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I toured a New York City school that's part of a contentious network loved by Wall Street, and I was surprised by what I saw

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Success Academy Bensonhurst

On a rainy Wednesday in February, I took the subway to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, to tour a Success Academy (SA) elementary school that opened in 2014.

The trip was spurred by a comment I heard at a news conference a few weeks before, when SA CEO Eva Moskowitz accused The New York Times of using "gotcha tactics" in its reporting of the schools.

Success Academy BensonhurstThat press conference came after a Times article showed a recording of an SA teacher verbally abusing a first-grader for failing to answer a math question correctly.

Moskowitz mentioned SA's "open-door" policy at the press event, encouraging people to tour her schools and see for themselves how they are run. 

It seemed, to me, a bold invitation amid the chorus of negative reactions to SA's model. I jumped at the chance to visit.

SA is New York City's largest network of charter schools, or schools that receive government money but operate independently. It has 34 schools spread throughout New York's boroughs, with the exception of Staten Island. 

Students in the SA schools far outperform students in traditional public schools in New York City on standardized tests — even students in wealthy zip codes. But the network has come under increasing scrutiny for the pressure it puts on its students, as well as the number of students it suspends.

It is also a burgeoning darling of Wall Street. At the fourth annual spring gala to support SA, hundreds of Wall Streeters gathered and raised more than $35 million for the charter-school network.

Hopeful I'd be able to better understand what makes SA schools so successful, though polarizing, I arrived at the school at 7:30 a.m., just in time to see students arriving at the door.

Their principal, Jonathan Dant, stood outside the school, umbrella in hand, to greet them.

Success Academy BensonhurstSome students trotted in excitedly chatting, while others meandered in a bit slower, heads down. They all took a moment to say hello to Dant by way of a fist bump, and then a smile. 

Dant told me he starts every morning this way, greeting students who are 22% Hispanic, 17% black, and 11% Asian.

Those students — 55% of whom qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch — represent a microcosm of the greater community. Bensonhurst contains the second-highest number of foreign-born citizens in New York City.

"We have families from all six habitable continents," Dant said. "Most of our families are first- or second-generation immigrants."

Success Academy Bensonhurst

Throughout the school, there seemed to be a genuine sense of joy among the students, whether they were enmeshed in a math problem or dancing in their elective class. Some of this may be attributable to the heavy emphasis on the need for playtime at SA Bensonhurst.

Dant explained that, even in core subjects, there are dedicated times for "wiggle breaks" or "dance breaks" where students stop learning and are free to partake in some unstructured fun.

Success Academy

We began the tour down a brightly decorated hallway in the school, which currently has kindergarten through second grade but expects to add a grade every year.

The walls were explosions of color, with bright poster board and aspirational statements. I poked my head in homeroom classes of Morehouse, Harvard, and George Washington — named after the alma maters of the head teachers in the classrooms — and saw students attentive and focused. 

Success AcademyWhen we stopped into a kindergarten science class in the midst of their computer-programming unit, the teacher was praising a student for his work. 

"I want to give a shout out to Jacob because he immediately wrote down his program," the teacher said. "He's not forgetting that programmers write, then try. Show some love."

"Gooooo Jacob!" the students all responded in unison.

Success Academy

In front of us, a couple of students began to argue. "Cam, Cam," Dant calmly chided, diffusing the situation before returning his attention to me.

I asked Dant how often he observes classes and offers suggestions while instruction is happening. He explained observing classes is a big part of his day.

"Sometimes I'm listening to the questions the teachers are going through," he said. "Sometimes I'm listening to the kids."

If he has simple suggestions for teachers, he'll talk to them in the moment. However, if there's an issue that requires a longer conversation, he'll save it for their one-on-one meetings. It seems like it would be a fine line to walk, correcting teachers in front of their classes without hurting their credibility. Dant disagrees, explaining that's exactly what makes SA unique. 

"We are feedback-driven, because we want them to get better in real time, and they want to get better in real time," he said. "We make feedback very comfortable."

Success Academy

Next we stopped by a first-grade math class called math milestones. Students came up with their own individual way of solving math problems, without receiving guidance from teachers on techniques they should use. It's a class that intends to mimic the way people utilize math in the real world.

"The way that I think about it is that if I go into the grocery store and I have a recipe that calls for 28 ounces of tomatoes and they come in 12-ounce jars, there's not going to be a math problem there for me to solve to figure it out," Dant explained. "You have to contextualize the math and experience outside of the classroom."

