Sunday, July 07, 2013

State Should Continue to Oversee Newark Schools

An op ed in the Newark Star-Ledger about the need for the state to continue to oversee Newark’s schools:

Echoing the city council, the Newark school board recently passed a resolution opposing all education reform during the next school year. Meaning no changes, whatsoever.
This would be its plan for a full year to address the abysmal failure in Newark schools — where nearly half the kids drop out before graduating — if it were to regain control over the state-run district.

The vote itself was pure politics, an attempt by Ras Baraka, a mayoral candidate, to capitalize on Newark’s famous suspicion of outside meddling. His team on the board is powerful enough to get approval for this nonreform plan, and that is a chilling thought.
Because the state now faces a legal challenge over its control of Newark’s schools. The frustration that gave rise to the suit is certainly understandable, given the slow progress since Trenton intervened in 1995.

But in the past few years, under Superintendent Cami Anderson, a menu of promising reforms are beginning to flower. Charter schools now handle 17 percent of the city’s students, and many of them are doing exceptionally well and have long waiting lists. Anderson has shut down some of the worst schools, replacing their principals and giving them control over staffing. She has expanded school hours and negotiated a groundbreaking contract that allows her to remove bad teachers and reward good ones.

These changes threaten jobs and ruffle feathers, in Newark and other cities. But to let that opposition stop the reforms would be disastrous for kids.

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