Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Profile of Newark's Malcolm X Shabazz High School

In case you missed it over this long holiday break, the Star-Ledger ran a piece a few days ago about Newark’s Malcolm X Shabazz High School, where in 2010 the building was “choked by chaos. Gangs fought inside and outside the main buildings. Students smoked weed in the stairwells and wandered the halls instead of going to class. Teachers were punched and beaten. So brazen were the kids that much of the mayhem ended up on YouTube.” Once the “pride of Newark,” the school “was ranked at or near the bottom in several academic ratings, and only 19 percent of the students were proficient in math, according to High School Proficiency Assessment testing.”

The article focuses on the heroic efforts of head football coach Darnell Grant, who also  “acts as a life counselor, college adviser, spiritual guide and sheriff.” His dedication is matched by Shabazz’s fourth principal in four years, Gemar Mills, who was  appointed by Superintendent Cami Anderson at the ripe old age of 29. Achievement is up, although enrollment has dropped to 810 kids, from 1,200 a few years earlier.  Like many of Newark’s traditional public school, Shabazz  is under capacity by almost 700 kids and  may be shut down.

Says Anderson,"certainly [Shabazz has] taken steps in the right direction. We'll have to do even more work to support a total vision of success. I would say we've put in place the building blocks, but we still have a ways to go before Shabazz is a school that puts kids on the pathway to college."

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