I'm sure by now everyone has read the NYT front-page article last week about the "Got to Go" list at one Success charter school (At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have 'Got to Go'). It is terribly unfortunate that this happened, both for the children and parents affected, and also for our movement, as now, every time a charter school posts good test scores, our critics will surely say something like, "Well, I'll bet it's just because they have a 'Got to Go' list…" They'll know it's a lie and a deep insult to the dedicated educators, children and parents in that school – but that's never concerned them.
It's also a good cautionary tale for us all. We all want every child to learn at a high level, and for this to be reflected in the tests they take. And these test scores really matter in so many ways: most importantly, they're an important way we can see the overall level of learning going on, and especially which kids need extra help; they're part of how we evaluate ourselves; they impact each school's (and each network's) ability to raise money, etc. So there's a lot of pressure on everyone to put up good scores (this is increasingly true of regular public schools as well), which is mostly good (assuming the pressure isn't too great), but there's also a downside we all need to be acutely aware of: that some adults, under pressure to deliver good numbers, will cheat or otherwise behave disreputably. This isn't just true in charter schools, nor in education generally – it's true in all human behavior. It's certainly true in my industry, investment management, where there's a report of some fraud or cheating nearly every day.
In light of this inevitable (and, as I said, mostly healthy) pressure to do well on tests, it's critically important that we: 1) not become overly focused on this one metric of success; 2) have very rigorous oversight and anti-cheating regimens to discourage bad behavior; and 3) severely punish cheating as a deterrent to others.
Success Academy Founder Calls 'Got to Go' List an Anomaly
Eva S. Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy, said on Friday that the charter school network quickly disciplined the principal who created the list at its school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times
Eva S. Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academy charter school network, said on Friday that a list singling out children under the heading "Got to Go" was an anomaly and that the network did not have a practice of pushing out students it saw as difficult.