Getting the numbers right on Harlem schools

August 31, 2011

By Jenny Sedlis
The opinions expressed are her own.

I note that Michael Winerip has chosen to use data about Harlem Success Academy’s student body as the central piece of factual evidence in his reply to Steven Brill.  Harlem Success Academy had 9.5% English Language Learners in 2009-10, not the 1.5% that Michael Winerip reported.  The statistics are publicly available (as a ZIP file) in the section NYSESLAT Annual Results*: Source: NYSED School Report Card Database 2009-10 URL:

Even if there were vast differences in the demographics (which there are not) Harlem Success Academy 3rd graders scored in the top 1% in New York State on the ELA in 2009-10, while PS 149 3rd graders scored in the bottom 2%, a difference that cannot be attributed to demographics.  Winerip is correct that Harlem Success Academy has advantages over PS 149 that makes comparisons less valuable.  We can hire and fire. We can provide 8 weeks a year of professional development. Our principals are instructional leaders who are there to support and develop teachers. The composition of our student body is not the determining factor in our success. It’s the quality, training, passion, effort, and drive of our teachers, leaders and network staff.

*All English Language Learners take the NYSESLAT test.  The number of test-takers in a school reflects the number of English Language Learners.  The demographics section in the database is incorrect.  It pulls data from the City’s ATS database before the NYSESLAT results were included.

Jenny Sedlis is director of external affairs for the Success Charter Network.


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Steve Brill notes: This is the data that I was attempting to explain to Michael Winerip of the New York Times (even though the Harlem Success people had also pointed him to it) when he told me he “did not have time for this….” and hung up on me.

Posted by jledbet | Report as abusive

A model with principles and senior educators assisting and developing teachers, curriculum and teaching techniques is essential. Change is rapid in the 21st century. Environment, culture, relative health and wealth of a society are also critical factors to consider when educating our young. A group approach by educators sharing their observations without reprisal(success’ and failures )in order to assist and grow as educators is wholly welcome in my view. School boards and politicians must find away to give educators the freedom needed to implement such a system.

Posted by coyotle | Report as abusive