Mastery’s three new Camden schools opened yesterday, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, and here’s what one parent had to say:
Bri, a mother of three from Cramer Hill who brought her third-grade son and second-grade daughter to [Molina Elementary School], asked that her last name not be used because she did not wish to criticize the district's teachers publicly. But she said she was appalled by the education her children had received at Molina, and said she believed the charter school model would challenge them.
"The way they teach seems more sophisticated," she said. "So I think it's changing for the better. I was going to take them out of this school before I heard it was turning into a charter."
No wonder. How did Molina Elementary School students do before New Jersey’s Urban Hope Act permitted non-profit charter schools to submit proposals to the School Board and open up to five district/charter hybrid schools?
According to the N.J. Department of Education’s 2013-2014 School Performance Report, 86% of third graders failed the state’s basic skills test in language arts and 89% of fourth graders failed the state’s basic skills test in math. Much of the data on other student outcomes at Molina was“suppressed” because everyone failed.
So hopes are high for the advent of Mastery, as well as KIPP and Uncommon, also approved through the Urban Hope Act, in a city where only one in five students can read, write, and do math at grade level.
Nonetheless, Camden City School District faces a bevy of legal challenges from the triumvirate of NJEA, Education Law Center, and Save Our Schools-NJ.
From the article:
“The New Jersey Education Association has sought to stop the conversions [from traditional to hybrid], arguing that they violate state laws and were implemented without adequate community input.”
That's the same argument promoted by ELC and SOS-NJ, despite Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard's comprehensive community outreach efforts. (Here's the most recent press release,, which details this summer's outreach activities; here's the new School Information Cards which provide families with detailed information about each school; here's the Camden Commitment, the district's strategic plan that includes multiple opportunities for community feedback.)
All students, at Molina and the other hybrid (also known as "renaissance") sites were given the option of enrolling at the new charter hybrid or going to a traditional district schools. About 80% chose the charters. Sounds to me like the community is voting with their feet.
Here’s one irony among many: these three lobbying groups operate under the pretense of protecting the sanctity of the traditional public school district and its families. But their true motivation is hardly that altruistic. ELC is protecting the $24K per pupil funding that, under the state’s Abbott rulings, flows to Camden and other poverty-stricken cities. NJEA is protecting adult jobs in traditional district schools. SOS-NJ is protecting its agenda of local control at the expense of school choice.
These agendas have nothing to do with Bri and her three children. Like any good parent, she's choosing the best school for her children. She could teach these lobbyists a thing or two.