December 21, 2018

Success Academy 6: The Fights

by StartUp

Background show artwork for StartUp

The Story:

Over the years, Success Academy has faced many existential threats. Eva has had to battle the most powerful man in New York City to fight for space for her schools. She has also had to defend her organization when a controversial video featuring a Success teacher was leaked to the New York Times. Today on the show, we watch Eva battle these setbacks, meeting both with a single-minded defense.

The Facts:

Peter Leonard mixed the episode. 

Our theme song is by Mark Philips. 

Build Buildings wrote and performed our special ad music. 

Additional music by Bobby Lord, Haley Shaw, Marmoset and Hot Moms Dot Gov.

Where to Listen


LISA: It was 2013, and Success Academy was growing incredibly fast. It was running 22 schools, and had secured space to open another 10 the following year. That growth was fueled by the charter network’s test scores. But it also depended on having friends in City Hall. That’s because New York City’s mayor was basically Success' landlord. At the time, all Success schools were located inside existing public school buildings. And being inside these buildings was an essential part of Success' business model. It meant they got tons of space, rent free.


LISA: The mayor of New York City at the time, Michael Bloomberg, was on Success Academy's side. He was pro charter. But his term was ending, and one of Eva Moskowitz’s old rivals was emerging on the scene...

DE BLASIO: Time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place. She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.

LISA: That’s Bill de Blasio at a campaign rally in 2013. De Blasio and Eva had history. He was on the city council when Eva took on the teacher’s contract back in 2003. She'd pointed to work rules that she believed were hurting kids. He’d been on the other side of that fight. He backed the teachers union. And so when DeBlasio decided he wanted to run for Mayor, in a crowded field of Democratic candidates, he knew one way to whip up the support of the powerful teacher’s union would be to take on their old enemy — Eva Moskowitz.

DE BLASIO: I have seen her schools have a destructive impact on the schools they’re going into. That’s the bottom line. Whatever is happening in her classrooms, and I respect if some children are being educated well in her classrooms. What I detest is the notion that it’s at the expense of the schools she’s colocating into where those children matter too! And it wouldn’t happen... it wouldn’t happen if she didn’t have a lot of money and power and political privilege behind her and if DOE didn’t say yes ma’am every time, and that’s going to end when I’m mayor.

LISA: Even though Eva and de Blasio were both Democrats, they were ideologically opposed when it came to public education. Eva was anti union. De Blasio was pro. Eva wanted more money for charter schools. De Blasio wanted more money for regular public schools and free early education. Bill de Blasio won that election and became mayor in 2014 and that campaign promise he made to stop saying “yes ma’am” to Eva, he acted on it quickly. A month into De Blasio’s time as mayor, Eva got a phone call from a woman at the Department of Education.

EVA You know Kathleen Grim called me. I often talk to her about Facilities and custodians and school lunch.

LISA: But this time, the call wasn’t about any of that … it was about space. Space that Eva had been counting on to open more schools and expand existing ones. Now she was being told that space was no longer available.

EVA: She started with the two new ones. Rosedale and City Hall. And then she said Harlem Central and I couldn’t believe it.

LISA: Eva was shocked because, unlike those two other schools Kathleen mentioned that were scheduled to open later that year, Rosedale and City Hall, Harlem Central was already open. It had teachers and a principal and classrooms full of kids. It was quickly outgrowing its current space, and  had been approved to move into a bigger one for the next school year. But now de Blasio was nixing that move.

EVA: I thought I must have misheard her. I cried. I mean I was crying on the phone with her… I was like 'Kathleen, how could you do this? This is an existing school, you’re just throwing the kids out on the street? Where are they gonna go?’

LISA: Eva hung up the phone and called Emily Kim, the top lawyer at Success. Emily still gets emotional remembering that moment.

EMILY: Eva called me and she was crying. She was really crying. I couldn't really understand what she was saying. Sorry. It’s very funny, I haven’t thought of that moment for a long time, but it was really emotional.

LISA: Eva had faced a lot of challenges during her eight years as the head of Success Academy. But this one felt different.


EMILY: This was going up against the mayor of the city of New York, and he was not going to lose this battle. The word on the street was, ‘It’s over Eva.’

LISA: Welcome to SU, I’m LC. As Success Academy grew, Eva Moskowitz faced existential threats from without and within. Outside the organization, she had to go up against the most powerful man in New York City.