Success Academy

When we headed to a second-grade reading class, students were discussing a text about the first Thanksgiving.

"What does the author mean by the 'real deal,'" a teacher named Ms. Fasig asked the class.

When the students hesitated to answer, Dant interjected, "Have them turn and talk to each other."

The students quickly paired off and the quiet room began to roar with conversation. Fasig gave them 30 seconds and then counted down from three. When she hit one, the students stopped talking at once, and the room was again silent. She pointed to a student who emphatically answered the question.

"I think it's called the 'real deal' because that's what really happened during the first Thanksgiving," the student responded.

Fasig was satisfied and continued on with her questions about the text.

Success AcademyNext we headed to elective classes that students signed up for according to their interests. In a yoga class, students stretched to calming, instrumental music. 

"Take a deep breath in," Ms. Vanszl instructed. She had them demonstrate downward dog, cat, and cow poses, and reminded them to find a spot on the carpet or the wall to help them balance.

Success AcademyNext door, the elective experience was a bit more lively. Students did ballet to the beat of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."

Ballet teacher Heresia Hayes asked the students to walk her through first position through fifth position. 

Then we moved on to flag football, another elective separate from gym class, where students sprinted and ran plays. There were some excited shouts and chatter, but still the atmosphere in the gym was a controlled chaos.

Success AcademyThe environment in the gym — and in the other electives and academic classes I saw — seems vastly different from the draconian teaching style that SA has been accused of fostering in the past.

Last year, a New York Times report alleged that students in the third grade and above were wetting themselves in classrooms because they felt so stressed out and didn't want to lose time during standardized tests. The same article described the public shaming of students for poor grades. 

And more recently, the video that emerged of a first-grade Success Academy teacher berating a student who could not answer a math question correctly was elevated as further evidence that SA crosses the line in order to achieve the results they do.

But just like all organizations, individual schools are largely dictated by their leadership.

"I'm very laid back and sometimes people will say maybe I'm too laid back," Dant told me. "But that's just my style. It's very calm, that's something I value."

The practice of rip and redo — the contentious method of ripping a student's paper if it is deemed unsatisfactory — is not something that Dant allows in his school.

"As far as rip and redos, I don't believe that as a philosophy that you should shame a child in any way," Dant said. He said that he starts the school year by having these types of conversations with his staff so that the ethos of the school is unified.

Success Academy BensonhurstAs for measurable success, SA Bensonhurst is still untested, at least in the traditional sense. New York state standardized tests don't begin until the third grade.

But in terms of less tangible measures of success, SA Bensonhurst seems to be thriving. Teachers seemed relaxed and engaged when Dant joined in on their class discussions. They weren't thrown off when he would step in and take a student aside to ask a question, or tell them a student was misbehaving.

Students, too, seemed comfortable with their principal standing at the back of the room observing them, and would call him over to say hello and catch up.

"I founded this school on the promise to parents that we have to be more engaging and exciting than your iPads, your movies, and your video games," Dant said.

And to that end, it seems like he is succeeding.

"It's the little things that I notice, like skipping down the street before school or walking in with smiles on their faces," he said.

SEE ALSO: This is the best high school in America, according to US News & World Report

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This guy turns McDonald's food into insane McMunchies

This Korean cotton candy dessert disintegrates when you pour espresso on it

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Piling cotton candy on top of desserts is a food trend currently sweeping Korea, so 30-year-old Minsu Kim decided it was time to bring the craze to Koreatown in Los Angeles.

Just five months old, CottonHi — which serves organic cotton candy atop  gourmet-flavored soft serve — is already a viral sensation thanks to its photogenic sundaes that resemble troll hair but taste like a sugar cloud.

Story by Aly Weisman, editing by Stephen Parkhurst

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A New Jersey mansion that once belonged to a reported mafia boss is going up for auction

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New Jersey Mob House

If you'd like to own a little bit of mid-century drama, now's your chance.

This Fort Lee, New Jersey, mansion was built and owned by the allegedly mafia-connected Albert Anastasia in the late 1940s and 1950s. After he was killed in a Manhattan barber shop in 1957, the home passed to three subsequent owners, including comedian Buddy Hackett.

It's currently owned by Arthur Imperatore, founder of the NY Waterway ferry service.

Perfect for those who like a little macabre to go with their Hudson River views, the home is going up for auction with Guernsey's on June 8, with bids starting at $5.5 million.

