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Gary Rubinstein's Blog: Success Academy Attrition Worse Than Ever

On April 5th The New York Post published their annual ‘100% of Success Academy students get accepted into four-year colleges’ editorial. The class of 2023 will be the sixth graduating class of the infamous charter chain and according to the first paragraph of the editorial, Success Academy has accomplished this feat six years in a row.

I’ve been fact checking claims like this for about 12 years now and if you follow me at all you know that of course the 100% four year college admission statistic is a lie, but you will want to know how much of a lie it is this time.

What I usually do to check these claims is go to the New York State Education portal and go through the different schools. The quickest calculation is to simply compare the number of Kindergarteners who started the school twelve years earlier to the size of the graduating class. This is not the most accurate thing to do since Success Academy only used to ‘backfill’ students who leave up until 3rd grade, but it is still a pretty informative number. As I’ve reported in previous blog posts about four of the first five graduating classes, this led to senior to kindergarten ratios of 2018: 16/73=22%, 2019: 26/83=31%, 2020: 98/353=28%, 2021: Pandemic so I wasn’t able to do this one, and 2022: 137/538=25%.

Success Academy complains that this way of doing is makes the attrition seem worse than it is because it is equivalent to about a 10% attrition per year. But these numbers are actually inflated because they don’t account for the number of students who left and then were replaced in the early years. I once got data on this from the State and was able to use it to get a more accurate number of 22% for the class of 2021.

Looking at the year to year attrition, the thing that always jumps out at me is how almost half the students who are in 9th grade will graduate on time four years later. For this years analysis I found one of the most bizarre examples of short term attrition I think I have ever seen.

So The New York Post editorial mentions that 100% of the 117 students at Success Academy got into 4 year colleges. Looking back at the 2010-2011 school year, there were seven Success Academy schools that had a combined enrollment of 726 students. (For five of the schools I found Kindergarten stats for 2010-2011 but for the Harlem-5 school I used the 78 1st graders in 2011-2012 and for Bronx-2 I used the 93 2nd graders in 2012-2013). So this quick calculation leads to the lowest ever senior to Kindergarten ration of 117/726=16%. And remember, this is an overestimate since it doesn’t count all the students who left but were replaced.

But the craziest statistic I think I’ve ever come across in this type of research is the number of 11th graders that were in the school just one year earlier. It is hard to get this data sometimes because I had to look at Harlem-1 and Harlem-3 schools even though I think there is just one high school, it is kind of confusing. But it shows that Harlem-1 had 89 11th graders in 2021-2022 and Harlem-3 had 81 11th graders in 2021-2022. So this is 170 eleventh graders in 2021-2022 and now ‘100%’ of them are 117 students. But of course 117/170=69%. So where did 31% of the eleventh graders who were at Success Academy last year go? Well it is doubtful that so many would transfer out. It would be like dropping out of the marathon with 100 yards to go. Though it is possible that some transferred out when they were told that they would have to repeat 11th grade.

This is such a common thing to happen, they even have students repeat 12th grade, and they describe this as a feature on their website.

A few years ago when Eva Moskowitz was interviewed by charter-friendly Chris Stewart, she explained the fifth year of high school this way: “Some of our kids, often because of trauma, you know, take a fifth year of high school.  And I support that.  If you’ve had your father murdered (nervous laughter), your studies are not the most important thing at that moment.” 

How many of those 53 students were asked to repeat 11th grade, we can’t know for sure. But however many it is, it is likely that approximately the same number of 11th graders from the previous year who had to repeat and are part of the 117 current graduates.

There’s really no good way to explain this away. Success Academy is a place that cares more about getting favorable editorials in The New York Post than they do about their students and their families.

Special thanks to Twitter user TimPositive for being the first to crunch these numbers on the class of 2023.


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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. ...