Newark Union Prez on Teacher Quality

“It’s very easy to blame the sinking of the Titanic on the captain, but I would think the crew had something to do with it, too,” said Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union.
That’s Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, commenting in today’s NY Times piece on Newark Public Schools. Cami Anderson, the new Superintendent, has hired 17 new principals, 11 of them under 40 years of age, to revamp some of Newark’s failing schools.

Example: Chaleeta Barnes served three years as a math coach and now is principal of Dayton Street Elementary School, now in its 6th year as a School In Need of Improvement under NCLB. It’s a small building – 342 kids in grades pre-K through 8 -- and the school has a particular focus on students with learning disabilities. Most of them fail standardized testing. Among fifth graders in 2010, only 20% scored “proficient” on the ASK5 in language arts and 38.2% passed the ASK5 in math.

How much of this lack of academic growth is due to weak principals, how much to teachers, and how much to learning and behavioral disabilities? Anderson votes for principals: “I believe a strong principal is the key to almost everything…Where you have low performance, you have struggling principals. It’s not that complicated.” However, Del Grosso seems to ascribe the problems to the “crew,” not the “captain.” Strange tack for the teachers’ representative to take.

One other note: much has been made of the $100 million Facebook grant to Newark Public Schools from Mark Zuckerberg. Remember that this money represents about 12% of Newark's annual budget of $800 million.

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