SEE ALSO: No one wants to buy Richard Nixon's former 'Western White House'

DON'T FORGET: Follow Business Insider's lifestyle page on Facebook!

Welcome to 75 Bluff Road, a New Jersey Gold Coast mansion sitting right on the Hudson Palisades.



The house was built in 1947 to the highest luxury standards for Albert Anastasia, who allegedly was head of the mafia arm "Murder Inc."



It was built in a Mediterranean style, complete with a Spanish tile roof.



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Babies eating pickles for the first time is adorably hilarious

19 incredible photos that show why you should visit a national park this week

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glacier national park

The United States is home to some of the most incredible natural sights and wonders in the world, from towering mountains to otherworldly rock formations. The National Park Service celebrates and preserves much of these unique sights, and fosters outdoor exploration for over 300 million guests each year.

April 16th to 24th is National Park Week, meaning that admission to all national parks is free. This year also marks the National Park Service's centennial, as it was created on August 25th, 1916.

From the well-known geysers of Yellowstone to the labyrinthine tunnels of Mammoth Caves, we've rounded up some of the most awe-inspiring and unique features of national parks across the country. Now's as good a time as ever to check one out.

Follow INSIDER Travel on Facebook

Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is known for its breathtaking red sandstone canyons. The Narrows in Zion Canyon is a popular hike, featuring walls that are 1,000 feet tall and a river less than 30 feet wide.



An easily accessible park from much of the East Coast, Shenandoah National Park is a wonderland of vistas and calming waterfalls in Northern Virginia. The park is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through it.



At Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, visitors can get up close and personal to marine mammals. If they're lucky, they'll also catch a glimpse of one of the park's 40 glaciers "calving," meaning that massive chunks of ice will break off the main glacier and crash into the bay below.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

We stayed in an Airbnb in Cuba which looked great but had one big issue

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Business Insider sent three reporters to Havana, Cuba in 2015 to experience the city as tourists. Instead of booking rooms in one of the state-run hotels, we decided to rent a three-bedroom apartment through Airbnb, which recently started offering accommodations in Havana.

This is what it was like to stay in the apartment, which was located in the Vedado neighborhood, just steps from the Hotel Habana Libre. 

We've got lots of stories about our adventures on the island, which you'll be able to find here.

Produced by Graham Flanagan. Camera by Tyler Greenfield.

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SEE ALSO: We sent 3 reporters to Cuba for a week, and it was a wild adventure from the moment they arrived

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The best way to transport a bunch of giant boats is with an even bigger giant boat

The 25 best STEM high schools in the US

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thomas jefferson high school for science and technology

Jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math are booming in the US — and average salaries for STEM jobs are nearly twice the national average.

It's no surprise, then, that high schools across the country are ramping up their emphasis on teaching STEM skills.

U.S. News & World Report recently released its list of the best high schools in America, gathering data on more than 21,000 public schools across the country. It also separately highlighted the best STEM high schools.

The overall ranking measures high schools by graduation rates, college readiness, and how well students at each school performed statistically compared to others in their state. The college readiness score — out of a possible 100 — measures which schools produce the best college-level achievement for the highest percentages of students, using AP and IB scores as benchmarks. You can read the full breakdown of the methodology here.

The U.S. News STEM index, which awards a score out of 100 to the top 500 high schools in the country, is determined by the percentage of students who took and passed Advanced Placement tests in STEM subjects.

Read on for the 25 best high schools in the country for learning science, technology, engineering, and math:

SEE ALSO: 50 smartest public schools in America

DON'T MISS: 50 smartest private schools in America

No. 25. Pine View School

Location: Osprey, Florida

Enrollment: 2,180

STEM index: 85.9

College readiness: 100

Graduation rate: 100%

 



No. 24. Solon High School

Location:Solon, Ohio

Enrollment: 1,705

STEM index: 86

College readiness: 60.9

Graduation rate: 98%



No. 23. Darien High School

Location: Darien, Connecticut

Enrollment: 1,354

STEM index: 86.3

College readiness: 56.3

Graduation rate: 98%



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TONY ROBBINS: What you need to do in your 20s to be more successful in your 30s

15 images that show how climate change has affected this slowly vanishing island

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vanishing island

About 90 miles south of Kolkata, India, lies an island that is slowly washing away. 

