Choice–or child abuse?

The appeal form--read it carefully
The appeal form–read it carefully

To the stupidity, unworkability, and sheer arrogance of Cami Anderson’s “One Newark”  school enrollment plan, add yet another trait—cruelty.  Cruelty to children and their parents.  And nothing  is crueler than the plan’s alleged “appeal” process for those parents unhappy with the choices made for their children by faceless bureaucrats using an algorithm the public is not allowed to see.

What would you think an appeal process would be? Your children didn’t get into their first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh choice—so you appeal, asking  Anderson’s overpaid minions to reconsider those rejections, right?

No, wrong.  Dead wrong.

Cami Anderson’s appeal process is a cruel trick. A poison pill aimed at preventing any appeals. An act of extortion to keep protests down.

Why? Because the very fact of appealing means parents will lose whatever little “choice” they had in his Potemkin Village of  a school choice plan. They will watch their children be assigned to schools they can’t possibly attend—or wouldn’t  want to under any circumstances.

This is how it works.  If you appeal the decision made by people working at 2 Cedar Street, you “forfeit” the chance to go to any school your child may have wanted to attend. Your child will be put into “Round Two” and placed in schools apparently few students applied to in Round One.

In fact, the appeal isn’t an appeal at all—it’s a request to forfeit choice.

Parents have been told this:

“Students who received a Round One match are expected to attend that school in the fall. If family or student circumstances have change since the application was submitted and the match is no longer viable or appropriate, families may submit an appeal to forfeit their child’s seat and enter a Round Two application.”

If the appeal is granted, the child doesn’t get a more desirable school—and won’t even be able to go back to the school the child was first matched with. The children get thrown into Round Two where, of course, anything could happen—and is not expected to happen until just a few days before school opens in the fall.

“The student will instead be able to enter a Round Two application for schools with space available,” the appeals form states  and, now, get this:

                “It is unlikely that a school that reached capacity in Round One will appear on the Round Two application.”

Appeals to forfeit would be granted  under only three conditons—changed circumstances, a mistake in the process, or a “documented student safety issue.”

Nothing here at all about the best match for a child. If you’re going to disrupt New Jersey’s largest school system and sacrifice children on the altar of choice, shouldn’t it be done for choice, and not simply for the sake of disruption?

In fact, the appeal form does provide a box that can be checked: “Don’t like match.” But the form adds that “appeals in this category are unlikely to be granted as students were matched with the highest-possible school on their application that had space.”

So parents were told they MUST pick eight schools. Many, if not most, got low-ranking schools, while some didn’t get any. But, if they don’t like the school and appeal, they’ll get an ever worse selection. School choice? Parent empowerment? Meeting the needs of individual children? When will this fraud end?

The truth is no one knows how the choices were made—at least not anyone outside Anderson’s close circle of consultants—but what this appeal process does is literally dare any parent to express dissatisfaction with the choice made for that parent’s child. Raise your voice, file an appeal—and who knows where your child will end up?

The plan made no sense in the beginning. Parents had to pick eight schools—many who have written to me said they don’t know of eight schools they would want their children to attend. Ask that question of some suburban parent. Does anyone believe that, by the time you get to choice number three or four or five, you really wanting your child to attend that school? You haven’t chosen a school, you’ve settled for a choice made by Cami Anderson.

Anderson has wildly thrown around numbers, saying she was “thrilled” and “excited”  that so many parents supported her application process.  This is how The Star-Ledger reported it:

“In the first round of enrollment, officials said the district matched 7,429 to one of their top five school choices, representing 59 percent of the 12,604 applicants. They said 1,427 students did not get matched at all and another 714 were non-residents and their applications are being held for round two. The remaining 3,034, or 24 percent, were matched back to their current school or placed in their bottom three choices.”

First start with this—Newark’s schools enroll more than 38,000 students. In the first round, 12,604 bothered to apply, despite strong pressure to do it.  Of those 12,000+ students, less than 60 percent got into schools they wanted to attend. “Thrilled” and “excited”?


Could people working at 2 Cedar Street  be off their meds? Smoking funny stuff? Or is this just what they teach at Broad Academy and Teach for America? This is school reform?

The process is clearly non-transparent,  so no one can really say why or how  children were chosen for which schools.

An algorithm, we’re told.  A mathematical formula not subject to laws requiring full disclosure of public business because the formula belongs to a private company and was purchased with private money.

And now this final insult—no appeal of what could be a disastrous choice for children and their parents. Not unless you want even a worse choice.

This isn’t school choice.

This is child abuse.

  1. Let’s ask Monty Hall, retired from Let’s Make a Deal, to help find a better deal for Newark’s youngsters than One Newark or Round Two Appeal. Yikes, as Bob B said. My heart goes out to Newark students, parents, and educators.

  2. Sue for the algorithm. Without knowing the process there is no way of knowing whether or not favoritism, nepotism, or discrimination were factors. You just need one parent to sue to bring out that “secret” algorithm. Come on Education Law Center take this one on.

    1. Newark doesn’t own the algorithm. ELC suing and winning the suit won’t bring forth the algorithm because the courts can’t force NPS to produce propriety rights protected software that belongs to someone else.

      Simply, it’s like suing NPS for someone else’s Farmville scores on Facebook.

