March 4, 1964|
New York City, New York, U.S.
University of Pennsylvania (BA)|
Johns Hopkins University (MA,
Her later work has centered on the privatization of public education by the charter school movement. Besides founding charter management organization Success Academy Charter Schools (originally Harlem Success Academy), she has worked with the Harlem Education Fair, runs the Great Public Schools PAC, StudentsFirstNY, and worked with the New York City Charter School Center. She cowrote Mission Possible (2012) with Arin Lavinia, mainly a guide to running charter schools. She has a Ph.D. in history, wrote In Therapy We Trust (2001), and wrote a scholarly study of Betty Friedan's work in 1996.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Early career
- 3 Charter school leadership
- 3.1 Success Academy Charter Schools
- 3.2 More organizations
- 3.3 Views
- 3.4 Opposition
- 4 Electoral offices
- 5 Campaigns
- 6 Historian
- 7 Criticisms
- 8 Federal prominence
- 9 Personal life
- 10 Books
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Early life and education
Moskowitz grew up in the Columbia University neighborhood of Morningside Heights, Manhattan. She graduated from Stuyvesant High School, where "she thought half of the teachers were incompetent", according to Steven Brill and claimed to the New Yorker she "didn't learn anything". She found widespread student cheating and a coverup by the principal, according to New York magazine, and began to consider that teachers' ability to choose where they would teach based on their seniority meant that they chose Stuyvesant, where, according to Brill, "the students could teach themselves." Moskowitz went to the University of Pennsylvania, where, she said, a professor criticized her writing ability, and she studied writing, getting a B.A. with honors in history and influencing her prioritizing writing by her students at Success Academy Charter Schools. She received a Ph.D. in American history from Johns Hopkins University with her 1991 dissertation, "Naming the Problem: How Popular Culture and Experts Paved the Way For "personal politics".
She taught women's history at University of Virginia as a visiting professor of communications and mass culture in 1989–1990, Vanderbilt University as an assistant professor of history in 1992–1993, and City University of New York (College of Staten Island) as an assistant professor of history in 1994–1995 and chaired the faculty seminar in American studies at Columbia University in 1996–1999. She was the director of the children's literacy program ReadNet and taught civics at the Prep for Prep school, where she was also the director of public affairs.
Charter school leadership
Before entering electoral politics, Moskowitz applied to start a charter school in the Upper East Side, more recently telling Kyle Spencer "you can live on a posh street and be zoned for a very terrible school." Moskowitz withdrew the application before holding electoral office.
Success Academy Charter Schools
Great Public Schools Political Action Committee is run by Moskowitz; according to Brill, Moskowitz founded a PAC after a pro-Success Academy candidate lost an election. The Great Public Schools PAC supports charter schools. In the year 2011–2012, it gave $50,000 to Andrew Cuomo 2014, Inc.
Inadequacy of common education
Moskowitz said, on international comparisons of education, "even our highest-performing students are doing worse than many other countries' lowest-performing students", there's "'an international crisis,' affecting the affluent neighborhoods she's now  targeting just as seriously as it affects poor ones", according to Hanlon partly quoting Moskowitz, and Moskowitz said that "[she doesn't] think that Americans have totally digested the global competition that we're facing."
She states that even in middle-class and more affluent districts public noncharter schools are not as good as parents think they are. She disagreed with requiring children to go to where they are zoned.
According to David M. Herszenhorn, in early 2004, Moskowitz questioned whether holding failing 3rd-graders back would boost 4th-grade test scores the next year, because the lower-performing students would still be in the 3rd grade and not taking the 4th-grade tests, just when the Mayor would run for reelection, but city officials called her criticism, in Herszenhorn's word, "cynical". Moskowitz, wrote Herszenhorn, arguing that "there is a consensus among educators that policies against social promotion don't work",[a] called for, in Herszenhorn's paraphrasing of Moskowitz, "the city ... to be more creative in its efforts to help struggling students, by improving prekindergarten programs, identifying learning disabilities earlier and perhaps having more nuanced grade levels, like a first grade-plus for students repeating first grade."[b] According to Joyce Mayer Perry, in 2004, Moskowitz did not oppose having a failing student repeat a grade but believed that intervention needed to be earlier so that children will succeed.
According to Moskowitz, co-locating charters in buildings with noncharters lets parents more easily compare how well their children do in one and how badly in the other and so find out that noncharter schools can be better. She opposed conditioning co-location on letting noncharter schools get credit for charter students' higher test scores, referring to a law in Ohio, because, according to her, it denies accountability and a quid pro quo has to be more carefully chosen.
