I’m trying to figure it out too. We know that eight students, members of the Newark Students Union, have been camped out at Newark Public Schools’ central office at 2 Cedar St. since 8:30 Tuesday night. This “occupation” is supported by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. The students are demanding Superintendent Cami Anderson’s resignation, a rollback of One Newark, a long-term district improvement plan that includes universal enrollment to the city’s traditional and charter schools, and a return to local control.
Civil disobedience is a proud American tradition and the students’ enthusiasm and commitment is terrific. But there are a few troubling elements to this “occupation:"
1) At least one of the eight students, Thais Marques, is not a high school student but a Rutgers college student.
2) At least three of the remaining seven (names derived from twitter feeds and media, but they’re kids: I don’t want to name them) are students at Newark Science Park High School. Science Park is one of N.J.’s most selective magnet high school with highly-coveted slots. These students were able to enroll in one of the best schools in the state through a public school choice program that operates a lot like One Newark, at least if you disregard the admissions requirements that students demonstrate “interest in science and have an overall excellent academic record, particularly in the areas of science, mathematics and computer literacy.”'
One of the students/adults' contentions is that One Newark "promotes segregation." But the high school students attend one of the most segregated schools in the city.
Science Park offers 15 A.P. courses and 6 I.B. courses. Everyone graduates and everyone goes to four-year colleges.
For comparison’s sake, Barringer High School, a non-magnet open admissions Newark high school, offers no A.P. or I.B. courses. According to the D.O.E., it “significantly lags” in achievement. 52% of students graduate and 25% enroll in four-year colleges.
3) The student’s organizer is Roberto Cabanas. He not only facilitates activities at Newark Students Union but also is “lead organizer” at New Jersey Communities United. (Thais Marques is employed at NJCU also.) NJCU works for all sorts of good causes (paid sick leave, police reform, etc.). It also works with Newark Teachers Union, Working Families Alliance, and NJEA to stop education reform initiatives. (Yesterday at a live-streamed press conference one of the students yelled out something like, “we want to get rid of Cami Anderson and stop PARCC!)
These kids are great and smart and articulate;their motives are pure. I’m just not that sure about the adults.