Gary Rubinstein's Blog: Who Survives Success?

Success Academy opened in 2006 with 156 students — 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders.  Now, eleven years later, they have their first graduating seniors, though just 17 of them.  In my last post I wondered what can be learned about the Success model by examining who exactly those 17 students are.

A big question, and one that might never be answered, is how many of those 17 students were actually among the original 73 first graders.  Since Success allows transfers up until 4th grade it is possible that some of those 17 students transferred in which would make their attrition rate even worse than the 77% that it is at a minimum.

New York State has a pretty good data site which I used to look at the most recent data from the 2016-2017 school year.  I then compared the data about the 10th and 11th grade from 2016-2017 to the data of their kindergarten and 1st grade from 2006-2007.

According to the state data (which can be found here), out of the 156 students (83 Kindergarten and 73 1st grade) in 2006-2007, 113 — which is 72% — of them qualified for either free or reduced lunch.  Though there was not data of the breakdown by gender, I think it is a fair assumption that the boys and girls were likely equally split, more or less.

Using the most recent data (which can be found here) we see that last year there were 36 10th graders and 20 11th graders.  So those 156 students have now become just 56 which is a 64% attrition, not even counting how many new students transferred in by 4th grade.  But even more than the attrition, I was able to use some of the data filters to get more information about who left the school.

For one thing, of the remaining 56 students from those first two cohorts, there are now 37 girls and 19 boys.  I know that I don’t have data to prove that they were half girls and half boys back in 2006-2007, but I believe it is very likely so the fact that those two classes are now two-thirds girls and one-third boys supports my belief that girls are more likely to make it all the way through Success Academy than boys.

But something that I do have data to compare is in the economic disadvantage category.  While they had 72% economically disadvantaged in 2006-2007, for those two cohorts in 2016-2017 there were on 27 out of 56 that were in that category which is just 48%.  So there is firm data that students who are economically disadvantaged.  So even without counting for transfers in, they only retained 24% of their economically disadvantaged students (27 out of 113) while retaining 67% of their students who were not economically disadvantaged (29 out of 43).

For the class of 2018, the 17 who are about to graduate and who have been celebrated in the media, what we can say from the data from last year was that they had 20 students of which 9 qualified as economically disadvantaged.  So there are at most 9 out 17 (53%) now or, depending on which three students left, as few as 6 out of 17 (35%).  This does not support the claim that the Success survivors have the same demographics as their neighboring schools.

If the net result of eleven years of Success Academy is to get 9 low-income students into college, that’s a lot of hype and a lot of money to be spent for that, not to mention all the loss of resources to the 1,099,991 other students in New York City schools who had to suffer a loss of resources as Success used their influence and marches and wealthy donors money to stage publicity stunts in Albany and to get the Governor to go to battle with the Mayor about having the city pay charter school rents.

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Gary Rubinstein

Gary Rubinstein is a high school math teacher. He is the recipient of the 2005 Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship.