The Success Academy network, founded by Eva Moskowitz, puts its focus on creating a well-rounded child. The emphasis on both skills and content is why it succeeds where other charter schools may flounder.
Critics of the “balanced literacy” model disagree with the approach to skills vs content. To sum it up, the model emphasizes reading skills but doesn’t do much for content building skills. Moskowitz took these criticisms to heart when designing the curriculum for Success Academy. She has students focus not only on building skills but also being worldly. Students read poetry by Langston Hughes and stories about characters from Japan, not just Shakespeare and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This focus on content makes it easier for children to get invested in their reading. They experience their own culture as well as the cultures of others.
In keeping with the idea of creating a well-rounded student, Success Academy goes above and beyond what the Common Core requires. Common Core, for example, does not require daily science classes until 6th grade. Success Academy includes science in the curriculum in kindergarten. Partaking in experiments at such a young age helps build a background in science and creates a hands-on learning environment. Success Academy also includes a curriculum for writing and art, and puts a focus on after-school activities. The curriculum assigns extensive writing projects for every grade. Chess tournaments, journalism classes, and school musicals are a common occurrence. Yes, the scores for Math and English are high, but so are the scores for science and history, unlike many other schools.
Additionally, teachers themselves learn the skills that students learn. A mandatory four-week training class is given for every teacher at a Success Academy school. This teaches instructors the skills they will teach at a more advanced level. It shows them not just what they’ll be teaching but why it’s important. Understanding the main idea for a story, for example, will help for testing but it will also help someone understand what they’re reading and what to take from it.
This dual-focus on content and teaching to a test helps students reach their full potential.