One Newark?
May 21, 2014 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Almost four years after Mark Zuckerberg made a very well publicized 100 million dollar donation to Newark, NJ schools, and two years after the Newark Teachers Union agreed to a new merit-pay based contract, the current superintendent of schools, Cami Anderson is attempting a new education reform initiative called One Newark. Ironically, the plan has deeply divided the city, and last night members of the the Newark Students Union staged a sit-in at the Board of Education meeting, demanding Anderson resign.

The battle over how Newark children should be educated has been growing for a number of years. The previous events were major edu-reform efforts in NJ’s largest city, and despite initial positive press have seen a fair amount of controversy. Most of the ‘Facebook’ money was spent on the merit-pay contract and consultants, rather than directly towards student learning. Additionally, the advertised incentives surrounding the contract appear to have been grossly exaggerated. Some have said that Mark Zuckerberg’s mistake was putting his trust in a man, namely Cory Booker, rather than proven policies.

One Newark has received criticisms for its lack of openness, its inability to address logistical concerns like transportation, and the impact a massive reorganization will have on communities. The outcry over One Newark could possibly be a turning point in this political fight, as it was a major issue in the recent city election for mayor. The race was won by Newark Public Schools principal Ras Baraka, an outspoken critic of Cami Anderson and son of poet Amiri Baraka. His opponent, Shavar Jeffries received a large influx of cash from reform supporters. Anderson has been facing consistent pressure over the issues surrounding One Newark, and the student effort to stop the plan may mark the end of Anderson’s tenure in the city. Even if Cami leaves, Newark Public Schools will still be under state control for the 20th year this fall, and her replacement would be appointed by Chris Christie’s Department of Education. The Newark Students Union’s twitter and facebook.

(Charter Schools in Newark previously on the blue)
posted by lownote (11 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Great job on your first FPP! This is a tough one and, you could've just gone with a cat video, but this worked out well.

Haven't had time to click through all of the links, but this New Yorker piece from last week served pretty well as an overview.
posted by cacofonie at 8:25 PM on May 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

As a teacher of 15 years+, what I've learned about education reform is that nobody in charge of education reform has actually been in a classroom.
posted by Huck500 at 9:17 PM on May 21, 2014 [13 favorites]

Here's my executive summary of the New Yorker article: $20,000,000 in two years on consulting fees.

Twenty million dollars.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 9:53 PM on May 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

I thought this was a double, but upon checking it turns out I read Bwithh's New Yorker article via longreads the other day. Excellent subject for an FPP.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:55 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great post. Thanks.
I'm a teaching artists who's in and out of public schools and charter schools in Newark a lot, and I've many friends and colleagues who are long term Newark residents and integral parts of the Newark community. The consensus has been that the charter/public divide in Newark has been creating a huge gulf between the haves and have-nots in a place that's long struggled with impoverishment of all kinds. This is new stratification is not an improvement, and only serves to make the already underserved even more so.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Huck500: Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller have spent decades in classrooms but I'm going to bet that you're not that bullish on Coursera, either. I'm not sure if there are any great leaders willing and able to head education reform: these people certainly are not it, but I'm not sure if there exist any. The education schools want that leadership, the politicians want it, the school administrations want it... would any of them do a good job? I suspect not.

It seems the hard prerequisite is some way of getting leadership in education. Will it be the tenured teachers? It would be less terrible (would it be good? I don't know) if it were the tenured teachers, I suspect, but this is unacceptable to anyone in power. But then, how would they, or anyone who might know what the fuck they're doing, ever get power?
posted by curuinor at 10:44 PM on May 21, 2014

There's kind of a fundamental problem: Very few people want their kids to be the test subjects for anything experimental. We want to make decisions based on what works and what doesn't, but we don't want any kid to be in the "doesn't" group. And I don't blame anybody for that, especially since the test subjects are more likely to be low-income kids. But people got risk-averse and then started getting hammered with a lot of marketing with sensible phrases like "pay for performance" that were designed to be comforting, especially comforting in their (theoretical) lack of additional cost. And, big surprise, look how that never works out.
posted by Sequence at 11:24 PM on May 21, 2014

Couldn't they have just bought new computers, improved nutrition, and air conditioned the portables?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:09 AM on May 22, 2014

The problem with putting it towards operating costs is that even 200 million dollars would have no long term effect. Newark schools already spend a billion dollars a year. Since it does seem to be widely agreed that they have not been run effectively, I can see the argument for devoting a big chunk of cash to designing and implementing structural change. It's just a tragedy that it doesn't seem to have gone very well at all.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 12:53 AM on May 22, 2014

You can tell that this was spawned from software money because rather than building on what they have, their first thought is it all needs re-writing from the ground up. Plus they're spending most of the budget on meetings and outside consultants. They'll put it in the cloud, give everyone some sort of apple product, make sure kids can "share" their grades on twitter, introduce performance reviews where the bottom 10% of students get fired each year, and boom!

Next problem?
posted by maxwelton at 3:13 AM on May 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

Exactly. Disruptive education reform! What a great plan.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2014

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