U.S. Secretary of Education John King announced last week that Success Academy Harlem 4 and Success Academy Bronx 1 have been named National Ribbon Schools, a distinction granted to only 329 of the nation’s 130,000 public and private schools.
SA Harlem 4 and SA Bronx 1 were selected based on exceptional student performance that far exceeds traditional expectations about what children in low-income neighborhoods of color can achieve. In fact, these schools turned generations-old achievement gaps upside down. Their students read, write, and reason at higher levels than their peers in some of the state’s wealthiest enclaves, such as the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the suburb of Scarsdale.
“Principal William Loskoch at SA Harlem 4 and Principal Elizabeth Vandlik at SA Bronx 1 have created joyful oases of learning in neighborhoods that were once educational deserts,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. “This award is a testament to their extraordinary work, their talented teachers, and their supportive families. It’s also the latest proof that great schools can be scaled up quickly, in the best interests of kids — if there is the political will to do so.”
SA Harlem 4’s students are 98% minority and 81% come from low-income households. The school became just the third public school in Harlem to win the award in the past 25 years. The other two? They’re also part of Success Academy: SA Harlem 1 was selected in 2012 and SA Harlem 3 in 2015. The network will open a sixth Harlem elementary school in August 2017.
SA Bronx 1 is the first ever non-selective public school in its neighborhood — the heart of the South Bronx, part of the nation’s poorest Congressional district — to receive the honor. About 9 out of 10 students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Their families speak seven different languages, including Creole and Spanish, reflecting the area’s African and Latino roots.
At both schools, 99% of students met rigorous Common Core state standards in math in 2016. SA Bronx 1 ranked #5 in all of New York State out of more than 3,500 public schools, while SA Harlem 4 ranked #9. Both schools also ranked in the top 2% of all public schools in the state in English Language Arts.
Crucially, these Success schools provide a lifeline for children with disabilities who are often left behind by the failing district schools in their neighborhoods. Every child with special needs at both SA Bronx 1 and SA Harlem 4 passed the state math exam — compared to 11% of children with disabilities citywide. And while fewer than 1 in 10 city students with disabilities met state standards in English Language Arts, SA Bronx 1 helped 56% of them do so while the rate was a remarkable 72% at SA Harlem 4.
A deep sense of community distinguishes both schools and helps children fall in love with learning. For example, the Buddy Program for reading at SA Harlem 4 pairs older students (who practice leadership) with younger children (who improve their skills). At SA Bronx 1, you might walk in to find children wearing top hats on Fancy Schmancy Day — one of many joyful spirit days.
Both schools are also well-known for helping children discover their passions and deepen their talents. For example, all students learn chess as part of the regular curriculum and many play competitively. At the state championship tournament in Saratoga Springs, the SA Bronx 1 team won first place in its division and an SA Harlem 4 first grader went undefeated to win the state title for grades K-1. Students also participate in diverse arts, music, dance, and sports programs — including a unique European-style soccer club.
“This award highlights how much children from all backgrounds can achieve when they are inspired to work hard, their teachers are dedicated to improving every day, and their parents are deeply invested in their learning. Congratulations to all of the Harlem 4 community!” said Principal William Loskoch. A graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Loskoch joined Success Academy as a leadership resident in 2011 before becoming principal of SA Harlem 4. He holds a certificate in school leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I’m incredibly proud of the scholars, parents, teachers, and staff at SA Bronx 1. We’re honored to be recognized for the way we pursue extraordinary academic rigor as one family, and at the same time help children discover their passions and grow as citizens,” said Principal Elizabeth Vandlik. Ms. Vandlik began her career at a district elementary school in the Bronx before teaching kindergarten and fourth grade at SA Harlem 1, and then moving into school leadership at SA Bronx 1. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and also holds a master’s in education.
SA Harlem 4 opened in 2008 and SA Bronx 1 opened in 2010. They are among 29 Success Academy elementary schools that serve children in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Success Academy schools share a progressive, child-centered approach that fosters a love of learning at an early age by providing young scholars with high-quality children’s literature and a well-rounded curriculum that includes reading, writing, math, and project-based learning, as well as science five days a week starting in kindergarten. Scholars also learn chess, visual arts, music, sports, and dance.
Thousands of educators, government officials, and policymakers from across the country and around the world have traveled to New York to attend Success Academy workshops and conferences or to tour a school. It was in response to educators’ requests that Eva Moskowitz wrote Mission Possible: How the Secrets of Success Academies Can Work in Any School with Arin Lavinia, in 2012. More recently, Success Academy launched virtual tours that take viewers inside classrooms while detailing the curriculum, philosophy, and key aspects of its results-driven elementary and middle school designs.