Friday, December 14, 2012

"Reimagining" Newark's Public Schools as Partners in Choice

A few thoughts on Cami Anderson’s recent “data-driven, frank discussion” of the gaps between Newark’s traditional public schools and alternatives offered to children: charters and magnets.  (See post below.) First, here’s one section of the presentation that hasn’t gotten any coverage.  On the slide devoted to a kind of flow chart of “Next Steps,” (p. 33) there’s this:
Reimagine NPS as a service-oriented team.
Provide top-tier school options for all students.
School choice.
Charters as partners.
Turnarounds/Renew.
In other words, Anderson suggests, the battle between charters schools and traditional schools, the current anthem of NJ’s bitter education reform bickering, is an imaginary construct. Schools are schools, with a shared mission: to increase the number of “high quality” seats in Newark, currently at a heart-wrenching 14%.   So imagine this: what if a school district viewed charter schools as partners in providing educational options to families? 

Also note that, according to the report, Newark’s magnet schools, like charters, “cream off” higher-performing and less needy students. And require districts to send tuition payments and provide transportation. Hrumph. You don’t hear Bruce Baker or David Sciarra complaining about that. (For background see earlier NJLB coverage here and here.) I’ve made the point earlier that magnet schools escape the wrath of the anti-charter club, perhaps because magnets have to hire union members. Just a thought.

If we took Superintendent Anderson’s advice and looked frankly at the data, we might avoid such bizarre distractions like yesterday's Bob Braun editorial in the Star-Ledger that claims that the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (charter school supporters) gave the NJ DOE a $430K grant on the condition that Gov. Chris Christie remain in office. Education Law Center filed paperwork to compel the Administration to release internal documents.

Do ELC and Bob Braun really think that the Broad Foundation surreptitiously controls the electorate? Or that the grant somehow obliges Christie to run?  Crazy, right? Maybe a little bit paranoid. Speaking of, Diane Ravitch then took up the cause because of “the state’s Acting [sic] Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf’s history as a student at the Broad Superintendent Academy” which “suggests that New Jersey has outsourced its education policy to the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation.“ But wait, there’s more: Cami Anderson is also a Broad graduate, “as are a few of the other of the state’s superintendents.” Continues Ravitch, “Remember when we thought that the policies of the public schools were determined by the citizens of the district or the state?”

See what I mean by distractions and conspiratorial fixations? Do we honestly care where Cami Anderson went to school?

Parents in the Newark Public Schools have been voting for years. They don’t want their children to attend non-magnet or non-charter traditional public schools, particularly for high school. (In 2011, according to the Newark report, 80% of Newark 8th graders applied to magnets. According to NJ DOE data, one Newark charter, Team Academy, had 4,800 kids on its waiting list in 2011. That's four times its total enrollment.)

The citizens of Newark are loud and clear. They want school choice. Maybe now they have a superintendent who will work with them to “reimagine” Newark public schools.

2 comments:

kallikak said...

Bob Braun's piece is hardly "bizarre". The Broadies have the leverage to insist upon a system bent to their will and populated by their disciples.

Contrast this "inside game" with the conventional political leverage applied by the NJEA.

Which approach is more consistent with popular democracy?

kallikak said...

P.S. Anderson sounds like she wants a parallel system of charters (that might ultimately displace conventional public schools and thus disenfranchise the Newark BOE and local voters) instead of using charters as learning labs to bring best practices back to existing public schools.