BARCLAYS CENTER – More than 4,000 Success Academy students from Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens filled the Barclays Center Friday morning for a lively rally to help get them ready for their upcoming state exams.
The seventh annual “Slam the Exam” academic pep rally celebrates the academic achievements of the charter schools’ third- and fourth-graders and gives the students the chance to demonstrate their school spirit with cheers, songs, and dancing.
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools is New York City’s largest public K-12 charter school network, with 46 schools across the city and approximately 15,000 students—primarily low-income children of color from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Admission is open to all New York State students and includes those with special needs as well as English language learners. Students are chosen by a random lottery held each April. There are 12 Success Academy elementary schools in Brooklyn and 3 middle schools. Read one father’s account of enrolling his son at Success Academy Bensonhurst here.
The students of the 24 Success Academy elementary schools proudly wore orange t-shirts declaring, “Slam the Exam,” at Friday’s event emceed by two Success Academy Principals, Jennifer Haynes and Dan Rojas. Success Academy dance and Step teams performed and various school cheers were chanted. Trophies were handed out to the highest-performing students as well as the most improved students in ELA (English Language Arts) and Math.
“Today’s really a day to inspire them, to motivate them, for them to celebrate all their work and their successes,” said Regina Loftus, Principal of Success Academy Bergen Beach.
“I think the tests are valuable for a couple of reasons,” she said when asked about opposition to standardized testing, noting that the exams offer students “a great experience” that teaches them goal setting, hard work, and resilience. “The tests are very vigorous. They’re a good indicator of kids’ reading, writing, and math abilities,” she added.
“We believe that everything that we do prepares them to be great readers, writers, and mathematicians,” Loftus said. Last year, 100% of the students at her school passed the ELA exam and 98% passed the math exam, she proudly stated.
“I feel a little nervous but I know I got this. I trust myself,” said Jordan Hardy, a third-grader at Success Academy Bergen Beach. “If I get to a hard question, I’ll just take a deep breath and remember all my friends who are supporting me,” he said of his strategy in approaching the exam.
The ELA exams are scheduled for next week and students will take the math exams the following week.
Success Academy Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz gave the keynote address at the event. “You have all grown tremendously. You have grown because your parents believe in you. Your teachers really, really believe in you. Your principal believes in you. But most importantly, you believe in you, and that’s the difference between success and lack of success. You have to believe in you,” she said to the young audience.
She encouraged the crowd, telling them it’s okay to feel nervous but reassured them, “There is no set of students better prepared than you are. You need to be confident in your abilities. You need to be confident that you have been taught everything you need to ‘Slam the Exam.'”
“We love you. We believe in you. And you do not need any luck because you are so well prepared for next week,” Moskowitz concluded.