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The Education of Eva Moskowitz: A Memoir Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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“[Moskowitz] writes beautifully, salting her own clear, passionate, yet often analytic prose with quotes and references plucked from many sources, from Twain and Dickens to Carnegie, Fielding, and Hardy.” (EducationNext)
“[Moskowitz] decided a long time ago that poor children of color are equally capable as the affluent white children in New York’s premier zip codes. And unlike most who simply bemoan the inequity and throw their hands up, she is doing something about it. And Eva has real skin in the game. Not just because these are her schools but more importantly, because her own children attend them.” (Good School Hunting)
“Readers get the sense that Moskowitz, fiercely independent and confrontational, likes the fight: She knows she’s in it for the right reasons—building better schools—and isn’t giving up.” (Weekly Standard)
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The 'good news' is that she received an offer to run a charter school that was just starting up. The founders' goal was to run a school that cost no more than district schools but got far better results, then replicating that model over and over and over. An opportunity to revolutionize America's public schools!
The first school was located 2 blocks from her home in Harlem; she had 8 months to prepare the site and hire staff. Currently there are 46 Success Academies within NYC, and 15,500 pupils - Ms. Moskowitz, however, has thousands more parents wanting to enroll their children and is eying the 65,000 empty seats within the public school system as a means to satisfying that demand. (Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio is stonewalling her requests.)
Ms. Moskowitz reports she didn't become a supporter of school choice by virtue of reading Milton Friedman - instead that conclusion came after seeing that teacher and administrator contracts, combined with poor-performing administrations (delayed textbook arrivals, poor maintenance) made success impossible. Thus, success required stepping outside the public system entirely. One of Ms. Moskowitz's first actions at Success Academy was to decline to draw up a contract for herself, instead serving at the pleasure of its board. Shortly thereafter, she fired her husband, attorney for the organization - hired by the original founders, to eliminate a potential conflict of interest. (She has also declined to hire at least one politician's well-connected insider as assistant principal - Success Academy would not become a patronage mill.
Success Academy believes the purpose of schools is to teach students to think, and is best accomplished by pupils learning by doing, rather than teacher talking. Unfortunately, the latter is much easier to manage and accomplish - and thus predominates. Teachers and principals receive 13 weeks of training each year, and other staff perform non-educational duties that heretofore had been performed by principals - allowing them to focus on making frequent classroom observations and providing immediate feedback to those teachers.
Many charter schools focus on closing the racial achievement gap; Moskowitz also was concerned with the gap between American students and some of our strongest economic competitors - Japan, Singapore, Finland, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan. South Korea.
Principals get in the classrooms daily or almost daily, making very short observations (eg. 5 minutes/class), that feature coaching in the moment or demonstrating a technique if the teacher appears unsure. They then email feedback to teachers during or immediately after the observation. Feedback is also based on student work and analysis of test data.
Her highest priority was creating a school culture with low tolerance for laziness and dysfunction, and high expectations for student achievement and teacher performance. There are five key values: Action, curiosity, tray and try, integrity, and no shortcuts.
Parents are given daily reports on their child's behavior. They are also required to check their children's homework, get their kids to school on time and in uniform, and read daily to their children while also keeping a log of what they'd read. If they don't, they are called, and if that didn't succeed, they were brought in for a conference, and if that still failed, a parent was required to speak to the teacher or principal before resuming classes.
As for the accusation that charter schools harm public schools, she points out that in Central Harlem, where 51% of elementary students attend charters, the level of district school performance has risen from 28th (out of 32) in 2006 to 14th. She also states that she has never seen a high-performing school that lacked management attention to detail.
It also shows the softer side of a person who is often vilified by the political machine and press.