Loeschner Lecture Presents Charter School Founder Eva Moskowitz

Loeschner Lecture Presents Charter School Founder Eva Moskowitz

Eva Moskowitz

“American public education could look very different if we truly challenged children,” said controversial educator Eva Moskowitz as she delivered the Ray and Nancy Loeschner Lecture on Leadership on May 20. Moskowitz is the founder and CEO of Success Academy, New York City’s largest network of charter schools.

“We believe in intellectual struggle. It is dangerous to intellectually underestimate children,” Moskowitz emphasized during her lecture, noting the boredom that can result. Because of its innovative approach, she describes Success Academy as “the Google of public education.”

The Loeschner Lecture on Leadership, which presents leaders with vision in education and other fields, has the goal of inspiring students to become leaders in their chosen fields of endeavor. The lecture was established with a gift from SESP alumnus Ray Loeschner (MA57) of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the former president of Olivet University and a leader in higher education who also received his PhD from Northwestern in 1962.

After working as a history professor and then serving as education chair on the New York City Council, Moskowitz opened her first charter school in 1996. She saw the landscape of education in New York City as “education haves and have-nots.” Moreover, she said, “If you did not get a good K-12 education, your opportunities were going to be seriously limited.”

Now she is CEO of 32 schools with 11,000 students in disadvantaged neighborhoods of New York. An activist who has fought for troubled schools and systemic reforms, Moskowitz has become a hotly debated figure in education. Her methods have led to high test scores but rancor from unions and critics. She has been labeled “America’s most controversial educator” by U.S. News & World Report.

“We are trying to create world-class schools,” said Moskowitz. Her philosophy behind Success Academy schools is a belief in the progressive education of John Dewey, and the pedagogical model is inquiry-based. “Children need to do the creative and critical thinking work in school,” she said.

Moskowitz is proud that Success Academy kindergartners complete 135 science experiments by the end of the year, and that her students “have enormous passion for science.” Ninth-graders take physics, and math is taught in a conceptual, constructivist way. All students play chess, take part in debate during middle school and learn coding from kindergarten on. “We are deeply committed to kids and opportunities,” said Moskowitz.

One surprising feature of the Success Academy approach is its emphasis on “the power of games.” Moskowitz said, “Games can be just as powerful as academics.” Next year, the schools will add more board games to the curriculum, including Monopoly and Rummikub.

The School of Education and Social Policy sponsored Moskowitz’s lecture as part of the Contemporary Thought lecture series at Northwestern.

Photo: SESP Dean Penelope Peterson, Eva Moskowitz, Ray Loeschner (MA57), Amy Loeschner Keane and Katie Keane at a "meet and greet" before the Loeschner Lecture on May 20.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 8/6/15