Camden Parents to Anti-Reform Lobbyists: Your Concerns are "Just Noise"

Both NJ Spotlight and the A.P. report today on the ribbon-cutting at Camden’s KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, the first public charter school  building constructed under the auspices of the Urban Hope Act, a 2012 law that allowed the creation of hybrid district/charter schools in Camden, Newark, and Trenton. (The law has since expired; Newark and Trenton took a pass.)

 While NJEA disparaged the expansion of school choice through UHA’s  renaissance schools (“ "We should be pursuing things that we know will improve student outcomes rather than handing it off to national charter operators”), for parents of students at the new KIPP building, as the A.P. put it “those concerns were just noise.”
While picking up their students, they noted how teachers give out their phone numbers so they can answer homework or other questions at night, and the school has longer hours and occasional Saturday sessions with topics such as how parents can help their children with their schoolwork.
Melissa Brown, who has a fifth-grader and twin kindergartners at the school, said her children have been mostly in charter and private schools because she has reservations about Camden's traditional schools. She said she was glad to be in the attendance zone for the KIPP school. So far, she said, she's impressed.
"They call back and they do what they say they're going to do," Brown said.
From NJ Spotlight:
Students in purple KIPP Cooper Norcross T-shirts filed in and let out raucous cheers:
“You’ve got to Read, Baby, Read! You’ve got to Read, Baby, Read! The more you read, the more you know Knowledge is power, power is freedom and I want it!”
Yesterday in New York City, Mayor de Blasio described his plans to improve educational equity for low-income students through a series of small incremental changes. In contrast, Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard) and renaissance operators are partnering on substantive changes that reflect the urgency of impoverished parents whose children, right at this moment, are relegated to chronically-failing schools.

What’s the proper pace of change? How can traditional public school system manage decreasing resources and necessary down-sizing as families chose other options?  What can other city leaders learn from Camden’s smooth implementation of meaningful public school improvement strategies?  Can teacher union leaders evolve from outright dissent to even a small degree of collaboration?

Some of these questions may be answered in Camden, N.J.

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