According to Brill and as interpreted by Boykin Curry, Moskowitz doubted that the New York City public school system can simply be reformed, because it may need a complete turnaround, a replacing of the traditional model with a model derived from charters. Moskowitz wrote that "[while] much of the growth in excellent public schools has occurred in low-income communities .... [m]iddle-class neighborhoods [also] need more rigorous schools." She chose to start charter schools "to demonstrate the incredible difference it truly makes when a school is run free from crushing bureaucracy and outlandish labor contracts."
She said that public elementary school curricula are not challenging enough for students, who are bored. She, with Arin Lavinia, wrote that math curricula are paced to be taught too slowly, as if they're designed for dysfunctional schools and all schools are expected to be just as slow, and Moskowitz and Lavinia argued for speeding the teaching.
Moskowitz said, in 2009, that state tests are "too easy" and, in 2012, that test success would predict economic success and that "if kids do not do well on the tests, they certainly won't do well in life" but that "I wouldn't want a school that only focused on testing, partly because the tests are a low bar."
She favored closing failing public schools, including charter schools, not all charter schools being good. She posited that a charter is not a guarantee of success, as it is only a grant of freedom to try for success.
Challenges confronting teachers
Moskowitz has criticized schools of education, including master's programs, for graduating teachers who are unable to meet urban challenges. She argued against lengthy, detailed, and relatively inflexible teachers' union contracts and "ossified, bureaucratic management" as overly constraining principals.
Moskowitz believed in parental choice for where children go to school, including parochial and other schools. She does not want to "eradicate" noncharter schools, believing they need to be modernized "educationally, operationally, financially", and she argued for competition to improve failing public schools nationwide. She supported parents at noncharter schools raising money to hire teaching assistants of their choice, opposing the teachers' union's objections. Moskowitz said she's "never met an apathetic mom."
Moskowitz advocated for charter schools to be funded per pupil as fully as public noncharters are. She favored "a federal role in education.... especially in the area of parent choice" and thought that President Obama's offering substantial money contingent on charter-centered reforms brought "the fight out" into public view, contributing to New York and some other states "lift[ing] ... caps on the creation of new charter schools".[c]
Moskowitz objected to "a tendency in the charter school movement to celebrate a lack of socio-economic diversity." She said, "I think we need many more charters that have socio-economic integration. I also think that we need to get charter schools into more affluent districts because I think many middle-class and upper middle-class parents think their schools are better than they are ... their schools are very complacent." She described New York City schools as "shockingly segregated", "most ... either more than 90 percent minority or less than 10 percent", with some schools, by offering dual-language or gifted-and-talented programs attracting white middle-class students while "overwhelmingly poor minority students" take general education, exhibiting "fake integration". She added that the city's "racial and socio-economic segregation ... [is] hard to change", impeding efforts to make charter schools into neighborhood schools and still have diversity among students, but continued that "I think we will change it [the segregation] eventually because our program is so appealing to middle-class families." However, she added, "whether people can put their racial discomforts aside, I do not know", but later said "parents of all races and classes truly want diversity as long as it is also accompanied by academic excellence."
Design of model
Moskowitz said that children's minds are "agile", that the need is to raise intellectual standards after which "the kids will rise to our expectation", and that "to raise the rigor bar" doesn't cost money.
Moskowitz argued that, although replication is "difficult", "educational opportunity ... [is not] rocket science". Part of success was "old-fashioned parental involvement.... It has to be a partnership between parents and the school." Another was reading. She said, "our children read constantly." She said, "and the third ingredient is high-quality teaching. We have to have the very best in our school system and we have to invest in teachers so that they can get better." She favored modernization, rigor, accountability, "highly effective teacher[s,] and ... highly effective principal[s]". She argued for teachers and school leaders to have more flexibility to innovate in classrooms. She advocated for principals to be able to hire and fire teachers and to attract the best teachers. She supported decentralization in favor of teachers. She called for more disclosure and increasing principals' accountability. She said, "what you want to teach kids is to think critically, mathematically, scientifically. You want them to be great writers." According to Nat Hentoff, when Moskowitz was a City Councilmember she argued for education in civics, on how government works.
She argued that class sizes should be reconsidered and that allowing a few more students in a class may help in educating the students while being economical. She argued that, when a school is funded on the basis of how many students it has, a larger class size may allow paying the teacher "exceedingly well" and having "really talented" principals, business managers so principals focus on instructional matters, more supplies and field trips for students and teachers, computers and e-books for students, more professional development, more tutoring, and more teaching staff, such as assistant teachers. She said that students having computers and online books leads to their reading more books. On the other hand, she agreed that a too-large class would be "absurd." Overall, she posited that class size is a factor in students' success.
She believed schools were responsible for safety, so that, when Nixzmary Brown died (largely due to Brown's parents) after substantial absence from school, Moskowitz said that the child's school was minimally compliant with rules, if that, and did not do enough for the child's safety and therefore for the child's education.
