Success Academy Charter Schools

An interesting profile of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York:

If you’ve heard of charter school founder Eva Moskowitz, odds are it’s because of her pitched, front-page battles with teachers’ unions and their powerful ally, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But whatever your politics, it’s hard to deny her results. In New York, where dozens of public schools failed to pass a single black or Hispanic student on last year’s state math and reading exams, Moskowitz’s 32 Success Academy Charter Schools rank in the top 1% of all the state’s programs in math—and in the top 3% for English.

Daniel Loeb, CEO of the hedge fund Third Point and Success Academy board chair, likens it to an Internet startup: “The intensity of focus that leads to outstanding results, the use of data, the recruitment and cultivation of talent—it feels like you
are on a mini-Google campus.”

On a tour of Success Academy’s flagship school in Harlem, Moskowitz shared her philosophy on disrupting education.

Kids should struggle. “There’s this sense in public education that kids are fragile, that their self-esteem will be hurt,” she says. “We believe self-esteem comes from mastery.” Moskowitz doesn’t worry about kids’ being stressed about test taking; Olympic athletes get stressed too. Too often schools aim low for children in poverty. “We have to reverse that thinking,” she says. Success Academy’s South Bronx school—in the nation’s poorest congressional district—is one of its top performers.

Chess is key to building agile minds. Every kid is required to study the game—and tournaments are a favorite school sport. Science is crucial too. This is the rare elementary school in which science is taught five days a week, relying heavily on hands-on experiments. Computer-coding classes start in second grade.

Assume all your students are going to college. At Success Academy schools, each teacher’s alma mater is listed on his or her name card outside the classroom door—along with students’ names and their expected graduation year. Even in art classes, which Moskowitz says should be front and center in any curriculum (“not extracurricular”), there is this sign: designers and artists go to college.

Extend the same college expectations to special-ed students. In some classrooms a third of Success Academy students have learning and emotional disabilities. Moskowitz provides intense help for those students but operates under the assumption that “special ed” is not a permanent track. “It’s not an inability. It’s a disability,” she says. Her special-ed kids actually outperform New York City’s general-education students in math and English.

No coddling for teachers either. They are expected to work long days and longer school years and attend far more training sessions than regular city teachers. For that, they get paid 30% more than their unionized counterparts. Says Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: “Her secret sauce is definitely in the teacher training.”

Principals, not just teachers, have to know their students. Even principals must memorize the names and families of each of the hundreds of children in their charge. 

Open Letter To Bernie Sanders

A great post by my second favorite economist:

You want to raise the minimum wage and prevent what you allege to be “corporately backed” freer trade. Your positions are inconsistent with each other.

Presumably you believe that higher minimum wages (contrary to the prediction of basic economic reasoning) cause no, or only vanishingly few, low-skilled workers to lose their jobs. That is, you believe that employers respond to higher minimum wages in ways that do not include further economizing on the amounts of low-skilled labor they employ. Put differently, in your analysis of the minimum wage, domestic employment isn’t at all sensitive to wage rates.

Yet you oppose the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement because you are convinced that the freer trade this agreement spawns will “allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.” So when the topic at hand is international trade, you believe that domestic employment is sensitive to wage rates.

Can you explain why firms cannot or will not substitute out of higher-cost labor (say, by using labor-saving machinery) when the minimum wage rises, but are eager and able to substitute out of higher-cost labor when tariffs fall?

Quote Of The Day

“Unlike most other big cities in America, Houston has no zoning code, so it is quick to respond to demand for housing and office space. Last year authorities in the Houston metropolitan area, with a population of 6.2m, issued permits to build 64,000 homes. The entire state of California, with a population of 39m, issued just 83,000. ” — The Economist

The GM Recall Record

It’s staggering:

For those who are just tuning into the GM recall saga, some quick facts. GM has issued 44 recalls in North America this year alone. More than 20 million vehicles have been affected worldwide—a tremendous figure that surpasses total annual vehicle sales in the U.S. The recall pace has snowballed since the start of the year, with only two issued in January, but 14 so far this June for some 4.2 million vehicles. With half of the year left to go, GM is already looking at $2 billion in total recall-related charges.

While some recalls have been over more severe issues than others, the breadth and scope of GM’s fiasco this year reveals a shocking safety crisis. At its current rate, GM is on track to shatter the entire auto industry’s record for most vehicles affected in recalls in a single year, explains Michael Schultz, an industry analyst at the Center for Automotive Research. “It’s unprecedented,” says Schultz, who also expects that the company isn’t done yet. “I anticipate there’s going to be more until they have literally nothing else possible to issue a recall on,” he says.

