Newark: Anderson reform strategy leads to lower student scores


The signature reform that state-appointed schools Cami Anderson promised would prove the value of her disruptive, three-year tenure in Newark–the so-called “Renew Schools”– failed to produce the results she predicted.

Anderson promised the Renew Schools–headed by new, often inexperienced, principals who were free to fire their staffs in favor of new instructors–would produce 50 percent proficiency levels within two years in student language arts and math scores on NJ-ASK, he statewide tests.

It just didn’t happen, according to scores on statewide tests released last month–but suppressed by Anderson.  All the anger, the grief, the frustration Anderson inflicted on students, parents, and teachers–all the pain she caused to so many people–might have been forgiven if, in fact, the children learned.

But they didn’t. At least not by the standards she set.

They regressed.

State control of Newark schools is failing. Anderson is failing.

This is what happened: Not one of the eight Renew Schools Anderson said would reach 50 percent proficiency in student test scores met that goal. Not one.

Worse, the scores are lower than they were before all the disruption caused by Anderson. The great experiment failed, no matter how times she wrote for the Huffington Post about what a great job she has been doing, no matter how many Star-Ledger editorials praised her “bold and sensible” reforms, no matter how many times Gov. Chris Christie ups her salary and talks about what a great job she is doing.

Have to wonder how decreasing scores will play in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. President Wannabee.

This is what the Alliance for the Newark Public Schools, a coalition of professional and community groups that carefully and conservatively analyzed the test scores, concluded:

“The results of this analysis clearly demonstrate that the Superintendent’s Renew School initiative not only falls short of her target, but in fact her conversions had a profound negative effect on student academic achievement.”

The Alliance’s full analysis is expected to be released Thursday. But Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was informed of the results Wednesday and issued a statement calling on state Education Commissioner David Hespe to “investigate” Anderson’s reforms.

“We have repeatedly said that state management of the Newark Public Schools under Superintendent Cami Anderson and her reform program  has led to utter mismanagement of our schools and endangered the education of our youth, putting Newark’s future at grave risk,” Baraka wrote.

The mayor was joined by Dr. Lauren Wells, Newark’s chief school officer, who said, “After two years, it is clear that Superintendent Anderson’s ‘Renew Schools’ initiative is a failure by the very targets she set.”

Dr. Wells called for an independent evaluation of the “Renew School” strategy.

“From the data we see, it is certain that state management of Newark Public Schools under Superintendent Anderson is wrong for our youth, wrong for our schools, and wrong for Newark,” she said.

The demand for an evaluation seems a bit mild considering Baraka already has called for her dismissal.

The Alliance reported noted that, in March of 2012, Anderson, with considerable fanfare, announced her “Renew School” strategy. She said these schools would be converted into schools following a reform package she devised–13th Avenue, Camden , Chancellor Avenue; Cleveland; Dayton Street; Quitman; Newton Street; and Sussex Avenue.

The two major characteristics of a Renew School would be new principals who would hire new staffs–and a longer school day  by one hour.

Anderson predicted the test scores would reach 50 percent proficiency in two years–and 75 percent in four.

As a consequence of the conversions, many teachers lost positions they held for many years–and many became so-called Educators Without Placement, or EWPS. Hundreds of teachers have been paid for doing nothing,  some for as long as two years.

The alliance reported:

Not one of the eight Renew Schools met Superintendent Anderson’s target of 50 percent proficiency rate within two years on either the LAL or MATH portion of the NJ ASK.   On each of the 16 measures, the proficiency rate was below 50 percent. In one case, LAL at 13th Avenue School, the pass rate was an abysmal 17.3%, a long way from the Superintendent’s 50 percent target.  Clearly, by her own measure of success, Anderson’s Renew School interventions have failed spectacularly.

       ” Even more discouraging, in most cases, pass rates have actually decreased.  In 13 of the 16 test comparisons, Renew School pass rates are lower than they were prior to becoming Renew Schools. The Table illustrates this astounding result. The red cells in the Table demonstrate where pass rates decreased, the green cells in the Table demonstrate where pass rates increased.  ” (Emphasis in original)

The report comes as no surprise. Data last year showed few of the Renew Schools were meeting the predictions. In a report to the state Board of Education and in a letter seeking help from her dwindling number of supporters, Anderson conceded scores generally–Renew or not–were down in the district. Ironically, given her support of charter school expansion, she blamed charter school skimming for lowered scores. In the past, she had denied charter schools were taking the most test-proficient students.

Despite earlier indications that Renew Schools were failing, Anderson pressed on with her ill-starred reform so that now 20 schools are pursuing the strategy–and the policy has become a major part of the so-called “One Newark” plan that has torn the city apart.

The Alliance recommended a halt to the expansion of the policy; the conducting of a research study to determine why the reform failed;  support from the state-operated Regional Academic Center (RAC) of an audit of Renew and all Newark schools; the city-wide release of test scores; a state Board of Education order to acting Education Commissioner David Hespe to evaluate Anderson’s performance and its impact on all Newark schools; the adoption of the “Blueprint for Education” that was developed locally and became a campaign platform for Baraka, and a return to local control after 20 years of state operation.