And inside the organization, a very different kind of threat sprung up. A secret video shot in a Success classroom seems to confirm what some of the schools toughest critics have been saying all along, that the school's quest for high test scores has created a culture of pressure and fear.  

Today on the show, we watch Eva battle these threats, meeting both with a single-minded defense. And we talk to teachers about what that secret video did and did not reveal about the culture inside Success Academy.


LISA: The call from the Department of Education had stunned Eva Moskowitz. But she knew the person who would probably take the news hardest was Andy Malone. Andy was the founding principal of Harlem Central, the school that had just lost its location.

ANDY: I was in a fifth grade math lesson. My phone rang. Eva Moskowitz. And she said, Andy are you sitting down? It’s a really foreboding way to start a phone call with Eva.

LISA: Eva told Andy that his school no longer had space for the upcoming school year, but Andy didn’t fully grasp the weight of what Eva was telling him. He'd seen Eva win many fights during his time there.  hen, a couple of hours after getting the call from Eva, a longtime Success leader came to talk to him.


ANDY: And he said, you know I have to tell you that this threat is not empty and you have to understand that you're really at risk of losing the school. It’s not a sure thing that we're going to survive this. And then it got really real. Then it was really… really scary.

LISA: Around the Success network, it was sinking in that this was a different level of threat than they’d faced before. This wasn't just the teacher's union going after Success. This was the mayor of New York City. All eyes were on Eva.

EMILY: Eva goes into general mode. Do you know what I mean? Like she's general of the Army.


LISA: Emily Kim, Success' lawyer, was among the group of Success top brass that assembled into what became known as “the war room.”


EMILY: We gathered immediately. How are we going to approach this and what is our plan? We needed a legal plan. We needed a protest plan. We needed a media plan. I mean it was just on every front.


LISA: From her spot in the war room, Emily was imagining the worst ... and arguing for contingency plans.

EMILY: I’m a lawyer by training so I wanted a plan b, plan c, plan d. I wanted to start looking at other possibilities in terms of facilities possibilities, I wanted to look at other cities, other states, but Eva felt we had to stay the course.

LISA: Eva thought, in this existential fight, she couldn’t show any weakness.

EMILY: It's not that we didn't weren't willing to come to the table. It's just that when you gave an inch they just slaughtered you and took a mile.  So we, we couldn't we had to come out with a very strong position. 

LISA: The first thing they were going to do was to try and get public opinion on their side, thinking that would force the mayor to back down. And to win over public opinion, Eva had to get people who had no connection to Success Academy to care about her fight. That meant keeping reporters interested.

EVA: You know it would be one thing to write about it the day Bill DeBlasio announces, but we needed three months of coverage.

LISA: So Eva started holding press conferences, with principal Andy Malone by her side.

EVA: We can not leave children in the lurch. We cannot leave families in the lurch.

ANDY: This has been an extremely challenging and emotional week for our school. Every day kids and parents come up to me full of questions about what is happening, and why it is happening to us, and what is going to happen to our school in the future.

LISA: She also opened up the doors of Harlem Central, the school that was in jeopardy of losing its space, and let the reporters inside.

ANDY: The media stuff was insane. It was really a circus on campus.

LISA: This is Andy again.

ANDY: I mean we had all these networks ranging from NY1 to CNN. The hallways wires all wires and cameras.

CBS reporter: What happens to this school, to these students, if you can’t convince the mayor to his decision?

EVA: I don’t know.

LISA: That was Eva on CBS This morning. And Eva’s team came up with a way to tug at the public’s heartstrings even more, deploying a tried and true technique: the 30-second TV spot.

AD: These are the 194 faces of success academy in Harlem...

LISA: The ad shows school photos of the Success students smiling and cheery in their blue and orange uniforms.

AD: But mayor Bill de Blasio just announced that he is closing their school, taking away their hopes and dreams.

LISA: The photos on screen start to slowly disappear one by one. The screen goes to black.

AD: Mayor de Blasio don’t take away our future. Save our school…

LISA: People all over New York saw the ad, a print version also ran in the city's three daily newspapers. In total, the campaign, which a pro-charter group paid for, cost about 5 million dollars.

But it didn’t sway the mayor. He explained to the public that there was another group of children whose future was on the line. The school that Success was planning to move into already housed a public school for kids with special needs.

BILL: The Mickey Mantle school is in that space. It is a school just for special education kids kids with very severe special education challenges. If Success Academy went in that school would have to be much smaller. We could not reach as many special ed kids. We want to reach more special education kids

LISA: Newspaper opinion pages took up the two sides, some supporting Success' high performing kids; others concerned for Mickey Mantle’s special needs students.


