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What The Success Academy Fight Over Kicking Out Students Says About The Charter Movement

The biggest recent argument about charter schools boils down to this: Is it okay to suspend a 5-year-old from school? What about suspending him 10 or 11 times in a single year? What about making a list of the students you want to push out of your school?

These are the latest controversies boiling around Success Academy, a very successful chain of New York charter schools that are also a lightning rod for political fights. Two recent media reports honed in on the charter schools’ strict discipline policies, arguing that the schools succeed in part because of whom they kick out.

This is partly a proxy war in New York politics, because Success Academy’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, is an outspoken opponent of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s education policies. It’s also the latest manifestation of a broader argument about whether charter schools work because of the kids they educate or because of the way they teach. Whether you see Success Academy as an inhumane test-prep factory or an educational godsend for disadvantaged kids is probably a good indication of how you see the charter school movement as a whole.