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What Can Colorado Learn from NYC Charter Network’s Amazing “Success”?

Colorado isn’t the only state to release its annual test results lately. Here we touted the record-shattering ACT performance of Fort Collins charter Liberty Common High School. At the same time, we were disappointed to see a charter school network serving a higher-need student population falter somewhat but STRIVE to take responsibility and improve.

Along with many other area schools that serve lots of low-income and underprivileged students, maybe they should and could glean a lot from a genuine study of Harlem Success Academies. Why? As the New York Post recently reported, the more than 6,000 kids enrolled in the 22-charter school network took the big state test in math and reading absolutely knocked it out of the park:

Seven out of the state’s 15 top-scoring schools on math proficiency tests this year were Success Academy charter schools — the same network targeted by Mayor de Blasio earlier this year in a fight over classroom space.

An astounding 93.9 percent of Success students passed the Common Core math exam and 64.5 percent passed the English proficiency test, a significant jump from last year and more than double the pass rate of all public schools citywide.

What’s the appropriate reaction to the eponymous Success Academies’ amazing results? Robert Pondiscio provides an instructive example on the Flypaper blog:

This is Secretariat winning the Belmont by thirty-one lengths. It’s Michael Jordan dropping sixty-three points on the Celtics in the playoffs. It’s Tiger Woods demolishing the field and winning the Masters by eighteen strokes.

Nice! I appreciate a good sports metaphor, or three. Are your eyes wide open? Because something potentially way beyond remarkable is going on. So far we’ve just seen raw scores. One has to wonder, though, whether a peer-reviewed academic report might show something that surpasses the overwhelmingly positive results of the national study on KIPP Schools. Or if it wouldn’t be at least as impressive as a 2010 published analysis of Harlem Success Academy’s early success:

The results indicated that HSA 3rd graders performed statistically significantly better than did either the randomized comparison group or the students in the demographically similar schools. More specifically, attendance at HSA was associated with 34-59 additional scale score points (depending on test subject) for non-special education students, after adjusting for differences in student demographic characteristics. Described another way, these results represent between 13-19 percent higher test performance associated with attending Harlem Success Academy.

If that elicits a Wow, might we expect a Double or Triple Wow from a careful study of the latest scores? Pondiscio makes a great point, in that we ought not heed too closely either the charter network’s “fans or foes.” Rather, he strongly echoes the following conclusion trumpeted by the New York Daily News editorial crew:

Overall, the object must be to learn what can be learned, to spread what can be spread and to open eyes — so more children can open their minds.

In the meantime, we can send a hearty “Kudos” to Eva Moskowitz and her team, as we eagerly look forward to hearing more about the elements of Success that high-needs Colorado school communities can embrace. I’m looking at you, Aurora, northeast Denver, west Denver, east Jeffco, Greeley, Pueblo, and others. Let’s get ready to sit up straight, pay attention, and make any changes that need to happen.