“The Prize”: The Unwritten Appendix, By Those Inside Newark’s Improving Schools
Most importantly, read this in-depth article by Andrew Martin, the director of special projects at KIPP New Jersey and a former classroom teacher for both KIPP and the NYC DOE. It has incredible data showing, among other things, that: The percentage of black Newark students attending a school that beat the state proficiency average has tripled in the past 10 years, and this increase can be attributed almost entirely to the growth of the charter sector. For 2014, the most recent year that data is available, more than 40% of the black students enrolled in Newark charters attended a school that beat New Jersey's average in their grade/subject. In district schools, that was only true for 6% of students. Contrary to some critic's claims, charter growth hasn't "eviscerated" the district — at least not from a student achievement perspective. When you compare pass rates on state assessments for African-American students in Newark Public Schools to the state , it's flat. The percentage of students attending schools beating the state average in reading and math is about the same in 2014 as it was in 2006. That sameness to the Newark Public Schools' performance also means that the much stronger showing of charter schools when compared to the state average cannot be explained by high-performing students selectively leaving district schools for charters. This is real academic progress for Newark's most underserved students. He concludes: Alex Kotlowitz [who wrote the NYT book review of The Prize] concludes his review of "The Prize" on a dour note: "I'm not giving anything away by telling you that this bold effort in Newark falls far short of success. Most everyone moves on." It's hard not to look back at the Zuckerberg gift and wonder what might have been — one need only look a few miles downstate to Camden, where the hard work of improving a broken school system is being done in a way that brings in community members (and without the benefit of the Zuckerberg windfall). But when I look at the Newark school system, charter and district, I don't see the failure that Kotlowitz seems to perceive. Cami Anderson and Cory Booker might be gone, but the teachers, principals, and school operators who were in Newark before they came didn't move on. The heroes of Russakoff's book — the "outstanding teachers" doing the "punishing, unglamorous work" in classrooms across the city — haven't gone anywhere. Through their efforts, there are now three times as many African-American students who attend a Newark school that beats the state proficiency average. "The Prize" may document a failure of politics and leadership, but for Newark's neediest kids, the achievement data shows five years of slow, steady improvement — almost entirely because of the movement to high-performing charters.
"The Prize": The Unwritten Appendix, By Those Inside Newark's Improving Schools
October 13, 2015