Success Academy Charter Schools Evaluation



Success Academy is a prominent charter network in New York City with schools located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Across 32 elementary, middle, and high schools in 2014, Success Academy served roughly 9,000 students. In 2014, among the 2,255 students who were age-eligible to take the New York State achievement test, 94 percent were proficient in math and 64 percent were proficient in English language arts. Ninety percent of these students were black and Hispanic, and 82 percent were economically disadvantaged.

When Success Academy schools are oversubscribed, lotteries are employed to allocate slots. MDRC has begun laying the groundwork for a lottery-based analysis of the impact of Success Academy schools on students’ academic achievement and grade progress. In this analysis, MDRC will compare the educational outcomes of elementary students who received a placement in a Success Academy school with those of students who competed in a lottery but were not placed in a Success Academy school.

We expect that the findings from this study will be of interest to many audiences. For example, the study will provide important information for NYC families about the effects of the Success Academy school model — information that we hope will be useful in their future school selection processes. In addition, MDRC hopes to explore other questions of importance to Success Academy schools, policymakers, practitioners, and funders. Additional work might explore the role and effectiveness of Success Academy’s vertically-aligned curriculum, its impacts on student’s socio-emotional well-being and engagement in school, and other questions about what may drive any Success Academy impacts. Ultimately, we aim to learn how Success Academy schools work and how to apply these lessons to other school settings.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

Using naturally-occurring lotteries created by the Success Academy admissions process, the MDRC impact analysis will compare the future outcomes of students who received a placement at a Success Academy school with the outcomes of students who competed in a lottery but were not placed at a Success Academy school. This gold-standard research design will produce rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of Success Academy on students’ academic outcomes.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

In 2014, Success Academy schools served roughly 9,000 students across their 32 elementary, middle, and high schools located in the five boroughs of New York City. MDRC’s study will draw on student application data for Success Academy elementary schools across the city and New York City Department of Education data on students’ follow-up academic outcomes.