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.