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.
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|
|QUITMAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL||18.7%||34.0%||31.1%||26.1%|
*Source Data: New Jersey Department of Education