Ghoramara Island, located in the Sundarbans Delta, has seen a dramatic rise in sea levels due to climate change. A recent study by oceanographer Sugata Hazra found that 30 square miles of the Sundarbans have disappeared in the past 30 years. More than 600 families have had to relocate from Ghoramara.

Photographer Daesung Lee spent two months on the island, living side by side with those who currently reside there. "The first day I arrived, there was low tide and I saw what the coast of the island looked like. [It appeared that] it was surrounded with a rock cliff, but it was actually the eroding land of island," Lee told Business Insider.

Lee asked residents to stand on small pieces of land near the edges of the island to show the severity of the land breaking away. Below, see Lee's haunting photos, which won him third place in the Contemporary Issues category at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2013. 

SEE ALSO: 14 haunting images that show the emptiness of Britain's only desert

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Made up of 54 separate islands, the Sundarbans are one of the world's largest collection of river delta islands. They are located off the coast of southern Bangladesh and eastern India.



Ghoramara Island is in the delta area of the Sundarbans, which meets the Indian Ocean.



The warmer weather has caused glaciers to melt, which increased the sea level and made the river flow faster, causing it to slowly break down the island.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

13 exercises to keep your legs strong at any age

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Lydia Leg Workout 14

From running to weight-lifting, there are a number of ways to put your legs into action.

But what if there were one simple workout that could target all those hard-to-reach parts of your legs — and you could do it at any age? Turns out there is!

As we did for our everyday stretching guide, Business Insider sought out expert advice from New York University physical-therapy professor Marilyn Moffat, who also wrote the book "Age Defying Fitness." 

It's sure to get you sweating in no time — trust us. (Note: If you're having any unusual pain or problems with the exercises, please stop doing them and consult a physical therapist).

RELATED: 12 everyday stretches to stay flexible and fit at any age

NEXT: RANKED: These are the healthiest grains for you

To start off, we'll focus on the ankles. Moffat says strengthening these is key because they help maintain balance. Be sure to keep your standing knee straight for this exercise.

Source: PubMed



Go at a rate of one second up, one second down (even slower than what's shown here) while going through a full range of motion. Start with five exercises on each foot, building up to 25 on each side.

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Next, take a walk on your heels. This will work the muscles in the front of the shin. Try walking the length of a hallway and back, and make sure you don't hunch over.



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Navy SEALs jumped out of a plane and into the University of Tennessee's football stadium

Princess Diana's personal chef revealed that she ate lots of poached chicken and almost no red meat

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Princess Diana

Princess Diana kept her royal figure trim by eating poached chicken and avoiding carbohydrates, according to a former royal chef.

Chef Darren O'Grady, who cooked for the British royal family for more than 15 years, told Daily Mail that the people's princess was a healthy eater.

She only indulged in red meat on special occasions, the chef said. For instance, Princess Diana had O'Grady prepare roast lamb when Clint Eastwood came to Kensington Palace for dinner one night.

O'Grady cooked for the Queen at Buckingham Palace for 11 years before becoming Princess Diana's chef after she separated from Prince Charles in 1993.

The princess largely stuck to a strict diet during the four years O'Grady cooked for her, the chef said.

"She'd tell me: 'You take care of the fats, I'll take care of the carbs at the gym," O'Grady told Daily Mail.

But for Princes William and Harry, who were just nine and 11 when O'Grady started working for their mother, the chef prepared more kid-friendly dishes — including pizza, potato skins and fish sticks.

However, Princess Diana would also conspire with the chef to get the boys to eat the healthier dishes.

"We used to trick the boys. We used to feed them potatoes and roast chicken but take the skin off," he said.

"For [Princess Diana's] potatoes, I'd parboil them and toss in egg whites and paprika. She'd cut off the fat so that it was always poached chicken, no skin, no fatty potatoes.'

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NOW WATCH: Going-out shirts and other things men should stop wearing immediately

How 'American Psycho' dressed Wall Street's most famous fictional serial killer for the stage

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AMERICAN psycho 4

Costuming for musicals is never easy.

It creates some interesting design challenges, like "How do you create a suit that allows full movement?" and "How do you get fake blood out of 100% wool?"

Katrina Lindsay, costume designer for "American Psycho: The Musical", which features a cast full of Wall Streeters dressed to the nines, confronted those exact questions.

"Because it is live action that unfolds in front of an audience and has to be repeated night after night, we have to find clever ways of achieving effects in an easily repeatable way," Lindsay told Business Insider, adding that the clothes have to look "great and appropriate" but they also have to be constructed in a robust way to stand up to everyday use.

