Break a kid’s heart? Who cares?

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Chris Christie and Cami Anderson
Chris Christie and Cami Anderson

Newark’s school superintendent, Cami Anderson, yesterday shrugged off the political embarrassment she dumped on Gov. Chris Christie—a national champion of education?–and stubbornly pushed her deeply flawed and unpopular “One Newark” plan. In a letter whirling with spin, Anderson tried to skip over the reality that thousands of city children and their parents were disappointed.

The letter just came a day after Ras Baraka, an outspoken opponent of the plan, handily beat a pro-Anderson opponent who had access to millions of dollars in pro-charter school money in a hotly contested mayoral election. Millionaires from California’s Silicon Valley to New York City’s Wall Street tried to save Shavar Jeffries’s mayoral ambitions  but the poison represented by “One Newark” was just too toxic.

And the letter came just one day before non-tenured teachers are likely to receive layoff notices. Today. Unless, of course, they are Teach for America recruits or charter school teachers. They skate.

 

More than 10 percent of all families got no matches at all despite following the rules of the so-called “Universal Application” plan that will help Anderson realize her ultimate goal—the replacement of neighborhood public schools with privately-operated and politically connected charter schools. Anderson kept the rejection letters back until after the election.

But even the so-called successes—the instances where families were matched with schools—really were not very successful at all.

“I’m thrilled to announce.” Anderson wrote, complete with exclamation mark, “that the overwhelming majority of families were matched to one of their highly ranked schools!”

But what’s a “highly ranked” school? According to sources on Cedar Street, only 63 percent of families were matched with a school somewhere in the top five selected by families. Anderson does not tell us how many received their first or even their second choice. The form parents had to fill out required them to list eight schools in preferential order.

Remember—we are talking about elementary and secondary children here, most of whom attend neighborhood schools. These are not college kids applying to their “reach” and “safety” schools. These are families with young children who do not know—and probably won’t know for months yet—where their kids will go to school.

Parents and teachers have been sending in reactions. One teacher wrote this about an eighth-grader who was rejected by EVERY school to which he applied—every public high school:

“You can imagine how sad it is when one of my 8th graders tells me that no one wants them in their high school . They have been on this earth only 13 or 14 years. Wonderful for their self image. It’s heartbreaking.”

No one wants the kid. Hey, thanks, Cami. Made that child’s day. Year. Maybe life.

Other parents reported siblings assigned to different schools or to schools to which they had not applied. At least one parent has three children going to three different schools–way to go, Cami! You apparently forgot you were on the ballot Tuesday and, well, you lost.

“My son was matched to a school we did NOT choose. He DID use all 8 options and we applied early in January,” wrote one mother. To Cami, that’s school choice.

Another said she was denied any choices because “I received a letter stating they did not match my child because I didn’t select enough schools!!! There aren’t 8 schools I want my son to attend!!!”

So the school choice program, it turns out, is not parental choice—but choices exercised by  bureaucrats at 2 Cedar Street. Parents in Montclair, where Cami  now lives, can choose to send their children to neighborhood schools—but people in Newark simply aren’t as rich as people in Montclair.

Empowerment in Newark means empowerment for $300,000-a-year Anderson and her many $175,000-a-year tools. For Newark parents–not so much.

Anderson also is determined to close down several elementary schools and convert them to charters—including Hawthorne Avenue which will be leased to TEAM Academy for a K-1 school. Hawthorne will be closed despite its status as the fastest achieving school in the city—and one of the most improved in the state. Let’s see–that would be the same charter school favored by former Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf who once served on its board and worked with its board chairman, Tim Carden, in New York.  Cerf brought Anderson, a former political operative for Cory Booker, to Newark. Booker got Chris Christie to sign on for forced choice in Newark.

It’s a small world after all.

Many Hawthorne parents refused to apply for any other school and, as a consequence, the choice will be made completely by 2 Cedar Street. In memoranda sent to principals, Anderson glossed over transportation problems with vague promises that “optional/free” busing will be made available along with bus tickets.

That’s free to the students who will be forced to commute to their schools every day—not free to city and state taxpayers. It’s an added cost to a district that, theoretically, is so broke it has to lay off a third of its teachers.

But she doesn’t even pretend to have solved the special education problem. Charter schools, concerned about their test scores, won’t take special education students who now must remain behind in the decreasing number of resource-starved neighborhood schools. Not one charter school will be required to provide self-contained special ed classes.

This is what she wrote to principals about special education students—and just imagine yourself the parent of such a child, knowing charters won’t touch them:

“Students with special needs were preferenced in the match algorithm. The intent was to open rather than limit options to students with special needs. Now that the algorithm has been run and matches made, we must analyze the outcomes for every student, engage in a planning process with every school, and communicate with every family.”

What’s an algorithm? It’s a mathematical formula—not an educational judgment. Just don’t asked to see the algorithm. It belongs to a private consulting firm and, according to the school administration, it is not subject to laws requiring release of public documents.

