Violent assaults, drug dealing, gang fights — sounds like a poorly run prison. But that’s what kids in Camden have to contend with, when they show up to their public schools.
First of all, as I've said now a bajallion times, TEAM may be a fine school, but it does not serve the same population of students as its neighboring public schools. "Successful" charters are often "successful" because they serve students who speak English at home, don't have as many special education needs, and don't live in severe poverty.The academics are abysmal. The buildings are crumbling and overcrowded. So think like a parent in Camden: If someone offered your kid a chance to attend an alternative public school, in a brand-new building run by a private nonprofit, would you turn to them in outrage and say, “Is this the private sector homing in on public education?”No. You’d say, sign my kid up. Sign him up right now. Especially if you heard that this new school would be run by the same folks heading the highly successful TEAM charter schools in Newark.
Or could it possibly be that the problem lies elsewhere? The S-L continues:
It's quite telling that the S-L puts those three together. Because the UHA schools, charters, and vouchers all do the same thing: they separate the kids whom these schools unilaterally decide are "educable" from the kids they decide are not. That's really it; anyone who tells you that these schools' "successes" are due to some magic curriculum or lack of collective bargaining or an awesome Joe Clark-like figure or computer tablets for everyone is selling you swampland in Florida.The Cooper Foundation, the charitable arm of Cooper University Hospital headed by Democratic boss George Norcross, will build it. And the fact that problems in Camden schools are being fixed by a nonprofit group, instead of the government, is beside the point.Last year, police responded 249 times to violent incidents involving students in the city’s public schools — in a 180-day school year. At Camden High, nearly 40 percent of students are suspended. Fewer than 17 percent of juniors are proficient in math.In districts that are clearly failing, the Urban Hope Act makes sense. Like charter schools and voucher programs, this is worth a try. [emphasis mine]
And the S-L gives away the game here. They are right to be concerned about arrests; they are right to be alarmed at the suspension rate. Did it occur to them that maybe that has something to do with the proficiency rate in math? Or are they so naive as to think that getting rid of tenure would solve this problem?
I would have a lot more respect for the S-L editorial board and B4K and Chris Christie and Chris Cerf and the voucher pushers and the charter cheerleaders and Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein all these reformyists if they would just acknowledge this obvious and basic truth. All they need to do is admit that they want to divide up the kids into those who are easy to educate and those who are not.
I am calling for a serious conversation about this, once and for all. New Jersey's schools are badly segregated; it's sad but it's true. Is the answer for this to take the kids in the cities and divide them into "savable" and "cross your fingers" schools? If so, is it time to do this in the 'burbs as well? Should we finally make Aldous Huxley's Brave New World a reality? Alphas go to the charters; Deltas to the publics, and everyone takes soma so they don't have to think about it?
Alas, none of the reformyists appear to want to think about it now, before we actually finish dividing all of the students up. But I think they owe it to all of us - and especially to the parents of the Deltas - to justify this scheme of theirs. They need to be made to look up and confront this brave, new, reformy world they are making.
Star-Ledger Editorial Board