Mission Possible, 2012
In Mission Possible (2012), which Moskowitz cowrote, according to Hanlon Moskowitz argued for the importance of charter schools because public noncharter education "never put[s] the customer first" and fails to "boost productivity and innovate." Hanlon said, "most of the book is a pedagogical how-to".
Liberalism and personal role
Among Moskowitz's personal views relevant to education, according to Lisa M. Collins Moskowitz "says social justice drives her" and, according to Coplon, Moskowitz said "really fundamental to social justice ... [is] to have choices in life." According to Rich Lowry in the conservative National Review, Moskowitz is a liberal. Moskowitz described herself as "controversial".
Moskowitz in 2010 said that the chief opponent of charters like hers was "the union-political-educational complex", "the teachers' union and the elected officials .... [who] together can ... stop you from doing a lot of ... good things for kids." She argued that charters are more threatening than when they began, partly because there are more charters, even given that not all charters are good.
In 1995 or 1996, Moskowitz volunteered in Gifford Miller's City Council campaign, becoming his field director. In 1997, according to Vivian S. Toy, Moskowitz ran a "strong" campaign for but lost a City Council election. In 1999, she was elected as New York City Councilmember for the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In 2002–2005, she chaired the Council Education Committee and held over "100 oversight hearings". According to Joe Williams, "in December 2003, [UFT union then-president Randi] Weingarten declared war on Moskowitz's political career" and urged union members to vote against her.
According to Winnie Hu in 2004, Moskowitz's staff turnover was substantial, she expected them to work hours not limited to "government hours", and she provided them with BlackBerry wireless devices when not all Councilmembers had them. According to Alex Mindlin, one student starting as a volunteer continued with Moskowitz for 5 years, including as a constituent liaison, organizing campaign letter-writing, and coordinating 75 volunteer petitioners.
According to Hu, in 2003–2004, Moskowitz, with an "aggressive, confrontational style", had "emerged as one of the most influential [Council] members ..., largely by parlaying her role as head of the Education Committee into a crusade for the city's troubled public schools." According to Jonathan P. Hicks, she was "considered an expert in the Council on education issues". In 2004, according to Hu, Moskowitz had "many" critics and city schools then-chancellor Joel Klein described her as "tough-minded" and "determined"; according to Coplon, in an undated comment Klein said Moskowitz was "up there in the top five ["thorns in his side"], or the top three"; and, according to Hu, in 2004, Miller described her as "a very determined person and very focused, and sometimes that determination can rub people the wrong way". According to Michael Winerip, in 2005, Moskowitz "has been one of the few checks on the school system under mayoral control and said it was often a battle getting information and sometimes required a subpoena" and, according to Coplon and Lizzy Ratner, Moskowitz was known as an aggressive advocate for education reform.
Also in 2005, wrote Susan Saulny, Moskowitz said "science education ... has been treated with second-class status for decades" and that "the level of concern I think we should have" is still lacking. Moskowitz held hearings on the shortage of science classes and the inability to pay experienced science and math teachers well.
Moskowitz held hearings in 2003 on the teachers' union contracts, which, according to Hu, "landed ... [Moskowitz] in the headlines for weeks" and, according to Ratner, "attracted reporters and produced headlines." Moskowitz also criticized contracts with principals and custodians. According to Williams, Moskowitz's "public hearings on the impact of work rules and job protections for teachers, principals, and custodians ... [showed] that it took far too long to unload incompetent employees from the system" and that "other rules were silly and counterproductive", namely some for custodians. Williams said Moskowitz's "hearings attracted hoards [sic] of reporters and columnists" and that the then-president of the UFT, Weingarten, "furious" that the Council leadership had even permitted the hearings, testified with an "often caustic exchange" with Moskowitz. A secret list of witnesses was known to the UFT, some witnesses testified only after their identities were concealed, and some others refused to testify after agreeing to, according to Williams. "At the time, Moskowitz was the only Democratic official in New York City who was elected without the UFT's endorsement", wrote Williams, who also reported that Moskowitz was privately warned that the hearings could end her political career and that she recognized that winning citywide office in the future would be easier if she was supported and not opposed by the union. Miller, then the Council speaker, let Moskowitz go forward with the hearings, Brian McLaughlin, leader of the New York City Central Labor Council, opposed them, and Bloomberg went from calling Moskowitz a "gadfly" the night before the hearings to praising her courage and criticizing her critics who were Council colleagues, according to Williams. There was an effort to replace Moskowitz as committee chair, said Williams, but she served her full term.
She also held hearings on the seeming absence of toilet paper. She reported many parents' complaints about toilets being dirty, broken, or closed citywide and her own experience as a high school student with having to go across the street to a medical facility.
According to Hu, in ca. 2002–2004 Moskowitz wrote six laws, including on health care and campaign finance reform.
