At breakfast this morning, I read an Epoch Times article depicting a former teacher at one of Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy Charter Schools. In the article we are treated to an account of how hard the teachers and pupils work, the Success Academy system's potential for teacher burnout (which is true of the systems of many charter management organizations), and the striking success of the Academy's pupils on New York's state tests. One is left asking oneself if all the time and effort are worth the results, and this leads inevitably to the question of what "success" means in relation to a school.
I believe that defining school success must begin with student outcomes. In the case of primary schools like the Success Academy, scores on state tests are a reasonable proxy, since they have predictive value for how well Success pupils will perform in middle school, whether in other Success schools or outside the network. In the case of an upper secondary school like One World Lyceum, a model my trustees and I are proposing to start, success will be defined as the families of the students I am teaching define it: by college admissions, in particular admissions to top colleges.
The Wall Street Journal, Worth, and other publications have produced rankings based on how successful North America's college-preparatory high schools are in gaining access for their graduates to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford, the most common answers to requests for defining "top colleges" on this continent. But One World, as the name makes apparent, is envisioned as an international school, with global outreach (and an educational programme that prepares its graduates for success anywhere in the world); so what is our answer to defining the schools we are targeting for our students?
Our school model calls for graduating classes of 180 students, which we consider to be an ideal size, neither too large nor too small. In reality, college matching decisions will be made between the colleges and our students and their families; but insofar as we play (as I am currently playing in guiding students towards colleges likeliest to help them fulfill their aspirations) a role in this match-making, it is in our lyceum's interest to establish ongoing relationships with the top 180 university colleges in the world; and I have devoted considerable effort to defining what these are, I share this information with the students I am charged with overseeing, and I am also willing to share my results privately with those who are interested.