The Alliance document fairly drips with irony as it introduces Anderson’s failures with a recitation of how poorly she has related to the Newark community and its elected school board–she hasn’t, for example, attended a public school board meeting for nearly a year. It speaks to all the criticism she has received but settles on, of all things, an editorial in The Star-Ledger as the most “succinctly articulated” of all accounts of her “failure” and “shortcomings.”

The newspaper, of course, and its chief editorial writer, have been Anderson’s most devoted fans and quoting its words–calling her “tone-deaf”–was a masterful slap at both the Ledger and Anderson. Repeatedly, the newspaper has called her reforms “bold and sensible.”

But the Alliance, made up of organizations whose leaders despite Anderson, cleverly says controversy isn’t really the issue–student performance is. So it states:

“Although the Alliance in no way wishes to minimize her already well documented failures, we proffer that it is important to determine the results of her reform efforts in terms of student outputs, i.e., student academic achievement, before making any final judgment regarding the efficacy of her reforms. Although the Alliance believes that building positive relationships with members of the educational community is a critical competency that must be evaluated when determining a superintendent’s overall effectiveness, the Alliance does not lose sight of a major goal of schooling, increasing student academic achievement.”

That’s the point of this exercise, of course. It wouldn’t matter to the rest of the state–certainly not to her master, Gov. Chris Christie–that Anderson is widely reviled in the city as long as she improved test scores. But she hasn’t.

To use a word now feared by most teachers in Newark because of the new anti-tenure law, Anderson certainly can be rated “ineffective” two years in a row and deserves to be fired.

The Alliance is made up of the City Association of Supervisors and Administrators; Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools; members of the Newark Clergy, the Newark Student Union;  Communities United of NJ; Laundry Distribution and Food Service Workers Local 3; Newark Branch – NAACP; Newark Teachers’ Association; Newark Teachers’ Union; Operating Engineers Local 68; Parents United for Local School Education (PULSE); People’s Organization for Progress, Secondary parent Council and SEIU 617.

The report carried this table to compare scores over two years at the eight schools:

Elementary School 2011-2012 School Year NJASK* Scores
 Elementary Renew School 2013-2014 School Year NJASK* Scores
(School-Wide Percentage of Students Passing) 
School   2011-2012 School Year             LAL 2013-2014 School Year             LAL   2011-2012 School Year      MATH 2013-2014 School Year      MATH
THIRTEENTH AVE             18.3% 17.3%   24.3% 20.1%
CAMDEN STREET   23.7% 23.5%   29.4% 27.4%
CHANCELLOR AVE              30.6% 20.7%   47.3% 38.4%
CLEVELAND                  25.3% 21.6%   41.1% 26.6%
DAYTON ST                  16.5% 25.2%   29.5% 35.9%
NEWTON ST                  29.6% 22.0%   38.8% 35.3%
QUITMAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL   18.7% 34.0%   31.1% 26.1%
SUSSEX AVE                 36.3% 24.7%   46.8% 46.5%

*Source Data: New Jersey Department of Education
























  1. A disgrace! How will she spin this one? She’s sure had plenty of time to come up with something. This is going to be some story…fiction of course, but she’s come this far as the “golden girl”. I’m sure the damage control squad has been working overtime. (By the way, Bob…your math questions are getting harder. It took me two times, but boy was the second one easier, lol!)

    Bob Braun: I don’t have to answer them so I never know what they are.

  2. Everyone is so worried about those bad teachers that they forgot that bad policy destroys an entire generation. It all seems to be headed south, even the bright spots. I’m sure cami will move on to bigger salaries but newark will be hurting for the next decade after this debacle

  3. While I am not an Anderson supporter, I do not hold her accountable in any way for Test Score movement (up or down). Test scores are an idiot’s way to measure schooling.
    Yet it is ironic how the “reformers” who champion “accountability” (Obama,Duncan,Cuomo,Christie,Cerf and Ruiz) only like Accountibility when the deck is STACKed in their favor (Robert Cheat Academy and other skimming charters).
    Additionally, Anderson attributed the decrease partly due to the “higher scoring” students leaving NPS for charters.
    Anderson admitted that charters segregate!
    So, can we conclude that Anderson is “ineffective”?

    1. I would disagree that “test scores are an idiot’s way to measure schooling.” You have to assess in order to diagnose who much learning is actually happening, because it would be difficult, I imagine to “measure schooling.”

      The test scores are a metric, much like a barometer to help us determine the efficacy of education policy, not to qualify how well or how bad students are learning. By that reasoning, the education policies that govern the public schools in Newark are Anderson’s, and therefore, she should be held accountable for why they are trending down instead of up as Cerf so erroneously asserted in his op-ed.

      Obama, Duncan, Cuomo, and Christie are politicians; and Cerf is a politician turned business man. They are not reformers. Moreover, Cuomo whether by action of New York’s legislature or his own initiatives distinguishes himself and the state of New York from Duncan, Christie and Cerf because New York is taken a step back from implementing PARCC. Ruiz is not a reformer. Period.

