Harlem Success

Harlem Success Academy runs the best elementary schools I’ve visited with the most:

  • reading; students in 4th grade read at least 25 leveled books per month.
  • science: students get hands on science every day starting in Kindergarten
  • well equipped classrooms: teachers use every square inch of floor and wall (and hallway) for engagement and instruction
  • integrated college prep: every classroom is named for a college starting in Kindergarten—you can’t navigate the school without talking about college
  • organized parents: they know what they want and they get it
  • students on the waiting list: most of the 10,000 Harlem parents on a waiting list are trying to get in to a Harlem Success school (see The Lottery)

The first Harlem Success school had the top math scores in the state with 100% of 3rd graders passing the state math test and near the top reading scores—pretty good for a urban lottery school don’t you think?
Another thing I like about Harlem Success is that they are different and better every time I visit—the team is pushing hard, experimenting, and improving on success.  Every classroom has Smart boards this year.  The balanced literacy program will include leveled Kindles this fall (what a great idea!).
The UFT won the right to keep zone schools open, so it’s ironic that while parents are beating the door down at Harlem Success, there are six kids in a Kindergarten next door at the district school.  Joel Klein is the best urban superintendent in the country and clearly a charter supporter but Harlem Success, Achievement First, and Village Academy parents have to fight for everything they get and still don’t have equitable funding or access to facilities.  The state requires that these best-in-class operators provide a full application for each charter with a different board—it’s ridiculous what they go through to open a school to serve the neediest kids in America.
Harlem Success is a network of four schools with three more this fall.  Despite the odds, Success is spreading.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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