Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


Schooled: Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark's schools. They got an education, Part 2


See Part 1 , which includes reviews of upcoming book.

by Dale Russakoff

II. THE OPPOSITION

In February, 2011, the Star-Ledger obtained a confidential draft of recommendations by Global Education Advisers that contained a scenario to close or consolidate eleven of the lowest-performing district schools, and to make way for charters and five themed public high schools, to be funded by the Foundation for Newark's Future. The newspaper ran a front-page article listing the schools likely to be affected and disclosed that Cerf, the state commissioner, had founded the consulting firm.

Newark's school advisory board happened to be meeting the night the article was published. The board has no real power, since it's under state control, and meetings were normally sleepy and sparsely attended. Teachers' union leaders had been poised to attack the reform effort, and that evening more than six hundred parents and union activists showed up. One mother shouted, "We not having no wealthy white people coming in here destroying our kids!" From aisles and balconies, people yelled, "Whereâs Christie!" "Where's Mayor Hollywood!" The main item on the agenda--a report by the Newark schools' facilities director on a hundred and forty million dollars spent in state construction funds, with little to show for it--reinforced people's conviction that someone was making a killing at their children's expense. "Where'd the money go? Where'd the money go?" the crowd chanted.

On a Saturday morning later that month, Booker and Cerf met privately on the Rutgers-Newark campus with twenty civic leaders who had hoped that the Zuckerberg gift would unite the city in the goal of improving the schools. Now they had serious doubts. "Itâs as if you guys are going out of your way to foment the most opposition possible," Richard Cammarieri, a former school-board member who worked for a community-development organization, told them.

Booker acknowledged the missteps, but said that he had to move quickly. He and Christie could be out of office within three years. If a Democrat defeated Christie in 2013, he or she would have the backing of the teachers' unions and might return the district to local control. "We want to do as much as possible right away," Booker said. "Entrenched forces are very invested in resisting choices we're making around a one-billion-dollar budget." Participants in the meeting, who had worked for decades in Newark, were doubtful that reforms imposed over three years would be sustainable.

Cerf said his motives were altruistic: "Public education embodies the noble ideal of equal opportunity. I know equal opportunity was a massive lie. It's a lie in Newark, in New York, in inner cities across the country. Call me a nut, but I am committing my life to try to fix that." He and Booker pledged to engage Newark residents, and Booker asked the group of civic leaders for their public support. "If the purpose is right for kids, I'm willing to go down in a blaze of glory," he said, leaning over the table with both fists clenched.

Ras Baraka, the principal of Central High School and a city councilman, emerged as the leading opponent of change. His father, Amiri Baraka, was the most prominent radical voice in recent Newark history. Ras Baraka delivered speeches in the style of a street preacher, rousing Newarkâs dispossessed as forcefully as Booker inspired philanthropists. The Booker-Christie-Zuckerberg strategy was doomed, he said, since it included no systemic assault on poverty. He told his students that Christie needed them to fail so that he could close Central High and turn it over to charters. "Co-location is more like colonization," he said of placing charters in unused space inside district schools. Powerful interests wanted the districtâs billion dollars.

Many reformers saw Baraka as the symbol of all that ailed urban education. Like a number of New Jersey politicians, he held two public jobs, and he earned more than two hundred thousand dollars a year. His brother was on his city-council payroll. Central High had abysmal scores on the proficiency exam in 2010, Baraka's first year as principal, and it was in danger of being closed under the federal No Child Left Behind law. But Baraka mounted an aggressive turnaround strategy, using some of the reformers' techniques. "I stole ideas from everywhere," he told me. With a federal school-improvement grant, he extended the school day, introduced small learning academies, greatly intensified test prep, and hired consultants to improve literacy instruction. He also summoned gang members who had roamed the halls with impunity for years and told them their battles had to stop at the school door. Students anointed him B-Rak.

Still, results were mixed. In 2011, Central's proficiency scores rose dramatically, and Cerf spoke at an assembly to congratulate the students. But only five per cent of Central students qualified as "college ready" in reading, based on their A.C.T. scores.