      Whether charters skim the better performing students from the general population is a moot point. Anderson’s job, her challenge, and her promise was to reach a benchmark. She failed. According to her own timeline. She is ineffective. According to her own measures, even citing recently at AEI that things weren’t moving fast enough
      Click here to watch Cami Anderson’s Private Talk at AEI following the protest.

      1. Mr. Outside,
        I disagree on all counts. I think I understand your points though.
        Hope you are not an educator 🙂

  4. Using 11/12 as the baseline is not the proper procedure. That was Dr. Anderson’s first year in Newark. Try to compare 10/11 (before Dr. Anderson arrived) with 13/14. You will find the drop in scores to be even pronounced.

    Also, what about Miller St. Schools test scores? The school you wrote about yesterday?

    1. She’s not a Ph.D. She has a Master of Education and Public Policy.

      The information for Miller Street can be found here
      Click on any link for grades 3-8. Go to the section called “Details” and click on the first link, “NJASK 2014 State Summary.” You may be prompted to download or open the Excel file. Click “Save” to download it or “Open” to simply preview it. Miller Street is line 162 on the Excel worksheet.

      1. Was Anderson “gifted” her Ed Masters from TFA?

        Someone, put this woman out of our misery, please.

  5. What is so ridiculous (apart from any other topic up for discussion) is the fact that so many EWPs are not doing anything. It is a whole pool of people who could be giving additional support to our students. It is also ludicrous all of the positions that have been cut (attendance counselors, literacy coaches etc) the demands have never been higher with the resources to meet these demands so diminished.

  6. Re: how decrease in scores will play in Iowa, New Hampshire
    1. Why would one trust Christie to pick Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff if he picked Cami Anderson to run his state’s largest school district? A few YouTube clips by his opponents will suffice.
    2. Let’s start saving now to send the intrepid Newark folks who went to AEI in DC up to New Hampshire! Didn’t you appreciate the student in checkered shirt and bowtie? Will NH Republicans consider him a “security breach” as AEI did?
    3. How sad that even if Christie is eliminated as Republican contender, the others are dismal prospects, too. The GOP, party of educated, affluent stakeholders, doesn’t have better candidates to offer …

  7. The real reason for creating renew schools was to get rid of tenured, higher salaried teachers. One Newark has filtered the lowest functioning and special needs students to these schools and then principals have been transferring “unwanted” teachers to these same renew schools to be evaluated as ineffective according to the predictably lower scores.

    Bob Braun: I don’t doubt it but I’d love to see some documentation.

    1. I can get it to you.
      Bob Braun: My email is

    2. I’m afraid to inform, that there is an inconsistency in your statement. The first cohort of renew schools launched in September of SY 2012-2013. You will recall that the unannounced plans for One Newark were leaked in December of SY 2013-2014. One Newark did not formally launch until this September.

      An effect of the Renew Schools policy was fully autonomous school leadership. Another effect was [re]new[ed] staffing from top to bottom; new principal, new staff, and new faculty; with existing faculty and staff effectively being fired and required to reapply and contend for their jobs. All the Principals, being new, were encouraged and hire the best talent available. The talent pool included teachers from through the district seeking to maintain employment, as well as a swell of prospective and overwhelmingly inexperienced Teach For America recruits. Given Anderson’s TFA evangelism, it’s no wonder each of the 13 original renew cohorts employs 50% of Teach For America recruits.

      It is true that the renew schools employ a disproportionate number of young, inexperienced or as you put it, “unwanted” teachers, but it is inaccurate to say these are higher salaried, tenured teachers.

      The renew initiative did not saturate the cohorts with low performing students. Each if those schools prior to renew enrolled an already disproportionate number of special needs students, and serviced them more effectively. The reason why it is more apparent is because there is a combination of inexperienced leadership and staff in each renew school AND that some renew schools were consolidated with schools that closed, effectively doubling the special ed population, the general population, while reducing the staff by half.

      What One Newark has done is attempt, but not achieve an equal distribution of special needs students among both conventional and charter schools under the guise of “school choice.” One Newark does nothing to actually resolve the fact that there is no mechanism, law or policy that forces charters, after receiving public funds from the district, to actually serve the special needs students who they enroll before returning them to conventional district enrollment, where the funds to serve them no longer exist.

  8. Dear Bob.
    Do you think the public really cares if the scores are lower as long as Christie can show he broke the teacher’s union, ended tenure and lowered the state budget for teacher salaries?

    Bob Braun: Well, he will have to make it clear that the scores went down only for a district predominantly poor–so rich white folks don’t get nervous that he could screw up their school systems, too.

    1. What will ultimately bring Christie down with the public is his horrible handling of the NJ economy and the corruption and scandals of his administration. He will never be able to get the presidential nomination for the GOP or the Dems.

      Bob Braun: Paul Fishman won’t indict Christie–and I frankly don’t think he is interested in flipping the likes of Kelly or Wildstein to get Christie. Christie will get a pass on what will be one of the darkest days in NJ when Fishman indicts everybody but him.

  9. […] education, and it still is. Some, but hardly all, of the charter schools are performing well, but test scores elsewhere are uneven. Since 2011, 60 percent of principals across the district departed their positions. And while […]

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