As part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul the state’s largest school district, Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson wants to increase access to charter schools by expanding them into district-owned buildings.
The district also plans to convert three elementary schools into early childhood centers, relocate five schools to under-utilized facilities and transform three comprehensive high schools into smaller academies. The goal, Anderson said, is to improve local options for all residents.
"You should have options for great schools in your neighborhood or ward," Anderson said. "How do we get to that day faster and in every ward? We’re jump-starting change." [emphasis mine]Let's start by reminding ourselves that Cami Anderson's rather limited experience as an administrator prior to coming to Newark was in Mike Bloomberg's and Joel Klein's NYC-DOE. Tweed, as it's known to insiders, has led the way in charter co-locations - a plan so unpopular Bill de Blasio called for a moratorium on it (and subsequently won election in a landslide).
Diane Ravitch just posted a lengthy piece by a Tweed insider detailing the many failures of education policy during the Bloomberg years. Particularly damning is the evidence on using school closings as a strategy:
This is what Cami Anderson - and NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf - learned to do in New York City: close schools that serve students with special needs or are economically disadvantaged. Is this what they are planning to do in Newark? Sounds like we're going to need to take a look at who is slated to be closed in Newark and why; stand by for that...
Until then, let's see who gets to take over more of Newark's schools:
District officials are talking with officials from the TEAM, North Star and Newark Legacy charter schools and asking them to locate their additional classroom spaces to the Madison Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue, Bragaw Avenue, Alexander Street and Newton Street schools. At least three facilities, including Miller Street, would be shuttered.
The district would also designate nine facilities as "renew" schools, allowing their principals to rehire faculty and staff of their choosing. In all, the changes would involve more than one-third of the district’s schools.
The hot-button issue, however, is moving charter schools into district facilities.You know why there is a demand for charters? Because, as the invaluable Education Law Center has documented - repeatedly - the public school buildings of Newark (and the rest of the cities in New Jersey) are a disgusting, dilapidated, dangerous mess.
"We’re asking them to align supply with demand," Anderson said. "Let’s play to the strengths we have." [emphasis mine]
That's the infamous "Waterfall Staircase" at Trenton Central - but it could be any number of stairways in any number of schools throughout Newark, a dirty little secret the Schools Development Authority (SDA) has tried to cover up.
This is why some parents are desperate to get their kids into charters: the state, which has controlled Newark's schools for two decades, has abandoned their responsibilities and is consigning Newark's children to schools that are underfunded, dangerous, and disgusting. Why wouldn't a parent want to get their kid into a shiny, new charter school? Like, say, the ones going into Teachers Village, subsidized by your tax dollars while simultaneously enriching the fine folks at Goldman-Sachs?
Of course, even if you get your kid into TEAM or North Star, there's no guarantee she will stay there until graduation:
preliminary report, Anderson is looking at having North Star come into MLK's building. Does North Star's track record with black children suggest they will serve them well in a public school?
As for TEAM: I've had a few Twitter exchanges with Ryan Hill, director of the Newark branch of this KIPP school. He seems like a sincere guy; he admits his student population isn't the same as the district schools'; he'd like to know how his school could improve. Here's my answer:
In any "choice" system, segregation and attrition are baked-in. You can't expect a "choice" system not to have segregation and attrition; the premise of "choice" is that some schools aren't as good of a fit for some students as others. As Matt DiCarlo has pointed out so well, it's foolish to think a "choice" system will replicate the outcomes of a geographically-based system. Of course some charter schools will serve fewer kids who don't speak English at home. Of course some charter schools will have fewer special needs children. And, yes, of course some charter schools will have fewer kids who are economically disadvantaged. Those charters won't be the "right fit" for those children: that's the entire point.
Further: any "choice" system will advantage those parents who have developed the social capital (to borrow from Pierre Bourdieu) to navigate that system. Some parents will know how to lobby for their children, analyze school differences, and make informed choices better than others; their children will benefit. And there's little doubt those parents with the necessary capital will, in general, come from a higher socio-economic status group than parents who don't know how the game is played.
In this sense, One Newark is a state-sponsored system of social reproduction: as the song says, "Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose..." But, as I've written before, I'm not about to sit out here in my lily-white suburb and condemn anyone for wanting to give their child a peer effect those of us who can afford to live in the deep-purple counties enjoy. I'm only asking for two things:
- Let's cut the crap about charters having superior pedagogies, which lead to superior outcomes. OK, there may be a few best practices worth looking at - and some that should be condemned and banned immediately. But any honest assessment of charter schools has got to acknowledge that student characteristics make a difference - a big difference. Deunionization and teacher credentialing have far less (if anything) to do with charter "success" than segregation and attrition (of course, money helps, too).
- The people who should be making the decisions about their schools are the people who live in the community. If Newark wants a system of choice like One Newark, fine - let the people who live there decide.
New Jersey's system of state control and monitoring for certain districts is inherently racist and classist. Chris Christie's patronizing attitude toward the cities having local control of schools is not only offensive and prejudiced; it's anti-democratic. Newark's citizens deserve to have a say in their children's futures every bit as much as the parents in Millburn. If they choose to have Two Newarks, then so be it; the good people of Newark did not lose their rights simply because they didn't vote for a man who puts the interests of his plutocratic backers before the interests of their children.
ADDING: One of the few local politicians to condemn One Newark is Ras Baraka. And this is the coverage he gets in the press for his troubles:
NEWARK - On Friday in Brick City, South Ward Councilman and Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka threw a verbal brick through the city's educational policy window.Think about that image for a moment: an outspoken black man throwing a brick through a window.
Am I seeing something that's not there?
ADDING MORE: Make sure to read Bob Braun's take on all this.
AND MORE: Well, what do you know? At exactly the same time NPS announces it wants to turn over more of its buildings to charters, the state's Schools Development Authority announces it's going to give Newark $100 million to upgrade its schools.
Golly, isn't that an amazing coincidence? Stand by...