Sunday, July 07, 2013

Cami Anderson's Speech on Plans for Newark School Reform

Below is an excerpt of Cami’s speech. I wasn’t there unfortunately but I’ve heard it was her best speech ever. In it, she nails the theme of great schools for all kids and called for an end to the charter/district divide. She speaks passionately and has tremendous commitment to the ideas she’s proposing.

She tells a story about two schools, one charter and one district – but doesn’t initially say which is which. Then she reveals that the district school is Camden Elementary, a “renew school,” and she speaks to the staff working until all hours and ignoring the contract to meet kids’ needs and create a strong culture. The charter she speaks about serves a high concentration of students with special needs and is redefining what’s possible for SPED education, which she revealed to be a TEAM (KIPP) charter school. Hence, she concludes, we need to let go of stereotypes about what certain schools do and don’t do.

Very importantly, she calls out BOTH district and charters for kicking kids out and said that practice is ending in Newark. Period. (She’s setting up a unified application and admissions process for ALL schools in Newark, as New Orleans does.)

Hear, hear!

Here’s an excerpt:
One Newark is about moving the bar, regardless of the type of school, for all of our kids.  That’s One Newark.

So how do we get there?  How do we get there?  Because most people would say, in a city with the economic challenges of Newark, it’s inevitable.  You have heard this, right?  The correlations between poverty and outcomes are one-to-one, and there is virtually nothing we can do about it.  We must wait to solve poverty until we solve school excellence.  Well we have schools in this city that are proving that is absolutely false.  You can have two classrooms down the hall from each other with tremendously different results, same kids.  You can have two schools down the street from one another with tremendously different results, same kids. 

So what we have to do, in part, is confront some brutal facts.  First, families want choice.  For the first time, this year we had every eighth grade family apply for high schools.  Do you know how many people participated in that?  Sixty percent?  Seventy?  Folks in this room know it was 99 percent.  Ninety-nine percent of our families expressed that they wanted to choose where their kids went to high school.  And when kids choose and feel that they are being accepted, as opposed to being placed in default, they stay.

We have 10,000 families on waiting lists.  Families want choice.  We need to be clear that choice is great for families.  We also have to be clear on a second brutal fact.  It’s not a fair fight.  Charters have certain flexibilities that we do not have.  This should not make us hate on charters.  This should make us seek, with our pants on fire, the same conditions that allow success we see in the charter space for all our schools.  Schools where a third of our kids can read and have shown no growth, no growth for ten years, they are not going to change with more of the same.  

We must face the brutal fact that NPS’ footprint will shrink while families vote with their feet.  Who can blame them? Everyone in this city who has the means to make a choice does.  How dare we shame families that can’t by saying that they should be trapped in failed schools while we get our act together. 

We must confront a brutal fact that there is a concentration effect that when some families can choose and others cannot, we are concentrating need in too many failing schools.  And we, too much in education reform, employ a lifeboat theory of change where we build great schools for some kids while others are left on a sinking ship that cannot be turned around.  We can no longer accept that as an inevitable or acceptable outcome in a city that needs every kid to succeed.  Now, if we are willing to confront those brutal facts together, I actually think that we can show the country that it can be done.  That it can capitalize on the best Newark Public Schools has to offer and the best of what public charters have to offer to create the first city in the country that puts every kid in a green school. 

So One Newark.  One Newark is a collective agenda of leaders, advocates, educators, friends across public charter and district schools to ensure that all students are in excellent schools.  This is our charge.  Now what are the tenants of One Newark?  We got a lot of work to do.  Keep those charts seared in your head, because while we celebrate progress tonight and while we honor and I stand on the shoulders of the great leaders in this room.  We got a lot of work to do.  
Here are the tenants of “SUCCESS.”

Here’s an article about Cami’s One Newark speech:

Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson announced an initiative Thursday night intended to close the perceived rift between the city’s charter and traditional public schools and raise the quality of the entire public school system for all its nearly 40,000 students.

“This is a joint and collective agenda between the public charter schools and the Newark public schools to get to a day where every kid in Newark is in an excellent school,” Anderson said shortly before she unveiled the plan, “One Newark,” at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Underscoring the importance of the proposal was an audience that included Chris Cerf, the head of the state Department of Education, prominent Rutgers scholar Clement Price, and mayoral candidate Anibal Ramos.

Anderson and other speakers Thursday said a principal aim of One Newark was to change the perception of the district as split between charters and traditional public schools, a distinction many critics of the charter school movement are quick to make. Those critics fear charters are a step towards privatization and also worry that charters deprive traditional public schools of resources and attention.

“The only metric we should pay attention to is how many kids are in great schools -- not great charter schools, great schools,” said Ryan Hill, founder of TEAM Academy, one of the city’s nearly two dozen charters.

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