  3. I have worked in one of the low performing renew schools for the past two years. I have taught in Newark for 20+ years. Community as well as outsiders need to know that these low performing schools are staffed with excellent teachers. In the 20+ years I have only met and worked with maybe 3 that really shouldn’t be in the education profession. We work from 8-4 but many of us don’t leave until 6 or come in before 7. Unfortunately, when you are in the renew schools, the services that were promised just don’t exist. We have a Child study team that is only part time and is shared with two other schools. Our school social worker and guidance councelor are pulled constantly to cover classes, office needs, or for testing. We don’t provide our kids tutoring, reading recovery, pullout/in services. IEP can not be followed due to shortage of staff and no budget. It is asset up for failure. We work really hard everyday against extreme odds. Many of these children come from such dysfunctional homes, broken families where one or both parents are in rehab or incarcerated. They have emotional, social, behavioral issues which in turn become learning issues without any support for them. The odds are against us. Parents need to go into the schools they are requesting and look around for themselves. All schools that are public are just that pub You are welcome to tour the building and see for yourself the teaching and learning that is taking place. Just because it is a low performing school doesn’t mean their child will not learn and do well there. We get a bad rap and it’s not fair. Check us out for yourself.

  4. Let’s see, what happens if a parent objects to the “choices” given her child (or children) and decides to keep them home? The old days before they were laid off last year an attendance counselor would visit the home and advise the parent the child (or children) had to be in school. Now, with no attendance counselors city wide who will enforce the law? Cami herself? She is too afraid to attend public board meeting and live in Newark so don’t expect her visiting homes of absent children.

    Cami has not announced the attendance figures for the entire school year so far -Why? Because with no attendance counselors to do their job, attendance has dropped – tremendously!!!

  5. The private corporations have sucked the “reformers” in again! We have all seen how VAM, the magical formula, has been shown to be worthless junk science sold to the “reformers”. Now we have Cami with some form of ranked choice voting that cannot even give a third of the students their choice.
    Kind of reminds one of the “snake oil” salesmen and four words GIGO (garbage in garbage out)

  6. Two points:

    1) Yes, 38,000 students are enrolled in NPS, but the application is only filled out by families who are seeking to switch their children’s schools or who are at a grade level when a change in school is necessary (usually 8th, sometimes 4th). Those two groups do not comprise 38,000 students.

    2) Anyone who compares a situation like this to child abuse has (clearly) never had to work with victims of actual child abuse.

    Bob Braun: Your point number one is not true. This was “universal,” and NPS wanted everyone to fill out the form, including those who wanted to stay in their own schools. As to point number two, you don’t know anything about me and my familiarity, personally and professionally, with child abuse. I would point out, however, that, as a slogan for wanting to take the schools over, former Gov. Tom Kean–a supporter of Christie’s views–justified the state takeover on the grounds the schools represented “educational child abuse.” I would advise you to read my past blogs about Anderson’s decisions concerning snow days and forcing neighborhood children to go to school while allowing charters to close. I also would advise you to look up Alturrick Kenney’s videos on how long and through what neighborhoods children will now have to walk to get to their new schools. Trashing communities and neighborhoods–maybe not the sort the wealthy might like but communities nonetheless–and destroying support system is tantamount to child abuse and I do not apologize for the word.

    1. Good for you Bob! People who are not from Newark or do not work directly with the community, haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Child abuse is the exact words that describes this situation. Education in this city is not in the best interest of the child. The higher ups are treating the district like a major corporation with Cami as CEO calling all the shots!! That’s what I like about this blog…in informs those people outside the district about what is really going on! Otherwise, they remain clueless!!!

  7. I hope that Mark Z. Has learned a lesson about corporations squandering money meant to enrich the lives of underprivileged children.What is happening in Newark is a sin and should outrage everyone.

  8. The Open Public Records Act defines government record as any record that has been made, maintained, or kept on file in the course of official business, or that has been received in the course of official business. Government records include printed records, tape recordings, microfilm, electronically stored records (including e-mails and data sets stored in a database), books, maps, photographs, etc. All government records are subject to public access unless specifically exempt under OPRA or any other law. It doesn’t matter that the algorithm was purchased with private money. It was received and used by NPS in the course of official business. By law, it’s a government record subject to release.

    1. OPRA does not apply to the algorithm. The algorithm was never purchased. It was donated by it’s proprietor (IIPSC) to a foundation (FNF), who in turn, let The Newark Public Schools administration use it. The goal was to circumvent using public dollars and resources specifically to keep it legally outside the parameters of OPRA.

  9. Child abuse? Well I have worked with child abuse victims and their situations are exacerbated by inadequate technocratic decisions. Students who are traumatized don’t recieve counseling and are left to sink or swim because of budget cuts and a lack of political will to help all students learn in schools. So yes there is child abuse!
    Moreover our country fights supposed terrorist on grounds of limiting educational access well look no further than newark. Before state takeover there were no teachers. After state takeover the money is thrown at technocrats. In the end the kids do not get the aid they ought to. Go to any school and you will notice that they are not getting a thorough and effective education. We have a trickle down system when it comes to aid. Finally the law stipulates that all students recieve a thorough and effective Anything less is breaking the law thus the arguement for child abuse! Perhaps your definition of abuse is physical or corporal punishment, but trust me the wounds inflicted by the technocrats will reverberate in the lives of these children for the rest of their lives. I can personally attest to this have been an NPS students!!!

  10. I think you are all giving Cami and her administration way too much credit. They aren’t smart enough to get this right and they aren’t savvy enough to sabotage it. Seriously, I’m not kidding. The algorithm was developed and is owned by a team of Nobel laureates. Cami by contrast is a former kindergarten teacher without a master’s degree. My apologies to Kindergarten teachers. A tool in the hands of a fool can be a dangerous weapon.

    1. My apologies. I meant to write “with a master’s degree,” not “without.”

  11. […] don’t know where they’ll be attending school for the 2014-2015 academic year.  As Bob Braun observes, fewer than 60% of students who participated in the enrollment plan were matched with […]

  12. […] prevents appeals from families that didn’t get matched with their preferred school (which is most of them)? […]

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