NEW YORK --The Success Academy Charter Schools is a network of campuses that has made a strong reputation for itself because of the consistently high test scores of its 11,000 students.
Since its founding nine years ago, Success Academy has insisted that it has achieved results without weeding out students to ensure high performance. However, newly surfaced information shows that at least one of the network's 34 did indeed weed students out through a list of 16 students titled "Got To Go."
The network's CEO and the principal who created the list made big apologies on Friday, but that didn't necessarily stop criticism of Success Academy, particularly from parents who've pulled their students out of the network's schools.
The "Got To Go" list, which was first reported by the New York Times, was drawn up at the Success Academy in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, by its principal, Candido Brown. At a news conference with about two dozen Success Academy principals, Brown wept, as PIX11's cameras rolled.
"I was doing what I thought I needed to do," Brown said as tears rolled down his face, "to fix a school where I would not send my own child."
The list came out last December, and a teacher at the school brought it to the attention of higher administrators. "The Candido that wrote that email," Principal Brown said, "is not the Candido who stands before you now."
According to Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz, she was alerted within two days of the list's creation, and took action against it immediately.
"I think we responded incredibly quickly," Moskowitz said at Thursday's news conference, "incredibly swiftly, incredibly thoughtfully on a mistake that was made." She also released a thread of emails supporting her account.
However, Success Academy admits that the list was what it was, however long it existed. The mother of one of the children listed on it told PIX11 News that her son,who was in kindergarten at the school last year, was considered "Got To Go" because he was just a normal four year-old whose mother balked at Success Academy's strict behavioral policy.
"Literally, the children would have to sit there and they're forced to just stare at their teacher while the teacher is reading," Monique Jeffrey said. "If they put their hands on their head, it's a correction. They get reprimanded," she told PIX11 News. "It's a problem."
She withdrew her son, Brendin, she said, after being called almost daily by Success Academy Fort Greene regarding what it considered behavioral issues.
"He would break down basically because he didn't understand what he was doing wrong," said Jeffrey.
She said that even though Brendin ended up significantly improving his reading and math scores at Success Academy Fort Greene, she has since transferred him to another charter school, where he is doing even better."
It's evidence, said Jeffrey, that when it comes to its behavioral code, Success Academy needs some fundamental change.
"They have a thing in their network," she said, "where they say, 'You have to fix it.' [Moskowitz] has to fix it. There's other ways to get it done without forcing children to be robots."