Parents, Anderson says, have a right to appeal. They also can join a Round 2 of applications beginning next week. Many parents, she has conceded earlier, won’t know what schools their children attend until just days before school opens.

 

 

 

 

 

14 comments

  1. Jerseygull

    The state is treating the people of Newark like unruly children. In any other district, if parents came out in force to protest a superintendent’s policies, that superintendent would be gone. The board would find the money to buy out the contract. Newark’s parents are being held hostage by the state.

  2. P. Grunther

    I wish that Baraka would lead a march in Trenton to demand the end of state control NOW! I would take a personal day off work to go to Trenton for that…what if we managed to get not hundreds but a thousand people to descend on the DOE in Trenton? Through Bob, JJ and Ravtich’s blogs I think it would be possible to gather people for a march in June, no? Building on the New Yorker article, we should try to get NY people on board for this!

  3. Steve Des

    It will be a very interesting time come September. Normally the first few days are hectic but given the incompetency of Cami Anderson, it will be disastrous. This is not the way to improve Newark education let alone maintain the status quo. However, it is a sure way to help her friends ultimately make a ton of money. For all this turmoil she is paid almost $300,000/year plus outrageous benefits?

  4. DL

    Can you imagine a CEO of a company announcing that the best way to move forward with their mission is to pass significant parts of it on to competitors?

  5. MsC

    Seems to be acceptable to experiment on the urban students. Their education and lives are expendable to profit the politically connected. They would never get away with this crap in any other district.

  6. w. lonigan

    Just want to point out that Bard is a public school (not charter) and all its teachers are NPS.

    • CharterSchoolVetTeacher

      While that is true, Bard is also what could be considered a “magnet school.” Students must have specific GPAs, extra curricular interests and participation, as well deep parental involvement to support the character and academic development implemented by the school. Bard is not a come-one, come-all public school like many of its counterparts throughout Newark.

  7. Saleem

    Parents in Newark should boycott the schools by refusing to send their children in September. If parents would be willing to make this sacrifice on a large scale collectively Cami would be knocked off her high horse and the government would be forced to adhere to the needs of the community.

  8. dan Costa

    NPS will now be charging $300 per student to attend the summer recreation program that used to be free for all students in the city. This was a program that kept thousands of kids off the streets in the summer and in the supervision of a certified NPS teacher that the kids in the sachool would know. This program offered recreation, trips, activities, free lunches, and visits to sports camps. Let’s see what these thousands of kids will be doing with their time now. Let the imagination run Wild!!

  9. Tony

    Bob,what is going on with magnet schools? I’m hearing that NPS is not admitting the city’s top students. In speaking to many science HS students it is evident that the admission process has been changed. Seniors have mentioned that incoming students lack both academic competency and discipline. As a science hs alumni I can attest to how magnets schools work. Inner city schools do very little in educating top students at the elementary scho level and magnets have worked quite well. No one can deny the rich history and academic success of newark’s magnet schools. I’m also hearing from many top students that have been denied admittance to science and arts HS. Despite displaying academic compentency under less that ideal situations at local elementary schools their future is uncertain. In years past their hard work was a ticket to a good HS and good college. Now they have to attend charters or local HS. These students know that they will not have access to specialized curriculum that will allow them to excel. If this is the case then what is the goal? Charters can have top students but magnets can’t. Charters just don’t cut it! How many charters have kids that are state champions in debate, robotics, or speech. How many charters have access to sports teams. And more importantly how many charter students outperform magnet students or even public school students at the collegiate level? The fact is that they don’t but nobody want to talk about how the new civil rights movement was hijacked and policy is in fact hurting us more that helping us.

  10. CharterSchoolVetTeacher

    This is just a case of chickens coming home to roost…no one minded when charters were first implemented in cities like Newark because the great white savior was coming in and helping to alleviate the social ills of Newark by ‘educating’ students- increasing lexile scores and improving standardized testing scores. No one had anything to say when the majority of teachers being hired weren’t from urban areas, or could even culturally relate to the students. Why? Because Newark trusted the great white savior…Now, that the same ‘savior’ is showing its true overseer colors, with obvious political and economic ties to millionaires and various big wig politicos, and the jobs of Newark’s most veteran teachers are at stake, there’s an uproar? There should have been an uproar when stand alone charters like People’s Prep were established smack dab in the middle of Bergen Street by administrators who would literally walk past concerned parents on the way to their cars at the end of the school day…or when TEAM got in bed with Booker…or when employees of color left Uncommon in droves as a result of the militaristic-style tactics employed against it’s own students in the name of ‘discipline.’ Newark’s, NYC’s, and other metropolises students of color have been and are continuing to be used as pawns in a war for federal funding under the banner of ‘closing the achievement gap’ and ‘the civil rights movement of our time.

    Bob Braun: The civil rights issue of our time is overturning the privileges of the one percent.

  11. Pingback: Arne Duncan’s reforms hurt minorities instead of helping them | teacherbiz

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