Waiting for Principal

Joan Whitlow in the Star-Ledger looks thoughtfully at five Newark City schools that have garnered almost half of the $45 million in federal improvement grants for turnaround schools in New Jersey. One recipient is Newark’s Central High School, which has the distinction of boasting a superman at its helm: Ras Baraka, not only Principal of the school, but also Councilman-Elect of Newark’s South Ward.

Typically turnaround schools are required to replace their principals, but Principal/Councilman Baraka is immune because Central High had already been under a reform plan. Perhaps the district should reform its administrators’ training in statistics.

When Ms. Whitlow queries Baraka on the fact that only 4.6% of Central High’s students graduate via the traditional High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), “Baraka said that’s false. Kids get more than one chance to take the exam and better than 50 percent of his pass after more than one try.” Maybe on Krypton (Superman’s home planet). Here at earth-bound Newark Central High, according to the DOE database for 2009, 72.3% of students graduated via the alternative assessment, which means that they failed the HSPA three times. No way that “more than 50%” of Central High’s kids pass the HSPA. Is Principal/Councilman Baraka is conjuring his stats out of thin air? Does Central High need magic or a full-time principal?