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, April 6, 2014

Uncommon Comes To Camden: Let The Segregation Begin!

Camden's State Superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard, shares much in common with his friend from the good old days in NYC, Newark State Superintendent Cami Anderson. Anderson, for example, believes she can simply ignore the law whenever she wants, as she does not answer to the citizens of Newark, with whom she has lost all credibility.

So, apparently, does Rouhanifard:
Two more Renaissance schools enrolling up to 700 students will open in the fall in addition to the one previously approved, the Camden School District said Friday.
Mastery and Uncommon Schools will use temporary facilities beginning in the 2014-15 school year while constructing buildings, the district's state-appointed superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard, said Friday.
Neither operator has received state Department of Education approval, as required by law, to operate the district-charter hybrid schools, and plans for permanent facilities are vague, but the district made the announcement anyway to allow the operators to get a jump on enrollment, spokesman Brendan Lowe said. The two applications will be submitted to the state Monday, when they will become public.
"It's a way to support these schools . . . to begin getting the word out, making sure they have students for the fall," Lowe said. [emphasis mine]
Listen, when you're bringing awesome transformational change with urgency and excellence, you can't be bothered by pesky little things like actually following the law, amiright? I mean, what's the point of disenfranchising poor black people and installing an inexperienced and unqualified school leader if you're going to get bogged down in details like whether your actions are illegal?

At some point I'll get to Mastery and the trail of destruction left by Philadelphia's charter school industry. But let's take a moment to review the track record of Uncommon Schools in New Jersey as exemplified by their Newark branch, North Star Academy. Bruce Baker has written a particularly readable post about just how awesomely refromy North Star is:


A true miracle it was… is… and shall be. One that must be proliferated and shared widely.
But alas, the more they shared, the more they touted their awesomeness, the more it started to become apparent that all might not be quite so rosy in North Star land.
As it turned out, those kids in North Star really didn’t look so much like those others they were apparently so handily blowing out on state tests….
And there was complete freakin’ silence!
Somehow, this rapidly growing miracle school was managing to serve far fewer poor children than others (except a few other charter schools also claiming miracle status) around them.
And, they were serving hardly any children with disabilities and few or none with more severe disabilities.
And again there was complete freakin’ silence!
And if that was the case, was it really reasonable to attribute their awesomeness to the awesomeness of their own teachers – their innovative strategies… and the nuanced, deep understanding of being driven by data?
Actually, it is perhaps most befuddling if not outright damning that such non-trivial data could be so persistently ignored in a school that is so driven by data?
And there was complete freakin’ silence!
But alas, these were mere minor signals that all might not be as awesome as originally assumed.
It also turned out that of all the 5th graders who entered the halls of awesomeness, only about half ever made it to senior year – year after year after year after year… after year.
And for black boys in the school, far fewer than that:
And there was complete freakin’ silence!
And in any given year, children were being suspended from the school at an alarming rate.
Again… raising the question of how a school driven by data could rely so heavily on a single metric – test scores and pass rates derived from them – to proclaim their awesomeness, when in fact, things were looking somewhat less than awesome.

Thanks, Bruce* -- read the entire thing, everyone, then hope that Camden's current charter schools don't discriminate on the basis of special education needs. Because, if they did, we'd see the charter schools in these graphs in the upper left corner: smaller SpecEd populations with relatively high test outcomes.

Oh dear...

This really is outrageous. North Star Academy has a proven record of segregation and student attrition in Newark, yet it is being pushed illegally into Camden with no acknowledgment from the state administration of its past or current practices.

When the Camden school district is finally left in shambles, and these segregating charter schools have been shown to be failures at educating all types of students, and the children who need well-resoucred schools the most -- the poorest children, the children with special needs, the children who are Limited English Proficient -- are consigned to crumbling, inadequately funded public schools...

What will we do then? How will we salve our guilty consciences? To what lengths will we go to convince ourselves that this course of destruction was really putting the interests of our most needy and deserving children first?

New Jersey reflects on Camden school "reform"

* Bruce Baker is my advisor in the PhD program at Rutgers.


Marie Corfield said...

Illegal? Who cares if it's illegal? Doesn't all this look sooooo good tho?

Unknown said...

Notice the few students with disabilities at North Star fall into only 3 categories: Other Health Impaired (often ADHD or health condition), Specific Learning Disability (dyslexia, reading fluency, oral or listening comprehension, math calculation or problem-solving, written expression) or Speech-Language Disorders. No children with autism, not even high functioning. No blind or deaf children. No children with emotional difficulties or intellectual disabilities or even plain old leg braces. No, those children just stay in the public schools. They are not admitted to North Star.

Anonymous said...

We have a Northstar transplant coming to Delaware to help "lead" our six priority schools in Wilmington. The reform invasion began here at full blast in 2012 when our DOE stacked the leadership decks with charter loving reformers. Makes me sick...