In private, Baraka supported many of the reformers' critiques of the status quo, including revoking tenure for teachers with the lowest evalutions. Although he publicly embraced the unions' positions, he told me he opposed paying teachers based on seniority and degrees, as Newark did under its union contract. "We should make a base pay, and the only way to go up is based on student performance," he said. He told me that many in Newark quietly agreed. But, he insisted, "this dictatorial bullying is a surefire way to get people to say, 'No, get out of here.'" He laughed. "They talk about 'Waiting for "Superman."' Well, Superman is not real. Did you know that? And neither is his enemy."

In 2011, Booker paid a visit to SPARK Academy, a charter elementary school run by Newarkâs KIPP network. He was accompanied by Cari Tuna, the girlfriend (now the wife) of Facebook's co-founder, the billionaire Dustin Moskovitz. Booker wanted her to witness the teachers' intensive training program. Tuna and Moskovitz had started their own foundation, and Booker hoped they would help match Zuckerberg's hundred million dollars. (They later pledged five million dollars.) SPARK had recently moved to George Washington Carver Elementary School, taking over the third floor. Carver was in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Newark. Joanna Belcher, the SPARK principal, asked the Mayor to give the teachers a talk on the "K" in SPARK, which stands for "keep going." Booker invoked the Selma march for voting rights, in 1965, and thanked the SPARK teachers for advancing the cause--"freedom from the worst form of bondage in humanity, imprisonment in ignorance." (My son later took a teaching job at a KIPP school in New York.)

Disagreements over school reform tended to center on resources shifting from traditional public schools to charter schools. When students moved to charters, public money went with them. The battle often intensified when spare classroom space in district schools was turned over to charters, with their extra resources and freedom to hire the best teachers. But Belcher and her staff developed a close working relationship with Carver's principal, Winston Jackson. They were alarmed that Carver, whose students had among the lowest reading scores in the city, had for years been a dumping ground for weak teachers. Several SPARK teachers asked Booker what he planned to do for children who occupied the other floors of the building.

"I'll be very frank," Booker said. "I want you to expand as fast as you can. But, when schools are failing, I don't think pouring new wine into old skins is the way. We need to close them and start new ones."

Jackson had never got the police to respond adequately to his pleas for improved security. Gangs periodically held nighttime rites on school grounds, and Jackson reported them without result. One night, a month after SPARK settled into Carver, a security camera captured images of nine young men apparently mauling another. When Jackson and Belcher arrived the next morning, they found bloody handprints on the wall and blood on the walkway. His and Belcher's calls to police and e-mails to the superintendent's staff went unanswered. At Jackson's request, Belcher e-mailed the Mayor, attaching three pictures of the bloody trail on "the steps our K-2 scholars use to enter the building." Twenty minutes later, Booker responded: "Joanna, your email greatly concerned me. I have copied this email to the police director who will contact you as soon as possible. Cory." The police director, Sam DeMaio, called, and the precinct captain and the anti-gang unit visited the school. Police presence was stepped up, and the gang moved on.

III. POT OF GOLD

Zuckerberg and Sandberg were increasingly concerned. Six months after the announcement on "Oprah," Booker and Christie had no superintendent, no comprehensive reform plan, and no progress toward a new teachersâ contract. On Saturday, April 2, 2011, they met with Booker at Facebook's headquarters, in Palo Alto. If these are the wrong metrics for measuring progress, they asked, what are the right ones? They were holding Booker accountable for performance, just as he intended to hold teachers and principals accountable. Booker was contrite. "Guilty as charged," he replied.

Zuckerberg urged him to find a strong superintendent quickly, and after the meeting he sent him one of Facebook's motivational posters: "DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT." Booker, Christie, and Zuckerberg had tried to recruit John King, at that time the Deputy Commissioner of Education for New York State, who had led some of the most successful charter schools in Boston and New York City, but he had turned down the job. According to several of his friends, King worried that everyone involved was underestimating how long the work would take. One of them recalled him saying, "No one has achieved what they're trying to achieve--build an urban school district serving high-poverty kids that gets uniformly strong outcomes." He had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office.

