Success Academy Harlem 1 Charter School
MANHATTAN NY 10026 Map
Success Academy Harlem 1 Charter School
UPDATE 2010: Harlem Success Academy 1 has had several changes in administration since Insideschools' visit in 2008. Jacqueline Getz, principal of PS 87 on the Upper West, was named principal at Harlem Success in summer of 2009 but left the job after only a few weeks. Succeeding her is Jacqueline Albers, a young alumnus of Teach for America.
2008 Review: Like many other charter schools, Harlem Success Charter Academy boasts an extended school day, a formal uniform, and classrooms named after the colleges their teachers attended. But it also remains committed to offering science, art, music, and physical education subjects that are often marginalized at no-nonsense, back-to-basics schools.
The school, which opened in 2006 with a kindergarten and 1st grade and will ultimately serve students through 8th grade, is the first in an empire of charter schools planned by the Success Charter Network, headed by Eva Moskowitz, a former chair of the City Council's education committee. In 2008, three replicas will open in Central and East Harlem, and the network plans to open as many as 40 schools within a decade. Success Network schools aim to prepare students not only for state tests "we're going to ace them," Moskowitz said but for sustained academic and social achievement in high school and beyond.
For 100 minutes each day, everyone in the school focuses on the Success for All Curriculum, which uses structured math and language arts lessons. Students are grouped by ability level rather than grade, and group sizes range from four, for students who need the most attention, to 16. Four days a week, students also write and revise; we saw Black History Month essays, penned by 1st graders that had gone through multiple drafts. One year after opening, the school's internal assessments showed that most students had been brought to grade level in reading and math.
Students have science five times each week. Harlem Success teachers designed the hands-on science curriculum after the science program at the Brearley School, a prestigious all-girls school on the Upper East Side. Children carry out real science experiments right away 1st graders dissect squid, for example and students in all grades go on frequent field trips, both to look at flora and fauna in the neighborhood and to science museums.
A plethora of non-academic activities keep students engaged and well-rounded. Kids have art, music, chess, soccer, and karate multiple times each week. In the evenings, the school holds family chess nights, and weekends are given over to soccer games in a local park. The result is that kids seem energetic and happy, even through a school day that stretches from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We saw a kindergarten class full of smiling children who were singing a version of the alphabet song that required them to act like animals whose names started with each letter.
Parents praise the attention their children receive and the bond the homework fosters between them and their kids. Principal Dan Wood said he's "never had more supportive parents" in his three decades of experience in California and Oregon. But parents are quick to note that enrolling at Harlem Success means hard work for parents as well as for students: parents are required to read six books a week with their children, and when kids are late, parents have to show up for Saturday school.
A team of administrators handle all non-instructional needs, such as building needs and hiring, so Wood and his teachers can focus on the classroom. Teachers spend two and a half hours planning every day, and on Fridays, students are dismissed at 2 p.m., to give teachers a time to meet. Lead classroom teachers have multiple years of classroom experience, and the school employs a host of assistant teachers one in each of the kindergarten classrooms and floating assistants in the upper grades.
As the school adds more grades, the tightly structured model will face challenges. The school will go from being the pioneer school in the Harlem Success Network to just one of many schools vying for the network's resources. While it will be able to take over more space in the PS 149 building, its permanent home, as its population grows, Harlem Success will still have to open its middle school at another site. And parents are already clamoring for a high school to open in 2014, when the first crop of 8th graders graduates, but school officials say a high school is not in the plans.
Special education: Almost a quarter of students require special education services. The school provides Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS), occupational therapy, and speech therapy.
Admissions: Lottery. Applications are due April 1, and preference goes to families living in District 3. (Philissa Cramer, March 2008)