Pity the parents of Newark’s public school children. Many are unsure where their children will attend school in the fall. They’ve had to fill out application forms and hope they get their first choices in an ever-changing program called “One Newark.” For many, if their first choice was a neighborhood public school, they’re out of luck. Now comes a new insult—if they want to know how their children were picked for this school or that, they can just forget it. That’s secret information. They’re not allowed to know.
But, hey, no worries. The decisions will be made by a NPS staff with lots of experience with organizations like the Broad Academy, funded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. One worked with Barclay’s Capital, another with McKinsey & Co. Newark parents can feel comfortable their children are in the hands of people trained in business and by billionaires who understand completely what it’s like to be poor and live in Newark. Right.
That’s the answer received by the City Association of School Administrators (CASA), the union representing Newark’s school principals. They asked for public records showing how children will be distributed among the public schools and charter schools participating in the so-called “universal application” that’s part of the “One Newark” scheme.
The answer came back from Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to run Newark’s schools—“No responsive documents.”
That’s the frequent answer from Anderson, suggesting she and her many six-figure assistants carry around their secrets in their heads and never commit them to paper. The Education Law Center recently received the same answers when it asked both for evidence that Newark’s charter schools had a 10,000-name waiting list—this is a favorite canard of The Star-Ledger’s editorial writer—and when it asked for proof of anticipated expansion of charter school enrollment.
But there’s more to this than the usual stone-walling from Christie’s school regime. CASA asked specifically for the “algorithm” that will determine how children will be assigned to this school or that school. An algorithm is, according to Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary, a “set of steps that are followed in order to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process.”
For the purposes of “One Newark,” it’s the computer-based procedures for assigning children to various schools.
The response from Anderson to CASA’s formal request under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) was, yes, such an algorithm exists—but, no, you can’t have it. Why? Well, because it wasn’t developed by the Newark public schools. Rather it somehow came from that private sector giant—secretly–determining so much of what is happening, and what will happen, to Newark’s children: the Foundation for Newark’s Future (FNF).
Ah, yes, the FNF. Begun with money announced on a television show starring Chris Christie, Cory Booker, and Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire hero to school privatization efforts in Newark. He gave $100 million to Newark via his old pal Booker on an Oprah Winfrey show.
This was written at the bottom of CASA’s record request: “Denied no responsive documents. FNF purchased the algorithm. Newark Public Schools will implement and administer the algorithm purchased by FNF.”
That should make everyone feel uncomfortable. A private organization, funded by Zuckerberg and a variety of other foundation owners, bought a procedure to determine the future of Newark’s families—few of whom, if any, are billionaires.
I asked FNF for the algorithm, from whom it purchased it and for how much. I haven’t yet received an answer. But, if I do, I’ll post it. I am not too hopeful, however. FNF and all the other foundations that are now determining the future of Newark’s children are private and are not subject to public records requests.
Tina Taylor, CASA’s president, spoke of the secrecy at tonight’s City Hall hearing on the “One Newark” plan conducted by state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex). She said:
“The OPRA request asked for information about the algorithm to be used to determine to what school a student will be assigned. The NPS OPRA response states that the algorithm was provided to NPS by FNF (Foundation for Newark’s Future – the facebook money).
“So the bottom line is that students from Newark Public Schools will be assigned to their school next year based on a formula designed (or at least paid for) by private foundation money. Is it reasonable to assume that since the Foundation had input into the selection criteria, that the Foundation likely would have included selection criteria biased toward the goals it wants to achieve?
“The ‘Foundation for Newark’s Future’ a private entity, could be the organization that winds up determining, through their algorithm, where Newark Public School students will attend school in the 2014-2015 school year. “
(After I posted this last night, I receive the following from a source I trust:
“The algorithm was developed by Neil Dorosin of The Institute for Innovation In Public School Choice, or IIPSC for short. The algorithm is THE model for all universal enrollment initiatives across the country.
Neil Dorosin is a former employee of The New York City Department of Education, where he was in the architect responsible for none other than the district-wide enrollment process; the very same of which was used and botched in Newark last year during the high-school application process. As a former NYC Department of Education employee, Dorosin worked with Cerf and Anderson.
IIPSC bills itself as a non-profit organization. However, the algorithm they’ve developed is not cheap, and continues to be used for and in nefarious purposes by profiteers calling themselves educational reformers.
IIPSC website http://iipsc.org/team.htm Neil Dorosin”)
It gets scarier. The NPS did provide the union with a list of the members of the “Policy Design Committee” to “ultimately design the policies that govern Universal Enrollment”—the distribution of Newark children to various schools.
The committee has one NPS member—Gabrielle Wyatt, a $135,000 year refugee from Joel Klein’s New York City schools—and four charter school representatives: Pedro Lebre from TEAM Academy; Misha Simmonds from University Heights; Chrisdtian Sparling from North Star, and Karen Thoams from Marion P. Thomas. The NPS comnmitee also includes “representatives” from the state education department and the Newark Charter School Fund.
In short, a group packed to ensure charter schools’ interests were met.
The NPS also provided a list of staff members on the enrollment team:
Gabrielle Ramos, executive director of enrollment, $115,000. Her background? She is a graduate of the Broad Academy: “Prior to joining The Broad Residency, Ramos served as a senior analyst in the Prime Services Business and Market Strategy group at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital. In this role, Ramos developed global and regional sales and marketing strategies for several financial products and technology platforms. Ramos also instituted a global knowledge-sharing program for the division. Prior to her time in finance, Ramos served as a Teach for America special education.”
Lauren Buller, director for policy development and management, $95,000, currently a Broad resident. Her background: “Prior to joining The Broad Residency, Lauren held roles as Manager of Strategy and Director of National Development at Teach For America. During her time at Teach For America, she led efforts to improve financial efficiency, cross-team operations, and grant budgeting across the organization. Lauren previously worked as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company, where she primarily served clients in the pharmaceutical and consumer goods spaces.”
Kate Fletcher, senior analyst, $73,000, from Bridgeport, CT, via “Education Pioneers,” another foundation-funded pipeline for outsiders.
Darcy Morales, enrollment analyst, $65,000, from New York City schools, via Education Pioneers.
All people with lots in common with Newark school parents, of course. In a city where the average household income is $31,731 and individual income is $15,564.
Pity the parents of Newark’s public school children.