New York-based Success Academy charter school network set out to solve many of the problems found in the city’s public schools when it opened its doors just over a decade ago. Since then, it has become one of the nation’s biggest success stories, with African American and Hispanic students from Success Academy schools testing in the top 10 percent of the state in higher numbers than their white counterparts from more affluent areas.
How has Success Academy achieved this, and how have they addressed and solved the problems that typically show up in the city’s public schools?
Success Academy has addressed the underlying causes — Many of the problems in public schools in New York City and around the country stem from the students never being made to feel as though they can succeed. They are never made to feel like learning is fun, or that hard work will pay off.
Success Academy has addressed these underlying causes by believing in every student and telling every student they have as much chance of succeeding as any child from a more affluent background.
Even though Success Academy has a rigorous curriculum and expects their students to have longer days in school than other students often do, they have also made education fun. That has meant that students who attend Success Academy schools show up every day to learn because learning, to them, is something they love to do.
The right curriculum and teaching methods — Success Academy also believes students learn better when they are expected to be hands on. So formal teacher instruction is limited to 80 minutes a day. After that, students are put in groups to work on projects, and are encouraged to ask questions and be inquisitive. Critical thinking is encouraged.
The curriculum itself is tough. It concentrates on English, math and sciences as core knowledge, and then adds subjects as the children develop independence and an inquisitiveness to learn.
Electives like sports, musical theater, debate and chess are also added so students become well-rounded individuals who always enjoy learning new things.
All of this means students end up so engaged in their school life and in wanting to succeed, they do not have time for any of the trouble students in public schools often get into.