In 1995, a New Jersey judge ordered state takeover of Newark schools, Based on failing test scores. The judge called the high school proficiency rate of one in four a “failure on a very large scale” and “distressing to contemplate.” That decision, affecting some nearly 40,000 students, was upheld by an appellate court in 2013.
In 2011, Cami Anderson was appointed Superintendent of Newark schools. She had previously served of NYC Schools, New Leaders for New Schools, and Teach for America. The state’s department of education is currently run by an acting commissioner appointed in this past March. Ras Baraka took office as Newark’s mayor in May of this year after serving on the City Council and as deputy mayor.
As a councilmember and as mayor, Baraka opposed the One Newark Plan imposed on the city’s schools by Anderson. Many residents argued that the plan was hastily and vaguely announced by Superintendent Cami Anderson without stakeholder input and most objected to its closing and privatizing schools. Early on in his tenure as mayor, Baraka stood in solidarity with parents who boycotted the opening of schools under the plan.
Like many states and the District of Columbia, New Jersey has an ESEA – Elementary and Secondary Education Act – waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. Four Newark schools – two high schools and two elementaries – receive ESEA turnaround grants.
In October, the mayor wrote to President Obama seeking his intervention, under the terms of New Jersey’s ESEA waiver. So far with no result. After a prolonged battle, in which he fought just for access to the school, Baraka finally toured the troubled Barringer High School and found overcrowding, faculty vacancies, failure to address the needs of special education students and other conditions he called “deplorable.” A few weeks ago, he contacted the state’s acting commissioner to demand intervention. Again, with no result.
Update: Listen to Ras Baraka — track 3 on today’s show — explaining how the state’s position “has been to try to work out every little incident. But the problem is so vast and we’re doing this too much. Really that One Newark program needs to be rolled back, and the state needs to leave. There needs to be some reform,” but reform with local input.
A few more notes:
Pearson Wins International Contract
Those interested in testing and the corporatization of education worldwide will be want to note that Pearson Education was just awarded a contract by the U.N.’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop the frameworks for the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment tests, establishing benchmarks for students in some 70 countries. (See Education Week Marketplace story)
No Koch In Schools
The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) had a booth at the recent National Council for Social Studies conference. And while its major funders, were not present in person, the Zinn Education Project worked to make them visible through social media demanding #NoKochinSchools.
The Zinn project argues that the Kochs are present throughout US schools by means of curricula promoted by BRI, denying climate change and stressing limited readings of the Constitution. Across the country, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is under attack as new AP History tests recommend Zinn’s material, which some – including the state of Texas – say promotes an “ideological basis” contrary to traditional values. More on this here.
Finally, Ferguson (MO) Librarian Scott Bonner released a video last night showing the artwork on view in the library’s portion of an exhibit arranged by the Alliance of Black Art Galleries. “One of the purposes of a library is to do cultural literacy,” Bonner reports. “This is often pitched as classic books and big glossy art books. But I think there’s no better example of being culturally literate than paying attention to the art of right here and right now.”
Don’t forget — the #BoundtoFerguson project, sending books to the area’s young people, runs through the end of December, and there’s always time to support Ferguson’s or your own library through volunteer or financial donations.
The Education Town Hall broadcasts from Historic Anacostia in Washington, DC, Thursdays at 11 Eastern on We Act Radio.
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The Education Town Hall BUS is a monthly program organized by BadAss Teachers, United Opt Out, and SOS March. The next BUS program is scheduled for December 18. The program regularly airs on the 4th Thursday of each month.