LISA: As Success and DeBlasio battled it out in the press, Eva was also realizing that she couldn’t keep mustering a big response like this every time the mayor threw up a roadblock. They needed to take the guesswork out of growth. If City Hall wasn’t on her side, she needed friends in higher places. She thought if she could show state lawmakers that there was a big, vocal pro-charter constituency, maybe those lawmakers would pass rules protecting charter schools indefinitely.

Eva and her team started planning a massive rally in Albany, the state capitol, and Success headquarters was consumed by the work.

EVA: All non-essential work we shut down and everybody  worked on this project. And it was a field office.

LISA: In early March, a little over a week after Eva had gotten word that Harlem Central no longer had space, she cancelled school for every student in the network, 22 schools, thousands of kids, hundreds of teachers… and loaded everyone onto buses headed to Albany.

WOMAN: Good morning everyone.


LISA: Eva’s troops descended on the capital on a bitter cold day wearing large yellow t-shirts over their winter coats that said 'Charter schools are public schools'. Students held hand-written signs that said 'kids before politics.' In all there were 11,000 people at the rally that day.

WOMAN: When I say students, you say college. Students.


WOMAN: Students.


WOMAN: When I say charters, you say work. Charters.


WOMAN: Charters.


LISA: At one point during the rally, the most powerful person in New York State politics, democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, showed up to support Success.

CUOMO: We are here today to tell you that we stand with you, you are not alone… we will save charter schools…

LISA: The charter school movement had arrived in Albany, and now had a friend in the governor’s office. As the legislative session drew to a close, bills sympathetic to charter schools started racing around Albany.

Back in New York City, Eva and De Blasio continued to spar in public. The mayor appeared on MSNBC a few days after the rally and he made his position clear. His priority was the huge public school system where the vast majority of kids in New York City went to class every day.

DE BLASIO: But I do think we need to talk about the 1.1 million kids and how we fix our schools, and with all due respect to folks in the charter movement who I know want to do good, for the 95% of kids who are in traditional public schools, that’s my first obligation.

LISA: But the tide was turning against the mayor. A poll released two weeks after the Albany rally found declining support for the Mayor’s education policies, including his charter school antagonism.

At the end of March, Eva’s Albany strategy paid off: In 11th-hour budget negotiations, Governor Cuomo pushed through rules that required the city to provide rent-free space for charter schools in public school buildings. Otherwise the city had to help pay for the charter schools to move into private buildings. Soon after that, De Blasio and Eva, with urging from the governor, agreed on new spaces for the three Success Academy schools that had sparked this fight in the first place.

EMILY: The battle was won, and you know it was over. It was completely over.


LISA: Here’s Emily Kim again…


EMILY: It was just this, it was an incredible moment. The win. Everybody was so happy.

LISA: For Eva Moskowitz, the win finally felt real when she visited one of those new schools whose future had seemed so uncertain.

EVA: Going to Rosedale and seeing the kids and the families going to school on the first day and to see all those kids, particularly out in this play yard which was beautiful and not where we thought they were going to go... we were sort of, we barely succeeded in delivering. They don't realize that their interaction with fate could easily have made the school impossible. But in this kind of work, nothing is ever resolved because you need space for the next generation of schools.

LISA: Eva had secured a massive win for all charter schools in New York City. But something was brewing inside her school that would throw Success Academy back into the headlines. And those headlines were not the ones that the people in Eva’s war room would have scripted. That’s coming up, after the break.


LISA: Welcome back to Start Up.

Success Academy had won its fight against New York City’s mayor. It had changed the rules of the game for charters in New York City, giving them a lot more power. And Success had proven it could beat the critics. Then, a secretly recorded video was leaked to the New York Times that gave those critics new fodder, and threatened the organization all over again.  

The video was recorded inside a Success Academy first grade classroom. It opens with kids seated on a brightly colored rug. The first graders are quiet, sitting with their legs crossed and hands folded in their laps, while their teacher is next to a paper pad on an easel going through a math lessoN. The teacher, Charlotte Dial, asks a student to explain how she got an answer on a math problem to the rest of the class.

CHARLOTTE: You cut or you split. So count it again, making sure you’re counting correctly. Count.

LISA: Count, the teacher says through clenched teeth. The student counts… one...two… and pauses and looks at the teacher. The teacher then takes the worksheet and rips it in half, tossing it to the floor beside the student.

