As the founder and CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools, you have challenged thousands of New York City students to reach for academic excellence, and cheered as they achieved it, time and time again. In your schools, students from low-income households regularly outperform students from much wealthier school districts. Academic achievement has attracted students and families, and from a single Harlem school in 2006, Success Academy has grown to operate 47 schools, and is now in aggregate the size of New York state’s seventh largest school district. You recognize that for students in some of the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, education is a vital engine of opportunity. Your commitment to closing achievement gaps informs curricula across the Success Academy network—from a STEM program that starts in kindergarten, to a high school that prepares students not just to enter college, but to excel once they get there. For your steadfast dedication to educational equality, your commitment to excellence, and your unwavering faith in your students, Tufts University is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
EVA MOSKOWITZ, the founder and chief executive of the largest and highest-performing public charter school network in New York City, sees no reason disadvantaged children shouldn’t have a top-tier education. Success Academy Charter Schools operates 47 schools in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Although about 76 percent of Success Academy students are from low-income households, they regularly outperform students of much wealthier school districts in the state. On the 2018 New York state exams, 98 percent of Success students passed in math and 91 percent passed in English language arts, more than double the state average.
About 93 percent of the schools’ 17,000 students are children of color, making the schools a model for closing the opportunity gap between black and white students. “Success Academy, run by Eva Moskowitz, has done something no education-policy analyst considered remotely possible: Its schools have closed the achievement gap,” wrote Jonathan Chait in New York magazine.
The schools emphasize “joyful rigor,” thorough test preparation, teacher training, and parent involvement. Their high school classes are designed to prepare students to not only get into college, but to meet college expectations and grading standards once there.
Growing up in New York in the 1970s, Moskowitz and her brother attended a low-performing public school in Harlem, where they were among the few white students. “My parents, both professors, tutored us at home, but we understood that our classmates were reliant on the education the school offered, and I perceived this as deeply unfair,” she recalled.
She attended the University of Pennsylvania and received a doctorate in American history from Johns Hopkins University. She taught history at Vanderbilt, the College of Staten Island, and other universities, as well as teaching civics at a program for gifted minority students.
Her concern for educational equity drove her to get into politics. In 1999, she was elected to the New York City Council. As chair of its education committee, Moskowitz held more than 100 hearings to shed light on the management and performance of New York City’s public school system and call for reforms.
Convinced that the public-school system needed reform, she accepted an offer to create a charter school, Harlem Success Academy, in 2006. The start was bumpy: she had to cancel recess because of broken bottles in the play yard and serve lunch herself when most of the cafeteria workers failed to show up. But soon New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, H07, was praising the school for its “amazing performance.” Success Academy opened another three schools in 2008, and by 2013, there were 22. In 2014, Success Academy opened its first high school, Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts. When it graduated its first class of students last year, all of them were headed for college.
“Entrenched interests set on maintaining the status quo continue to resist us every step of the way, but I draw inspiration from the incredibly talented and idealistic educators and staff members I have had the privilege of working with . . . and from our scholars, who have proven many times over that regardless of background, children can meet and exceed our highest expectations,” Moskowitz wrote.
Moskowitz is the author of In Therapy We Trust (2001) and a memoir, The Education of Eva Moskowitz (2017). She cowrote Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School in 2012.
Moskowitz will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.