In the nine years since its first school opened its doors—serving 165 kindergartners and first-graders in Harlem—Success Academy Charter Schools has transformed not only the landscape of public education in New York City, but also the idea of what’s possible for students of color and low-income students.
Created in 2006 under the leadership of former New York City council woman Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy promised students (they call all of them, even the 5-year-olds, scholars) high expectations, rigorous curriculum, project-based learning, opportunities to study music and chess, and space to be playful and joyful.
Success committed to teaching science five days a week, starting in kindergarten, providing a longer school day and supporting teachers with immersive year-round training. Kindergarteners read 15 books a week and learn computer coding. By the end of that year, students have performed 135 science experiments—like using snails and wet paper towels to determine whether the mollusks prefer moist or dry habitats. Fifth- and sixth-graders receive Kindles, and there are laptops in every classroom.
Success has delivered on its promises. Now serving more than 9,000 scholars in 35 schools across New York City—the great majority are students of color or low-income students—Success Academy is one of the most in-demand and imitated public charter networks in the country. Not only do their scholars far surpass their peers in district schools in math and English, they also rank among the top schools in New York State. Success Academy schools ranked in the top 1 percent of all New York schools in math and the top 3 percent in English. All fourth- and eighth-graders passed the science exam, with more than 90 percent scoring at the highest level. Parents are eager to enroll their students—for the 2015-2016 school year, more than 22,000 families entered the lottery for 2,300 slots.
The Broad Foundation was the first major investor in Success Academy, giving $1 million to Success Academy in 2008. To date, we have invested nearly $14 million to support the charter network, particularly in its efforts to grow to 100 schools to meet the demand from families seeking a high-quality education for their children.