Monday, February 8, 2010

Close Down Camden High

The Courier-Post is in high dudgeon over managerial misdoings at Camden City Public Schools. According to the paper, Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young is defending charges of excessive teacher absenteeism by “saying to Camden parents not to worry about [it] because it might not be true; the district keeps poor records and can't verify that things are as bad as the story laid out.” On top of that, the district has a history, some predating Young’s tenure, of being unaccountable to tax payers, misusing state funds, and tolerating poor building security that puts students at risk.

Let’s look more closely at the state of Camden schools, specifically Camden High. Home rule be damned: State coffers fund 90% of school costs and every resident in NJ has an interest in whether the mostly impoverished kids in Camden are getting a fair educational shake. With an annual budget of about $360 million dollars for the city’s schools and a new high school construction project slated to cost $120 million for the 1500 kids at Camden High, what kind of academic experience are we paying for?

Camden High’s graduation rate is 49%. The state average is 92.8%. 23% of Camden High’s students can pass the HSPA, a middle-school level test required for graduation. The state average is 89.2%. Average attendance for Camden High’s 10th-graders is 69%. The state average is 93.8%. Camden High offers no Advanced Placement courses and the average SAT scores are 344 in math and 346 in verbal. Fewer than 20% of graduates go on to college. It’s hard to get exact numbers but cost per pupil is around $18,000 per year.

There are 1500 kids stuck in this hothouse for failure. A mile and a half away, however, sits Camden Academy Charter High School. The graduation rate is 100%. 68.7% pass the HSPA. Average attendance for 10th graders is 93%. There are 6 A.P. courses offered, although SAT scores are only 383 in math and 375 in verbal. 90% of Camden Academy’s graduates go to college. Annual cost per pupil is $12,501, which includes facilities upkeep because NJ doesn’t contribute to charter school buildings. There are hundreds of students on the waiting list.

How bad does it have to get for the State to shut down Camden High and let a reputable charter school operator take over? How long do those kids have to wait?


RDOwens said...

I have no love for Camden High and it deserves all the attention it gets. However, your solution of letting the charter school take over is flawed.

Charter and private schools have a decided advantage over any public school merely because it can refuse a student admittance.

Notice how Camden performs better on the high school test than it does on the middle school assessment. Some of the "problem students" have dropped out by the time the high school test is administered.

The problems in Camden are deep. There is not a simple solution such as letting a charter school operate it.

明白 said...


Mickey Revenaugh said...

Charter schools are PUBLIC schools that must take any student who wants to attend. Charer schools CANNOT "refuse a student admittance."

RDOwens said...

Indeed charter schools are public. No dispute there. And they are supposed to have a fair and open admission. Reality says otherwise.

Even so, one must apply to charter schools. I think most will contend that those who apply are not generally the ones who are causing trouble.

CLHALL said...

I don't understand why you have a problem with Camden High, because Camden High wasn't always like this when I attended from 1975-1979. I graduated from Camden and I also have a BS in Criminal Justices. I will retire after 30 yrs and 20 days in Marine Corps. I chose the military because I wasn't ready for college after graduating from school. Alot of us have pride in Camden High School. When you send the bottom of the barrel teachers to Camden High to teach, then we get uneducated kids. We have a lot of educators that graduated from Camden High. People outside of Camden has to realize that most of the kids didn't choose Camden, but the environment chose them. Those kids are trying to survive the environment to which they were dealt.

Mr Owens do you know what its like to live on welfare as a kid? Do you know what its like to live in the Ghetto/Projects? Do you know what its like to survive everyday in that environment? Do you know what it feel like being black and people count you out before getting to know you? Do you know what its like trying to get job as young black kid out of High School? You should live in Camden and teach at Camden High for a year to meet the students that want an education. The state doesn't care about Camden because of the minority make of Camden, but they didn't have problem when Camden was majority white back then. They had the money for the Camden Schools. Explain that!! You are just like the rest of the people who hide behind other things that could be why you hate Camden. Tell me what has Camden High done to you, because its a building with a name attached to it. If you have a problem with the administrators at the school then say you have a problem with those personnel. Some people hate the Camden area because of the make up of minority, crime and other things. What have you done to help make Camden become a better place besides bad mouth them. I think until you walk those kids shoes then you should keep your personal opinion to yourself and tackle the real issue involving Camden and Camden Schools. I'm a product of Camden High School. I'm a success from Camden. I'm retiring as a Master Gunnery Sergeant(E9) of the Marine Corps. I have a college degree. If given a chance and caring teachers you will get success stories. We have Lawyers, Educators, Distribution Supervisors, Managers, and many others in key positions.

RDOwens said...


Your questions assume a lot that just isn't true. Camden HS is riddled with problems. If you dispute that, then you have not had the eye on the ball.

First of all, money is not the answer. Camden has plenty of money. Camden has a corruption problem. It has been pervasive in city government and in the school district.

FWIW, I walk with these children daily; my career is teaching students in an urban district.

Lisa Japan said...

I'm rarely surprised by the bias which occurs when we refer to so called " urban education". First of all, what is the difference between urban, rural and suburban education? Clarify the definition so that we can all help to level the playing field and stop toying with semantics. As an adult who attended 14 different schools across the globe and graduating from Camden High School in 1978, I'm disappointed with the inaccuracy being portrayed about our 21st century learners. Money may not fix the problem. Corruption did not start in Camden, it is pervasive in ALL communities, we just call it by another name-" white collar crime". Yes, a paradigm shift in educational practices that are grounded in scientifically based research is needed. Since you have "walked with them", what have you done since then.....provide help or more hurt? I did more than just talk/write about it.

James Reynolds said...

It's hard being a college student. We go to school for 4 years and come out in so much debt that we don't know where to begin paying it. On top of the debt we also need to find a job in a very weak job market where employers are looking for experience. The best advice I can give is to do your research on all of the colleges in New Jersey and take your time going over the financial information for each college.