CHARLOTTE: Go to the calm down chair and sit. There’s nothing that infuriates me more then when you don't do what’s on paper. Somebody come up and show me how she should’ve counted to get her answer that was one and a split.

KID: One and a split.

CHARLOTTE: Thank you. Do not go back to your seat and show me one thing and don’t do it here. You’re confusing everybody. Very upset and very disappointed.


LISA: If you put a camera in any school, in any classroom in America, at some point you would catch a scolding teacher, a teacher losing their cool. That’s not the unusual thing here. What felt different is that the teacher here isn’t scolding a kid who acting out, talking back, being mean. She’s upset at a quiet, well-behaved student who wasn't properly explaining how she solved a math problem.  

The New York Times published the video with the headline “Momentary Lapse or Abusive Teaching?”. The story had drawn nearly 3 thousand comments by the next day. Many were critical of Success, condemning the organization for mistreating kids in the pursuit of high scores. Soon the story had gone nationwide.

NEWS CAST 1: The New York Times published a disturbing video featuring a charter school teacher in New York berating...

NEWS CAST 2: Berating a first grader as they are going over math homework. This is a video that has gone viral...

NEWS CAST 3: According the report, this occurred at the Success Academy in Brooklyn, a high performing charter school.

LISA: The day the video appeared online Success held a press conference where Eva Moskovitz stood by the podium with Charlotte Dial by her side...

EVA: Charlotte Dial made a mistake. She made mistake. I don’t condone what is in the video. Charlotte doesn’t condone what is in the video. No educator standing here before you condones what’s in the video.

LISA: To many people watching, Eva’s next move seemed obvious. Fire the teacher and say the organization will correct course. But that is not what Eva did. Remember, she isn't someone who caves to external pressure.  

EVA: Charlotte was reprimanded suspended until we could conclude and conduct an investigation. And she got a week of additional training. However I am not going to throw Charlotte Dial under the bus. She has helped hundreds of children thrive and be successful.

CROWD: Cheers

LISA: Those cheers are coming from 170 parents, principals and teachers who joined Eva at the press conference. Eva thought the Times story was unfair, and she turned the press conference into an attack on the paper, and a full-throated defense of Success Academy. Parents spoke about how committed and loving Success teachers were to their children.

PARENT 1: If I ever thought my daughter was being disrespected by a teacher, I would not keep them there. No one forces us to choose Success. My daughter is on the road to a successful future and I know it is because of the foundation she received at Success Academy.

PARENT 2: There are so many good things that happen here. And the children are so far ahead of other children in New York City.

PARENT 3: You are telling children at four years old, you will go to college, you will be Successful, you will be able to do anything that you put your mind to do and I will stand behind you and support you every step of the way.


LISA: After those impassioned speeches from parents, Eva took questions. One reporter asked whether Charlotte Dial’s behavior was a symptom of deeper problems at Success.  

REPORTER: My question was about are there systemic things that you think need review that are putting so much pressure on principals and teachers that would result in these behaviors?

EVA: I don't believe that there are systemic problems. I might, you know maybe with the exception of writing.


LISA: Eva makes a joke — saying that she has seen some systemic problems with student writing. But then she says she believes that respecting, nurturing, and loving children is built into Success' DNA.

We reached out to Charlotte Dial several times, and she didn't respond to our emails or calls.

To this day, Eva says she doesn’t believe that what Charlotte Dial did in that video is a result of deeper problems. It was one moment, one teacher, at her worst, caught on tape. But, as we reported this series, we found that a lot of people who’ve worked inside her organization don't agree; they saw the video and thought it did point to systemic problems. We asked 26 current and former employees what they thought of the video. Together, they’d worked in a third of the schools in the Success network. The vast majority of them — 21 of the 26 — did not think what they saw in the video was an anomaly.

JESSIE: you could see it happen like 100 times a day .

LISA: So that felt very, like that felt Charlotte dial in that video felt like every day at Success?

JESSIE: Yeah for sure. Not in every classroom, but plenty of classrooms.  

VIOLET: When you work in that environment you’ve seen that before. That’s not something new i think it was just caught on video.  

LISA: can you tell me what your reaction was seeing the video?

DAVID: part of me felt like I was, could have been watching a video of myself and feeling like my head was going to explode. And you know if you caught me on tape on certain moments you could call a press conference for that too I guess.

