of these all important 21st-century skills makes the difference when especially math and science literacy can build a bridge to college acceptance and a lucrative career as an adult.
So what makes Success Academy different and how do they do it? Perhaps the most obvious key to their success is that they invest more in each child. Success Academy students wear uniforms and are addressed as “scholars”. They spend more time each day and more days each year in the classroom learning. Middle Schoolers receive tablets pre-loaded with books. The “blended” approach to reading is handled just right.
Lessons at Success Academy are comprehensive and are always constructed with an end goal in mind. They do not teach to the test as Success Academy is content driven. If a child receives quality content instruction each day, often with hands-on instruction, they will master what they need to know to ace the test. The lessons are also often cross disciple. For example, while students learning about the history of a New York City landmark, an engineering lesson is also incorporated. To teach writing skills, Success Academy takes a page from college curriculum, using a workshop model where the proper emphasis on editing and revising rather than just creating first drafts. Students from kindergarten up have science class every day, which is different than most elementary schools where science in the lower grades is s “special” to attend two or three times a week.
The quantitative achievement evidence is clear. Once “students” become “scholars” like they do at Success Academy, the sky is the limit for their academic and life achievement.