According to the New York Times's Kelly Crow, in 2002, in response to public housing tenants' security concerns at the Stanley Isaacs Houses, Moskowitz arranged for funding for cameras but the money was never spent by the city, and the police offered more patrols but said crime was worse uptown.
She also tried to increase voter registration among young people through the schools.
Borough President primary campaign
In 2005, Moskowitz decided not to run again for the Council and entered the race for the Democratic party nomination to be the Manhattan Borough President to succeed C. Virginia Fields, according to Hicks emphasizing education and transportation issues. The teachers' union campaigned heavily for Scott Stringer and against Moskowitz, based on Moskowitz's hearings about the teachers' contract and on other education issues, and so did the Working Families Party. According to Francis Barry, the Working Families Party spent most of the approximately $100,000 it spent on the race "to attack ... Moskowitz, who had made her name by challenging the teachers' union." Moskowitz raised almost $1 million and qualified for another $600,000 in city matching funds during the campaign, according to Hicks. Ultimately, Moskowitz raised the most money of any Democratic candidate, but finished second to Stringer. Moskowitz ran on a platform of improving education options and opposing MTA subway and bus fare hikes, and adopted campaign rhetoric about inequality reminiscent of Bill de Blasio's 2013 bid for mayor. "Our borough has become a place of the haves and the have-nots," Moskowitz was quoted as saying during her campaign kickoff on the City Hall steps in February 2005.
In Therapy We Trust, 2001
Moskowitz wrote the book, In Therapy We Trust. According to Jesse Eisinger, Moskowitz identified "three tenets: happiness is the supreme goal, problems stem from psychological causes, and those psychological problems are treatable" and labeled this set "the therapeutic gospel, a doctrine so ingrained in American society that few of us consciously recognize it".
In the book, Moskowitz made several points: "We are ... bound together by a gospel of psychological happiness.... Americans turn to psychological cures as reflexively as they once turned to God. But our relationship to the psyche appears to have exceeded that of believers and become more like that of cult members." Reformers recommended hiring "visiting teachers" who would understand children when some school principals still believed in "more drill". "The persistence of Americans' faith in psychological happiness is troubling.... Rather than offering real psychological insight, these cures are vapid therapies. There is little rigorous psychological thinking in our culture." "Psychological interpretations tend to crowd out social, economic, and political ones." "While I have no argument with psychological contentment as an important standard for individuals and no argument with in-depth psychological investigation as a means, when a whole society makes happiness and self-realization its rallying cry, clearly something is lost in the process."
Documentary, study, and protest
Moskowitz has faced criticism for closing her schools so that students and parents may participate in political protests, and providing free transportation to a protest rally outside the State Capital in Albany.
In June 2013, during his campaign for Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio criticized Moskowitz's Success Academy Charter Schools for using public-school space without paying rent. During an interview at the "Save our Schools" rally in Washington D.C., actor Matt Damon said of collocation: "Eva Moskowitz just spent $1.7 million in advertising, as in marketing for her[self] ... [this] kind of core inequality has to be addressed." Damon was citing a New York Daily News article in which the actual figure was $1.6 million, a sum that has been disputed by a spokeswoman for the Success Network. Additionally, critics have pointed out that in her dispute with Mayor de Blasio regarding collocation, her organization's expansion into a public school in Harlem would have displaced students there with disabilities.
Protests and legal disputes involving Moskowitz and Success Academy Charter Schools are depicted in the pro-charter school film "The Lottery," as well as the critical documentary "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman."
Criticisms have been leveled at Moskowitz's record educating low-performing, English-language learning, and disabled students. English-language learners are significantly underrepresented at Success, and critics have charged that some lower-grade children eligible for government-mandated special education accommodation, or IEPs, have been withdrawn, effectively winnowing students before third grade, the year state testing begins.
Moskowitz met with United States President-Elect Donald Trump on November 16, 2016 for a possible appointment in the Trump administration as United States Secretary of Education. Previous reporting noted that under Moskowitz, a Democrat, hedge fund manager John Paulson, a major Trump ally, has provided Success an $8.5 million donation in 2015.
She married Eric Grannis. They have three children, Culver, Dillon, and Hannah, the former of whom attended Avenues: The World School, a private school in Manhattan, and the latter two of whom attend Success Academy Harlem East, also in Manhattan.
- With Arin Lavinia (literacy coach, Success Academy Charter Schools), Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School, Jossey-Bass (imprint of Wiley), 2012
- In Therapy We Trust: America's Obsession with Self-Fulfllment, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2001 (ISBN 0-8018-6403-8)
- Social promotion, promoting a student with peers even if the student did not complete educational requirements
- Pre-kindergarten, a class before kindergarten
- Caps on the creation of new charter schools, the maximum number that may be opened
- School Construction Authority, a New York City government agency responsible for school construction
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| Member of the New York City Council
from the 4th district