Ah, Willingboro

The Burlington County Times reports that in Willingboro School District in Burlington County,
[m]uch of the staff is still not in place for next school year, turmoil exists between the board and administration, leadership is in question, some teachers are worried and angry, others have lost their jobs, and a union president took to airing conflicts at Garfield East Elementary School in a public forum.

Morale seems to be going downhill and board meetings have turned into all-night affairs, with agenda items sometimes not even considered until the clock has neared a new day.
And that’s just the grown-ups. How are the kids doing? According to the 2009 NJ Report Card Willingboro High, now in its 7th year of a School In Need of Improvement, 41.7 percent of 11th and 12th graders failed the Language Arts section of the High School Proficiency Assessment and 63.3% failed the Math portion.

Thank goodness for the Legislature’s actions this week that made permanent our Interdistrict School Choice Program. Now students can cross district boundaries and Willingboro’s students have an out from their chronically failing, dysfunctional school district where Board President Tony John mourns, “It’s chaos. We need leadership.”

Reality check: While Willingboro Township (here’s a map) is cradled by multiple abutting municipalities, the only “choice district” in Burlington is Green Bank Elementary School in Washington Township, about as far away from Willingboro as you can get and still be in the same county. Not to mention that it only serves kids in grades K-8 and is more than 20 miles from Willingboro, the cut-off for transportation. However S1073, the bill passed this week, expands the Interdistrict School Choice Program, permitting more than one district per county to nominate itself as a “choice district.”

We often use the Moorestown/Willingboro model to demonstrate the segregation and inequities among our public school districts. After all, Moorestown shares borders with Willingboro and boasts stellar test scores. Delran is another example: right next door to Willingboro, makes AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress, according to NCLB) every year, 100% graduation rate. Only 15.37% of kids there fail the Language Arts HSPA and 30.5% fail the Math.

Did we mention that Willingboro is mostly African-American, and Delran and Moorestown are mostly White?

Here's a powerpoint slide to chew on, courtesy of David Sciarra of the Education Law Center: regarding racial isolation in New Jersey's public schools, 77% of Black students and 75% of Latino students attend majority minority schools. 47% of Black students and 40% of Latino students attend schools that are 90-100% minority. What are the odds of Moorestown or Delran stepping up to the plate? Ah, Humanity.