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Eva Moskowitz calls out schools chancellor for not visiting Success schools

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz said Wednesday that the city schools chancellor has not visited the city’s largest charter school network, even though the chancellor has been invited and has stopped by district schools that share space with Success schools.

The comments are the latest in a recent series of jabs at the de Blasio administration, which she accused last week of falling behind on payments to two Success schools. In her remarks Wednesday, Moskowitz also said that “the teachers union” called Success parents and urged them to boycott this year’s state exams, which the city teachers union president called “paranoid fantasies.”

Chancellor Carmen Fariña noted at a public forum this week that she has visited over 200 schools since taking over the school system last year. But Moskowitz said not of Fariña’s visits have been to one of Success Academy’s 32 schools, despite being invited “many times, many times.”

“It’s interesting to me that the chancellor of the city of New York, who I know quite well, Carmen Fariña, has literally been in our building about a dozen times and has never come to our floor,” Moskowitz said during a talk organized by The Atlantic magazine and the Aspen Institute.

A spokeswoman said Moskowitz has invited Fariña to visit her schools during in-person meetings and in an email last January, and that she also emails the chancellor about any Success trainings that are open to city employees. She also cited six different Success schools that share buildings with district schools that Fariña has visited this year.

During the talk, education writer Amanda Ripley noted that about 34 percent of students in the city’s district schools passed last year’s state math exams, compared to 94 percent of students in the Success network, which is known for its intensive test preparation. She said part of the purpose of charter schools is to spread successful practices, and asked what percentage of New York City district-school educators come to Success Academy trainings.

Moskowitz said the number was “very small.” The spokeswoman said that 20 city teachers or principals have attended one of the network’s three training sessions this year. Last year, the de Blasio administration commended Success for hosting two school tours for outside educators, which 22 district school leaders signed up to attend.

Fariña, who does not oversee most of the city’s charter schools but serves on the board of the New York City Charter School Center, has a complicated relationship with that sector.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña toured P.S. 123 in Harlem earlier this year and referred to the Success Academy charter school in the building, but did not visit it.
Chancellor Carmen Fariña toured P.S. 123 in Harlem earlier this year and referred to the Success Academy charter school in the building, but did not visit it.
Patrick Wall

She has said their “original purpose was to share innovative practices,” so they should “come to the table and tell us what they’re doing.” The education department granted public space to 10 Success Academy schools in December.

But Fariña has also angered many charter school proponents by suggesting that they boost their test scores by forcing out the most challenging students — a charge that networks, including Success, deny.

Education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said the chancellor has put a “tremendous focus” on teacher training. She confirmed that Fariña has not visited a Success school as chancellor, but said she stops by charter schools regularly.

“The Chancellor visits schools each week – both district and charter – and welcomes invitations to visit schools across the City,” Kaye said in a statement.

During the Wednesday morning talk, Ripley noted the public opposition to standardized tests and the growing number of parents who choose to “opt out” their students from taking the exams. She asked if any of Moskowitz’s students had boycotted the New York state tests, which were administered last month.

“No,” Moskowitz said, “but the teachers union called all of our families to urge them to opt out, but they did not.”

The Success spokeswoman, Ann Powell, said in an email that parents told the network they received robocalls in which “callers were urging them to keep their children at home and not take the test.”

A state teachers union spokesman said the group’s president robocalled members to inform them of their right to keep their own children from taking the tests, but did not call Success Academy parents. The spokesman noted that opt-out advocates paid for their own robocalls to parents. The head of the city’s United Federation of Teachers said his group encouraged parents to make thoughtful decisions about taking the tests, but did not call anyone.

“Instead of indulging in paranoid fantasies about the UFT, the head of the Success network should be concerning herself with serving a wide selection of the city’s neediest children, and backfilling the seats she is now keeping empty so she can prop up her schools’ scores,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement, referring to Success’ controversial policy of not replacing students who leave after fourth grade.

Also on Wednesday, Moskowitz and the leaders of five other city charter school networks released a letter to de Blasio calling on him to back their call for the state to allow more charters schools in the city. Charter school supporters are urging state lawmakers to raise the current cap, which limits the number of new charter schools in the city to 25, before the legislative session ends next month.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for 100 more charter schools, and the new speaker of Republican-controlled Senate supports lifting the cap. But the Democratic speaker of the Assembly said the cap should remain, a stance de Blasio has echoed.

Kaye, the education department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the administration stands by the current limit.

“We believe the existing cap allows for growth and innovation in the charter sector,” she said in a statement.

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