LISA: That’s Jessie Shabin, Violet Davenport, and David. You’ve heard from all of them in previous episodes. David taught in three schools during his six years at Success. He told me there were definitely times he lost his cool with kids. And he remembers acting kind of like Charlotte Dial did in the video.

LISA: Have you ripped up someone's work?

DAVID: I have. Yeah I have. I remember, I remember it being a thing. I remember it being taught to us. I remember it in Harlem three leaders saying like well if they get it wrong you know just rip and redo right.

LISA: Success Academy told us that rip-and-redo is not something they train teachers to do. David is one of six former Success people who told us they did learn it there.

DAVID: There’s this sense that whatever it takes to really show students that you hold them to a high bar. There’s a line, don’t cross that line, but a lot of people cross that line and they wouldn’t be held accountable for crossing that line. And I think the unspoken thing there is what matters is the results.

LISA: Eva Moskowitz takes pride in Success' high performance culture. But some people tell us it’s that very culture that can lead to things like Charlotte Dial. For example, the way Success keeps teachers accountable is by making everyone's results very visible. All teachers across the Success network of 47 schools are ranked according to their students' performance. And every teacher can see everyone else’s ranking on a shared website. They are posted after each test, sometimes as often as every week.  

LISA: The ranking... But tell me more about the ranking like that the teacher's ranking. How closely did you watch it?

DAVID: I mean you just you just watch it. You're early as a teacher. You're very new, you're in this very high pressure organization and you're constantly being like am I doing a terrible job? Am I doing a good job? That was good. Is this good? You know you can... you're totally stressed out all the time, and so you just want feedback that you know objectively tells you OK here's a good... you know, you're doing a good job.

LISA: David said no one wants to see themselves at the bottom of that list. Or even in the middle.

DAVID: Yeah everyone knows I am 16th out of 32, like you know like that ...I must be doing, what the hell... And I remember when I was a science teacher too I like I remember consistently being near the top if not at the top and it felt great. I remember just being like oh man you know I'm like I had the best score in Brooklyn. You know just being like, you just feel good.

LISA: A founding teacher and Success leader told me the intention of the system is a good one — Success wants to be really transparent about where everyone stands, and for teachers and leaders to be focused on growth. Where you are today is not necessarily where you’ll be tomorrow. But I’ve spoken to several teachers about this ranking system, and while some said that it did really change their practice in the classroom, for the better, it also created a sense of competition that wasn’t always healthy.

In fact, Charlotte Dial, when the video was shot, was one of the top ranked first-grade teachers in the network.  And before the video had come out, she’d gotten a promotion to become a “lab site” teacher — someone who teaches other teachers how to teach.

These high expectations, and the pressures that come along with them, can also change the way teachers relate to their students. Jenny Gold taught at Success for five years. She says the Success mantra of 100 percent of the kids 100 percent of the time, something we’ve talked about before, can make you stop seeing your students as people.   

JENNY: There was a point where i saw myself looking around the classroom and seeing kids as colors and numbers, like that kid's a blue, that kids a green, that persons a red. They are a four, three, two, one.

LISA: She’s talking about the system that Success uses for measuring student performance.

JENNY: And I knew like it’s time. I'm not seeing the whole person anymore, I'm just seeing a number. I'm just seeing data. It was dark. I mean, it was weird because I recognized this in myself that I was a Westworld robot, and still grappling with that feeling and that I let myself get to that point. And I'm sure people are listening and like oh my god how does that happen to a person, or some people will be like, oh my god I know exactly what she's talking about. It's almost like it's an unrecognizable side of me now. oh man.


LISA: what led to that moment?

JG: I think I was working too much. I couldn't understand a joke. I was burnt out. it had a noble cause behind it, but for me personally it wasn't the right situation to be in.

LISA: Several teachers we spoke to said the pressure to perform at Success can push good people towards bad behavior like berating kids or ripping up work. Violet Davenport worked at four schools over her nearly 8 years at Success. She often wonders how she contributed to that culture.

VIOLET: Did I strip any child of their dignity at any point in my time there? I do think about that often. Because I was... when you're in it, you just sometimes morph into someone who you're not. I knew better. I wanted to also achieve and be well liked and have my kids the best in the network. I remember those feelings.

LISA: Promotions and public rankings based on students’ test scores, they can motivate a teacher to perform because they appeal to people’s pride, their sense of competition. But Success also tried to get teachers to internalize the stakes for the kids. David said that when he started at Success in 2011, he was told that if he couldn’t get his kids to do well in school, not only would it hurt their ability to go to college, but it would lead to a life of failure — they’d be stuck in a cycle of poverty… or worse.

