Success Academy Harlem 1 Charter Elementary School

An Insideschools pick
34 WEST 118 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10026 Map
Phone: (646) 277-7170
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery/Priority District 3
Principal: Andrea Klein/Danique Loving
Neighborhood: Harlem
District: 3
Grade range: K-4
Unzoned
Charter School

What's special:

High test scores, daily science classes

The downside:

Some chafe at strict rules and punishments, space crunch and some tension in shared building

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

Success Academy Harlem 1 opened in 2006, the first in a provocative New York City charter network that has grown to 12 elementary and two middle schools. Success Academy's rigid structure and strict rules don't suit everyone's tastes, but no one denies most students earn enviable test scores and display good behavior. Surveys of parents regularly reveal high satisfaction with the charter school's academic instruction, and the school's 2013 lottery attracted 2,478 applications for just 122 slots.

Harlem 1 has many hallmarks of charter schools: uniforms, non-union teachers, longer school days and a no-excuses attitude toward student achievement. Hallway floors are dotted with numbers and words (so even class transitions can be instructional) and classroom rugs contain circles so kids know precisely where to sit. Children dress in the network's uniform, which features orange ties for boys and plaid jumpers for girls.

Children in grades K-4 have classes in a building shared with PS/MS 149 Sojourner Truth and PS 162 (a District 75 school for children with severe special needs). Two 5th-grade classes from Success Academy Harlem 4--the latest home for this often-moved group of kids--are also housed in this building.

The middle school, called Harlem West, serves children in grades 5-8 in a building on West 114th Street shared with Wadleigh Secondary School.

Success Academy elementary school students enter via a corner door on 118th Street, away from the PS 149 families who have complained the charter network takes up too much space in a building that was once solely theirs. Recess and lunch periods must be negotiated to keep the student bodies separate.

School days begin at 7:45 am, although kids can arrive as early at 7:15. Kindergarten lets out at 4 pm, and other grades get out at 4:30. (Kids go home early on Wednesdays so teachers can have planning time.) A fixed schedule moves kids briskly from one lesson to the next, and timers keep the day on pace. Often, a teacher will explain an assignment, then kids will break into small groups to do the work as a timer ticks off the seconds. Teachers often use the "turn and talk" technique, in which pairs of students discuss or review what has just been learned.

Each day, Harlem 1 students get a science lesson that includes a hands-on experiment. When we visited, 1st-graders were eagerly learning to measure and pour precise amounts of liquid in a calibrated beaker. Math instruction follows the TERC Investigations curriculum, supplemented by other programs. Kids have recess and snack daily and regularly get PE, art and music classes, but no foreign language.

Young kids learn to read and write using the phonics-based Success For All reading program, as well as the THINK Literacy program developed by Success Academy experts. During reading lessons, students frequently break into small groups of kids who are at the same reading level, and it's not uncommon for a group to be joined by a child from another grade who is reading above or below grade level.

Young kids moved silently in "zero noise" halls and moved efficiently from one lesson to the next. Teachers regularly reinforce model behavior with exclamations like, "I love the way Jenny is sitting quietly," and many students proudly wore small stickers that had been awarded for giving good answers.

Yet, Success Academy schools are also famous for a no-nonsense attitude toward bad behavior. Defiant kids who don't obey the conspicuously posted school rules quickly earn punishments ranging from brief timeouts to school suspensions. While parents generally approve of the rules, about one-third of middle school students complained that discipline is unfair, according to the 2012 Learning Environment Survey.

The school demands a great deal from its teachers, who typically join the Success Academy system right out of college and then spend a year in training under the wing of an established teacher. Harlem 1's non-union teachers can be fired if administrators feel they aren't doing a good job. Teachers must give out their cell phone numbers and be available at all hours to answer parents' questions.

Success Academy network administrators handle day-to-day bureaucratic chores, freeing on-site educators to focus on instruction. Network leaders also make all major decisions about curriculum, textbooks and methods, which often leaves faculty little discretion in what or how subjects are taught. A sense of faculty discontent came through in the Learning Environment Survey: Fewer than half the teachers said they usually look forward to work, and 79 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "I wouldn't want to work in any other school."

Asked about faculty attitudes, administrators cited the network's no-excuses focus on reinventing education. "We're on a quest to design the best schools in the country. It's challenging work," said Jenny Sedlis, senior managing director of external affairs for the Success Academy network. "It's a tougher job than in a lot of schools, and we acknowledge that."

Graduates of the elementary school go on to middle school at Success Academy Harlem West, which opened in 2012. Harlem West occupies the fifth floor of a shared campus at 215 West 114th Street called the Wadleigh Secondary Building, which is also home to Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts (an arts-based  middle and high school) and Frederick Douglass Academy II (a middle and high school).

Founding Harlem West principal Andrea Klein was a 4th-grade teacher at Success Academy Harlem 1, the first school in the charter network. Klein later joined the network’s literacy team, where she helped develop the THINK Literacy curriculum.

Special education: Children with special needs are taught in Integrated Co-Teaching classes that feature two teachers, one of whom is certified to teach special education.

Admission: Lottery, District 3. Siblings get preference in admissions. There are far more applicants than available slots. (Skip Card, May 2013)

InsideStats

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At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building

Number of Students 915

Average Daily Attendance 97%

Students at this school

Asian

  
1%

Black

  
75%

Hispanic

  
19%

White

  
2%

Free Lunch

  
79%

Special ed

  
13%

English Language Learners

  
3%

Safety & vibe

ARE KIDS
NICE?

How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?

11% 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

100% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average kindergarten class

NA 23 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average fifth grade class

NA 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

85% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

93% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

NA 23% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

How many teachers say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep students engaged?

92% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say this school does a good job teaching social-emotional skills?

59% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say this school does a good job teaching organizational and study skills?

85% 91% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam

92% 38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam

59% 29% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam

100% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Parents

Are parents involved?

How many parents responded to the school survey?

33% 68% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents say they attended at least one pta meeting in the last school year?

75% 72% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Does the school encourage family involvement?

How many parents say they were invited to an event at the school at least 3 times in the last school year?

85% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Do parents like the school?

How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?

97% 94% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

NA 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

81% 18% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

26% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

NA 16% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents say students with disabilities are included in all activities?

98% 98% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say students with special needs are educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate?

78% 89% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents of students with ieps say this school offers a wide enough variety of services and activities for their children’s needs?

94% 89% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

Percent of ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of former ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say this school ensures that ells receive the same curriculum as non-ells with appropriate suppports?

81% 90% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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