Global Warming Slows As Carbon Dioxide Rose

The Economist writes:

BETWEEN 1998 and 2013, the Earth’s surface temperature rose at a rate of 0.04°C a decade, far slower than the 0.18°C increase in the 1990s. Meanwhile, emissions of carbon dioxide (which would be expected to push temperatures up) rose uninterruptedly.

Then proceeds to offer a bunch of after the fact explanations but I wonder what environmental model predicted this, a priori? Probably not many.

Economist Bryan Caplan has more here.

The Changing Rich

Larry Summers writes:

When Forbes compared its list of the wealthiest Americans in 1982 and 2012, it found that less than one tenth of the 1982 list was still on the list in 2012, despite the fact that a significant majority of members of the 1982 list would have qualified for the 2012 list if they had accumulated wealth at a real rate of even 4 percent a year. They did not, given pressures to spend, donate, or misinvest their wealth. In a similar vein, the data also indicate, contra Piketty, that the share of the Forbes 400 who inherited their wealth is in sharp decline.

Assortive Mating And Inequality

Via Matthew Yglesias:

Among college-educated people, in particular, the tendency is not so much to marry within your community as to marry within your educational cohort. Every once in a while you do see a college graduate married to a high school dropout (my parents, for example), but it’s quite rare. Since incomes are normally measured on the household level for statistical purposes, it matters quite a bit to big-picture national trends. In particular, “assortative mating” of this kind is a major driver of household-level income inequality.

How big? Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Georgi Kocharkov, and Cezar Santos report in a new paper that if in 2005 the matching of husbands and wives had been random, the Gini coefficient—the most common summary measure of income inequality—would have been 0.34 rather than its real-world 0.43, a difference of almost 25 percent.

Quote Of The Day

“Three studies examined Americans’ perceptions of incomes and income inequality using a variety of criterion measures. Contrary to recent findings indicating that Americans underestimate wealth inequality, we found that Americans not only overestimated the rise of income inequality over time, but also underestimated average incomes. Thus, economic conditions in America are more favorable than people seem to realize. Furthermore, ideological differences emerged in two of these studies, such that political liberals overestimated the rise of inequality more than political conservatives. Implications of these findings for public policy debates and ideological disagreements are discussed. – Marginal Revolution

The Crime Problem In Venezuela

None of this, of course, comes as a surprise to right-wingers:

The bigger problem for Maduro and his allies is how to explain the government’s failed public-safety record after 14 years in power. The government stopped publishing crime data 10 years ago, and it’s easy to see why. Venezuela’s homicide rate has grown fourfold during the past 15 years, with 79 homicides per 100,000 people last year, according to estimates by Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a non-governmental institution that tries to piece together crime figures.

Such numbers make the socialist-led country the third most dangerous nation, after El Salvador and Honduras. By comparison, the 2012 homicide rate in the U.S., the world’s bastion of capitalism, stood at 4.7 homicides per 100,000. And that was considered high among rich countries.

Venezuela’s death count has even come close to that of Iraq (with a comparable population), where there happened to be a war. From 2003 through 2011, Venezuelan homicides were 124,000, or 76 percent of the body count in Iraq during that same period. That’s a shocking toll for a nation in peace time.

Full post here.

On Mexico Opening Up Oil Sector To International Investors

“Mexico has mismanaged its oil to the detriment of us all, said José Luis Luege. Ever since the government proposed opening the oil sector to foreign partners, leftists have been marshaling “pseudo-nationalist arguments” that equate letting foreign oil companies develop Mexican oil fields with stiffing our own citizens. They have it exactly backward. Besides North Korea, Mexico is the only country in the world that doesn’t allow foreign commercial partners in the oil industry—even communist Cuba does. That’s because the industry poses investment risks that only private companies can take. Pure nationalization of our oil hasn’t worked: At the turn of the 20th century, Mexico was a top oil producer, behind only the U.S. and Russia. But since the state nationalized production under Pemex in the 1930s, our oil industry has been “bankrupt and inefficient,” as “terrible corruption” has siphoned off funds that should go to exploration and infrastructure. Pemex has been systematically “looted by a bloated union structure” and corrupt officials, who together have “defrauded the nation.” Only by amending the constitution to allow companies besides Pemex to invest in our oil fields will we be able to reap real profits “for all Mexicans.”” — Via The Week

Indian International Student On The Most Surprising Things About America

A worthwhile post overall, but this one stood out:

An almost-classless society: I’ve noticed that most Americans roughly have the same standard of living. Everybody has access to ample food, everybody shops at the same supermarkets, malls, stores, etc. I’ve seen plumbers, construction workers and janitors driving their own sedans, which was quite difficult for me to digest at first since I came from a country where construction workers and plumbers lived hand to mouth.

