Mother of Girl Berated in Video Assails Success Academy’s Response
By Kate Taylor FEB. 25, 2016
In two lengthy interviews, she said that she did not know what was happening in her daughter’s classroom before she saw the video. She said that she was so upset by what she saw — and by the network’s rush to rally around Ms. Dial, while showing little concern for her daughter or other students — that she took the girl out of the school in late January.
Ms. Miranda said that while Ms. Dial had apologized to her, the teacher had never apologized to her daughter. She said that a public relations specialist for Success drafted an email for her, asking The Times not to publish the video, and that at a meeting Ms. Moskowitz held at the school on Jan. 20, Ms. Moskowitz asked the parents to support Ms. Dial and to defend the school to the paper. Ms. Miranda said that when she stood up, identified herself and objected that Ms. Moskowitz was asking parents to support the teacher without even showing them the video, Ms. Moskowitz cut her off.
“She’s like, ‘You had enough to say, you had enough to say,’ and she tried to talk over me,” Ms. Miranda said. “So I just really got frustrated, and I just walked out, and the parents that were concerned followed me, and the parents who were against me and for the teacher” stayed in the auditorium.
Ms. Miranda took her daughter home that morning and did not bring her back to the school. The next week, after confirming that there was a seat in the regular public school where her younger son is in prekindergarten, she withdrew her daughter and placed her in that school.
The video was recorded surreptitiously in the fall of 2014 by an assistant teacher who was concerned by what she described as Ms. Dial’s daily harsh treatment of the children. The assistant teacher, who insisted on anonymity because she feared endangering future job prospects, shared the video with The New York Times after she left Success in November.
After being shown the video last month, Ann Powell, a Success spokeswoman, described its contents as shocking and said Ms. Dial had been suspended pending an investigation. But a week and a half later, Ms. Dial returned to her classroom and her role as an exemplar within the network.
In an interview and at the news conference, Ms. Moskowitz dismissed the video as an anomaly, but Ms. Miranda’s daughter, now 8, said that Ms. Dial frequently yelled at students for infractions like not folding their hands. She said that she did not remember the specific incident captured on the video, but that she was afraid to ask questions in Ms. Dial’s class, because asking Ms. Dial to explain something a second time would lead to a punishment. She said Ms. Dial had on other occasions ripped up children’s papers when she thought they were copying others’ work.
She said she did not complain to her mother, because “I was scared of Ms. Dial.”
It is important to remember that we are talking about a literal "model teacher," someone whom the Success Academy officially held up as an example to train others, and she was promoted to that position because (and this is supported by everything else we know about the program) Ms. Dial provided the school with exactly what it was looking for, a high pressure environment that would get the most out of the students who could stand up to it and would chase off those that couldn't.
From the previous NYT article in the series:
Success is known for its students’ high achievement on state tests, and it emphasizes getting — and keeping — scores up. Jessica Reid Sliwerski, 34, worked at Success Academy Harlem 1 and Success Academy Harlem 2 from 2008 to 2011, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. She said that, starting in third grade, when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.
“It’s this culture of, ‘If you’ve made them cry, you’ve succeeded in getting your point across,’” she said.
One day, she said, she found herself taking a toy away from a boy who was playing with it in class, and then smashing it underfoot. Shortly after, she resigned.
“I felt sick about the teacher I had become, and I no longer wanted to be part of an organization where adults could so easily demean children under the guise of ‘achievement,’” said Ms. Sliwerski, who subsequently worked as an instructional coach in Department of Education schools.
This is the business model. You design everything around the sole purpose of optimizing one arbitrary metric regardless of the toll on the students, families and faculty, a metric that is very probably losing its value as an indicator of academic progress thanks to these practices.
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