"We create a kind of massacre on stage and the clothes need to be able to sustain that every night," she said.

Oh, and as for the blood stains in the wool — two words: dry cleaning. For other pieces, like the infamous raincoat, there are two versions: one normal and one blood-splattered.

The suits worn in the show — which is set in the late '80s — are all vintage designer labels. They're mostly double-breasted, pinstriped "power suits" like those in the character's position might wear. Lindsay said that it was important to get the details right, like the men's ties, glasses, watches, and shoes.

american psycho 5

"The juxtaposition of the luxury of the items [Bateman] loves and the gruesome acts he can perform on people is key to the narrative of the story," Lindsay told us.

To achieve that, they partnered with high-end menswear e-retailer Mr. Porter, sourcing modern and appropriate accessories for the suiting.

Bateman's suits — as worn by actor Benjamin Walker — are bespoke by a tailor that has been outfitting Wall Streeters since the 1980s, and modeled after styles that were popular in that time.

AP

So what can a man dressing for today's Wall Street environment take away from the play?

"The importance of getting it right; that attention to detail that matters; the fact others notice more than you might imagine," Jeremy Langmead, the brand and content director for Mr. Porter, told us.

Though the play's '80s-inspired looks, like double-breasted jackets and billowing pants, have since gone out of style, Langmead says it's important to note the context and the differences in menswear through such a short period of time.

american psycho

"You can also see how the subtle differences that menswear goes through can eventually make a huge difference in how you look and feel," he told us. "The difference between a double-breasted suit then and now — shorter coat, softer shoulders, slimmer fit — transforms ... [it] from the feel of aggressive armor to confident collaborator."

To celebrate the collaboration with Mr. Porter, select items seen in the show can be purchased on their website, like one of the suits Bateman wears in the show.

american psycho 3

SEE ALSO: 10 men's style essentials that look expensive but aren't

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11 TED Talks that will help you strengthen your relationships

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couple eye hug

Relationships are never easy. By definition they entail connections between people, and people, as we all know, are eternally complicated creatures.

Relationships also come in all sizes and colors — there are romantic relationships, work relationships, and friendships, just to name a few. 

Regardless of what kind of relationship you want to strengthen, each is fundamentally similar to the next in a number of ways.

In all healthy relationships, we are able to listen well, empathize, connect, resolve conflict, and respect others.

The following TED Talks are a great refresher course in doing all that. 

Andrew Solomon's 'Love, no matter what'

Through interviewing parents of exceptional children for several years, the author of "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity" says he has come to understand that everyone is different in some fundamental way, and this core human condition of being different is, ironically, what unites us all.

Solomon explains that all people who love each other struggle to accept each other and grapple with the question, "What's the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?"

Using a number of poignant anecdotes, he helps unpack this question.

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Yann Dall'Aglio's 'Love — you're doing it wrong'

Dall'Aglio, a French philosopher and author of "A Rolex at 50: Do you have the right to miss your life?" and "I love you: Is love a has been?," says love is the desire of being desired. But in a world that often favors the self over others, how can people find the tenderness and connection they crave?

It may be easier than you think: "For a couple who is no longer sustained, supportedby the constraints of tradition, I believe that self-mockeryis one of the best means for the relationship to endure," he says.

In this surprisingly convincing talk, Dall'Aglio explains how acknowledging our uselessness could be the key to sustaining healthy relationships.

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Jenna McCarthy's 'What you don't know about marriage'

Fiction and non-fiction author McCarthy writes about relationships, marriage, and parenting in books including "If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon," and in her TED Talk, shares some surprising research on how marriages really work.

One study might even entice husbands to do more housework.

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An entrepreneur designed a tiny knife for your finger

'MILLION DOLLAR LISTING’ STAR: I understand why people hate dealing with NYC real estate brokers

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New York City real estate brokers don't have a great reputation. Most people cringe at the thought of working with them while searching for a new apartment.

Luis D. Ortiz, top New York City broker and star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing New York," understands the sentiment and has sympathy for fed-up buyers. He gave us some insider tips for identifying the honest brokers in a sea of lazy, unreliable ones.  

Season 5 of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York” premieres on Thursday, April 21 at 9 p.m. with a special 90-minute episode.

Produced by Justin Gmoser and Arielle Berger 

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