Also, (almost) all sections of society are roughly equal. You’ll see service professionals owning iPhones, etc. as well. This may be wrong but part of it has to do with the fact that obtaining credit in this country is extremely easy. Anybody can buy anything, for the most part, except for something like a Maserati, obviously. As a result, most monetary possessions aren’t really status symbols. I believe that the only status symbol in America is your job, and possibly your educational qualifications.

Full post can be found here. This point reminded me of this post from economist Don Boudreaux. Both articles are wothwhile reads.

Question For Supporters Of The Minimum Wage

Given by economist Don Boudreaux:

In the U.S. in 1948, quoting my colleague Walter Williams, “the unemployment rate for white 16-17 year olds was 10.2 percent while that for blacks was 9.4 percent. Among white 18-19 year-olds, unemployment was 9.4 percent and for blacks it was 10.5 percent.” Today (October 2013) the unemployment rate for white 16-19 year olds is 19.4%; the unemployment rate for black 16-19 year olds is 36.0% – nearly double the rate of white teenage unemployment. (In 2006 – the year before the current recession began – the unemployment rate for white 16-19 year olds was 13.2%; the unemployment rate for black 16-19 years olds was 29.0% – slightly more than double the rate of white teenage unemployment.)

That is, the unemployment rate of black teenagers in 1948 was comparable to that of white teenagers, and about 2.5 times higher than the overall unemployment rate of 3.8%. Today, the unemployment rate for black teenagers is much higher than that for white teenagers, and nearly 5 times higher than the overall unemployment rate of 7.3%. (In 2006, the year before the current recession began, the unemployment rate for black teenagers was 6.3 times higher than the overall unemployment rate of 4.6%.)

How do you explain these data? Are American employers more prejudiced in 2013 than in 1948 against teenagers? More importantly, are Americans more racist in 2013 than they were in 1948?

These facts about teenage unemployment are straightforwardly explained by the standard economic theory that predicts that a legislated minimum wage causes the lowest-skilled, most poorly educated, or otherwise least-desirable workers to be the first to be fired and the last to be hired. What is your alternative explanation?

Minimum Wage Study

“new evidence based on methods that let the data identify the appropriate control groups leads to stronger evidence of disemployment effects, with teen employment elasticities near −0.3. We conclude that the evidence still shows that minimum wages pose a tradeoff of higher wages for some against job losses for others, and that policymakers need to bear this tradeoff in mind when making decisions about increasing the minimum wage.” — David Neumark, J.M. Ian Salas, William Wascher, via Greg Mankiw

On Working Holidays

“Which is just to say that in a diverse nation with more than 300 million citizens, opinions are going to vary on the pros and cons of extended business hours. How strapped for cash are you? Where does your family live? What’s your relationship with them like? How sentimental are you about specific holiday rituals? People will differ. This Thanksgiving there are going to be people with jobs at the Gap who wish they weren’t working Thanksgiving but feel that they’d lose their jobs if they weren’t willing to take an extra shift. There are also going to be people with jobs at Radio Shack who wish they could earn some extra cash and get out from under that credit card debt. I’m not persuaded that there’s a first-order question of social justice here one way or the other.” — Matthew Yglesias

Quote Of The Day

“A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.” — Forbes Magazine Commentary

Teachers And Incentives – A Study

“Teachers in the United States are compensated largely on the basis of fixed schedules that reward experience and credentials. However, there is a growing interest in whether performance-based incentives based on rigorous teacher evaluations can improve teacher retention and performance. The evidence available to date has been mixed at best. This study presents novel evidence on this topic based on IMPACT, the controversial teacher-evaluation system introduced in the District of Columbia Public Schools by then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee. IMPACT implemented uniquely high-powered incentives linked to multiple measures of teacher performance (i.e., several structured observational measures as well as test performance). We present regression-discontinuity (RD) estimates that compare the retention and performance outcomes among low-performing teachers whose ratings placed them near the threshold that implied a strong dismissal threat. We also compare outcomes among high-performing teachers whose rating placed them near a threshold that implied an unusually large financial incentive. Our RD results indicate that dismissal threats increased the voluntary attrition of low-performing teachers by 11 percentage points (i.e., more than 50 percent) and improved the performance of teachers who remained by 0.27 of a teacher-level standard deviation. We also find evidence that financial incentives further improved the performance of high-performing teachers (effect size = 0.24). – new NBER Working Paper, Thomas Dee and James Wyckoff