DAVID: If you can't get them to do the right thing what awaits them is a life of criminality or death. That is literally, that was taught to me right... and at the time I was like whoa. Right. I don't know if I believed it the first year, but I definitely was like okay I don't know what's going on here right, I'm from the outside, I'm coming in, I'll trust this guy right. After a while I was like wait a second this is, this is just inaccurate. It's like plenty of people go to bad schools and don't do very well and don't become criminals and don't get shot. Right like and I stopped believing that pretty quickly. Right. I realized that after a little while but you still internalize the stakes somehow right. You still internalize like this child's destiny is on the line. So if I can't get them to get them no stories right like, it's just all on me.   

LISA: How old were you when you started at Success?

DAVID: I was 22 Yeah. Yeah.

LISA: That’s young.


LISA: It's a big responsibility.

David: Yep. It's a lot of responsibility. And you are made aware that it's a lot of responsibility. Right. To put it lightly.

LISA: For a lot of young teachers, they see Success' system get results. Their students perform really well on standardized tests — they achieve at higher levels than most other New York City public school students. But what are the costs when you’re pushing kids to achieve like this?

VIOLET:  The majority of kids win. They learn to read well and they... I know some that now we're in private schools. Right? Or boarding schools based on their foundational education at Success Academies. All of those kids that left are happier children in other environments. Yes you taught me to read, but you tried to strip me of my dignity. That... I had to find my dignity somewhere else. That shouldn't be part of the model.

LISA: Eva Moskowitz talks about how Success classrooms have both joy and rigor. It's a hard balance to strike, especially since Success has systems that track rigor and not so much joy. But teachers told me that high expectations aren’t always bad. In fact, they can lead to amazing things: Kids learning to take their work really seriously. High performing kids being respected by their peers. And skilled teachers managing a room where kids are happy, engaged in their work, and learning and discussing the material at a high level. In our time reporting on Success, we have witnessed all of this. For instance we saw it this one time, when we visited an AP Lit class at Success Academy’s high school. The kids were discussing the novel The Awakening… and debating what exactly it was that the main character was waking up to.  

STUDENT 1: What is to you her re-awakening?

STUDENT 2: She awoke...  waking up to what she wanted, realizing what she wanted.

STUDENT 1: No. When she swam, she had the freedom. Isn't it odd that she drowned herself? 

STUDENT 2: But but remember earlier in the book...

STUDENT 1: She drowned in her freedom. She drowned in her freedom.

STUDENT 2: Earlier in the book... earlier in the book she swam. But then she turned around back to her husband. But this time she is leaving all her obligations and everything. She is becoming free.

LISA: Kids were engaged, speaking up. Even the quiet kids, if you peaked over their shoulders you could see notes in the margins, sentences underlined I spoke to one teacher, who had just started at Success, after teaching at a public high school in the midwest for several years. She told me she was impressed that, at Success, even the sleepy kid in the back of the room has something interesting to say when you call on him. And this is exactly what Eva dreamed of 12 years ago when she started her very first school in Harlem. A school where every kid not only learned to read, but loved reading. A school that would prove to everyone that poor kids could achieve at the same level as rich kids, if given the right supports.  

A lot of people who still work at Success acknowledge that the high expectations, the urgency, the teacher rankings, the rigid classroom management can lead to teachers berating kids. But it can also lead to kids loving to read and learning to do math at a high level. So is it worth it?

Does Success' ability to deliver on its promises of high achievement mean that being berated and pushed to the limit is just something kids and parents have to accept?

Next week, in the final episode of our series, we'll hear from Success Academy students who have been living inside this system for almost a decade. Do they think it’s worth it?


LISA: StartUp is hosted by me, Lisa Chow. This episode was produced by Bruce Wallace, Heather Rogers, Sindhu Gnanasambandan and Molly Messick. Editing by Sara Sarasohn, Emanuele Berry and Caitlin Kenney, with help from Erin Kelly and Gabe Lozada. Fact checking by Michelle Harris.

Special thanks to Kate Taylor of the New York Times for the audio from the Charlotte Dial press conference.

Our theme song is by Mark Phillips. Build Buildings wrote and performed our special ad music. Peter Leonard mixed the episode, and composed original music for the series. For full music credits, visit our website,  

Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week, for the last episode in our series on Success Academy. We’re going to high school.