I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Shrieking" People of Color Demanding Autonomy, and Other Threats to America

When black people in Newark start getting a little too "uppity," it's time to fluff up the pillows on our local punditocracy's fainting coach. Quickly, someone catch the editorialists at the Star-Ledger - and bring the smelling salts!
Cami Anderson, the superintendent of schools in Newark, has proposed another round of sensible and bold reforms. And she is facing the predictable shrieks of protest from the defenders of the status quo.
Mercy! The "shrieks"!

The link above takes you to an article about Ras Baraka, principal at Central High, on leave as he runs for mayor. Apparently, the S-L doesn't think Baraka, a veteran of the district, is "reasonable":
Anderson, a former protégé of Joel Klein in New York City, is often criticized for failing to draw more Newark stakeholders into her circle as she hatches these reforms. While there is some truth to that, it’s also true that much of her opposition is shrill and unreasonable.
None of these reforms is guaranteed to succeed. But it is sensible to lean on the best charter schools for help, give principals control over their staffs and make sure each ward has plenty of school choices. If that stirs up a bees nest, then so be it. [emphasis mine]
Hear that, people of Newark? Your local newspaper thinks you're a hive of bees! Worker drones, I imagine...

Luckily for us, Santa brought an early present: a response to this idiotic editorial in the form of a post from former S-L journalist Bob Braun:

Those who criticize the plan are “shrill” and they “shriek”–how is that for subtly racist comments? Not unlike  calling ambitious women “pushy.” These were elected officials who spoke out Friday–members of the council, a member and the speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. That they were men and women of color, representing a predominantly minority community, doesn’t make their passion “shrill” or “shrieking.” It means they care about the city where few editorial employees live.

How dare a newspaper that has put its Newark property up for sale tell city residents how to live? When is the last time it told the residents of Millburn and Westfield they have enough income and should volunteer to pay higher income taxes? When is the last time it told communities in Somerset and Hunterdon counties that they should change their zoning practices to allow low- and middle-income residents? When is the last time it told Essex County and Union County that they have too many school districts and should consolidate into  income-and racially–integrated unified systems?
Ooo, pick me, pick me! The answer: never.

Read Braun's entire post, which is dead-on. The truth is that the "reforms" Anderson proposes have never worked and will not work. They are, in reality, an abdication of responsibility on the part of the state, which has utterly failed to do its job over the last two decades of state control and provide Newark's beautiful, deserving children with schools that are worthy of them.

But, of course, if Baraka or advisory board President Antoinette Richardson-Baskerville dare to get up and say something so impolite, the Star-Ledger will instantly label them as "shrill and unreasonable." And the folks at PolitickerNJ know what that sort of thing leads to:
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. [emphasis mine]
I'm sure it's just one of those odd coincidences that the writer here chose to start his piece with the image of a black man throwing a brick through a window. Just like it was odd when the Star-Ledger said the Newark City Council "...has a long history of crazy behavior." Or when the press had a hissy fit when Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union president, quoted Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland ("Off with their heads" - yes, I'm sure she's walking around with a guillotine right now...). Or when the media rushed to call a few incidents of the "knockout game" an "epidemic" on the basis of no proof. Or when people of color are overrepresented in the media as violent criminals.

Or when large swaths of the press thought the biggest worry about the Trayvon Martin case was that black people might start rioting if they didn't like the verdict.

It's all just a misunderstanding, dontchaknow? Nobody's really saying that black and Hispanic and poor people are so unstable that they can't be trusted to govern themselves...

Are they?

ADDING: BTW, how many times will the S-L embarrass itself over its ignorance on charter schools and the students they enroll?
Charter schools will play a key role in these reforms. Already, Newark families are voting with their feet to enroll at charters, especially at those run by Team Academy and North Star Academy, both of which are achieving remarkable results even with the most challenging students. At last count, about 8,000 students are enrolled in charters with another 10,000 kids on waiting lists.

 Likewise, schools like Robert Treat Academy and North Star Academy often receive praise for their outcomes in New Jersey. Here’s where they lie when we take into account free lunch shares alone (and use general test taker outcomes to reduced special ed and ELL effects).
Slide1Both are near where one would expect them to be given their students. In fact, many more Newark Public Schools district schools deviate positively – and more positively – from expectations than either of these “miracle” schools.

Same can be said for TEAM. But you will never, ever see the S-L acknowledge this, even though we know for a fact they have interviewed the author of the above, Bruce Baker, multiple times.

What must it be like to be so stubbornly, willfully ignorant?

ADDING MORE: Here's the "shrieking," "shrill" Ras Baraka on the One Newark plan:
Regarding Reorganization, School Closings and Sale of School Buildings
Despite legitimate community concerns about the universal enrollment plan’s disruptive and unpredictable impact on both public and charter schools, Governor Christie and Ms. Anderson are also about to implement a poorly conceived reorganization plan that will further disrupt our schools.
Their plan affects more than one out of three existing schools, proposing to close, renew, redesign, relocate, co-locate them and to sell Newark-owned properties to charter schools. For the third year in a row, affected school communities were not consulted, and communication from the district was inadequate. Like the universal enrollment plan, the reorganization plan was developed in secrecy, and the people of Newark were not informed of its details until it was unavoidable. For example, parents in affected schools received less than one day’s notice for parent meetings to announce the closing of their schools.

Dr. Anne Galletta of Cleveland State University, a psychologist and authority on school closures, writes that closures can have serious negative effects on students. She says that closures disrupt productive relationships between educators and students and place students at increased risk of failure.  For the most vulnerable students, challenged by poverty, unable to speak English, or suffering disability, that level of risk is increased exponentially.
California requires that before schools can be closed, a district must prove the need by conducting and publicizing a detailed analysis of the financial and educational need and its impact on students. California requires that affected communities be consulted and given the opportunity to be heard. We need the same in New Jersey. The NJ Joint Committee on the Public Schools, chaired by state Sen. Ron Rice is working to develop legislation regulating school closings in New Jersey.

Reorganization should be based on models proven successful for urban schools.
I know that our public schools and charter schools can succeed under the right leadership.  I know this because as Principal of Central High School I saw what teachers, administrators, students and families can accomplish if they are engaged and empowered to act. There are many models of success for urban schools that do not involve destroying then rebuilding a system.
Did you see any bricks go through windows? Yeah, me neither...

1 comment:

Giuseppe said...

If I hear another school reform advocate, charter school pusher use the repeated and echoed and parroted phrase, "defenders of the status quo" or variations of the same, I will vomit all over central NJ. If you oppose charter schools and school privatization, then you are for the status quo. If you are for unions and bargaining rights, then you are for the status quo, that evil status quo. Geez, the Rheeformers all read from the same script and they repeat it ad nauseam. A couple years ago residents in the Princeton-West Windsor-South Brunswick area were quite upset with the prospect of a Chinese immersion charter school being imposed on their high performing districts. These residents were slimed, scorned and demonized as being for the....drum roll... status quo. They can shove the status quo up their common core curriculum. The critics of Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman described him as being shrill. I guess that is supposed to be the ultimate put down..... a shrill defender of the status quo.