After Booker returned from California, Cami Anderson emerged as the leading candidate. Thirty-nine years old, she was the daughter of a child-welfare advocate and the community-development director for the Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. She had spent her entire career in reform circles. She'd taught in Wendy Kopp's Teach for America, then joined her executive team in New York. Anderson later worked at New Leaders for New Schools, which trained principals as reform leaders. One of its founders, Jon Schnur, became an architect of Race to the Top. She'd been a senior strategist for Booker's 2002 mayoral campaign and had been superintendent of alternative high schools under Joel Klein, in New York.

Anderson had two apparent marks against her: she was white and she was known for an uncompromising management style. Since 1973, Newark had had only African-American superintendents. But Anderson had an interesting backstory. She often mentioned that she had grown up with nine adopted siblings who were black and brown. Her partner, Jared Robinson, is African-American, and their son is named after Frederick Douglass. As for her methods, her friend Rebecca Donner, a novelist, said, "She has her own vision and she won't stop at anything to realize it. If you're faint of heart, if you're easily cowed, if you disagree with her, you're going to feel intimidated." Cerf and Booker came to see that as a virtue. As Cerf put it, "Nobody gets anywhere in this business unless you're willing to get the shit absolutely kicked out of you and keep going. That's Cami."


Christie appointed Anderson in May, 2011. It quickly emerged that she differed with her bosses about the role of charter schools in urban districts. She pointed out that, with rare exceptions, charters served a smaller proportion than the district schools of children who lived in extreme poverty, had learning disabilities, or struggled to speak English. Moreover, charter lotteries disproportionately attracted the "choosers"--parents with the time to navigate the process. Charters in Newark were expected to enroll forty per cent of the city's children by 2016. That would leave the neediest sixty per cent in district schools. Booker, Christie, and Zuckerberg expected Anderson to revive the district, yet as children and revenue were siphoned off she would have to close schools and dismiss teachers. Because of the state's seniority rules, the most junior teachers would go first. Anderson called this "the lifeboat theory of education reform," arguing that it could leave a majority of children to sink as if on the Titanic. "Your theories of change are on a collision course," she told Cerf and Booker. As Anderson put it to me, "I told the Governor . . . I did not come here to phase the district out."

Anderson acknowledged the successes of the top charter schools, but Newark faced the conundrum common to almost every urban school system: how to expand charters without destabilizing traditional public schools. Christie and Booker agreed to her request for time to work on a solution, even though Zuckerberg and other donors had already committed tens of millions of dollars to expand charters.

Anderson turned her immediate attention to the district's schools. She gave principals more flexibility and introduced new curricula aligned to the Common Core standards. Using $1.8 million from the Foundation for Newark's Future, she hired the nonprofit consulting group TNTP, in part to develop more rigorous evaluation systems. In her first year, the foundation gave her a four-million-dollar grant to hire consultants at her own discretion.

One of her prime initiatives in her first two years was to close and consolidate the twelve lowest-performing kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools into eight "renew schools." Each was assigned a principal who, borrowing from the charter model, would choose his or her own teaching staff. The schools also got math and literacy coaches and smart boards, along with the new curricula. Teachers worked an extended day and two extra weeks in the summer. Anderson intended to create
proof points" that would show how to turn around failing district schools.

The eight consolidated schools opened in the fall of 2012, and most won strong support from parents. At the hundred-year-old Peshine Avenue School, in the South Ward, Chaleeta Barnes, the new principal, and Tameshone Lewis, the vice-principal, both had deep Newark roots, and parents, teachers, and children responded well to their insistence on higher standards. They replaced more than half the previous year's teachers, and the new staff coördinated efforts to improve instruction and address individual studentsâ academic and discipline issues.

Teachers worked closely with children who couldnât keep up, and many of them saw improvement, but the effects of children's traumas outside school posed bigger problems. The father of a student in Shakel Nelson's fifth-grade math class had been murdered early in the school year. When Nelson sat beside his desk and encouraged him, he sometimes solved problems, but as she moved on he put his head down and dropped his pencil. A girl who was excelling early in the year stopped trying when her estranged, emotionally disturbed parents resumed contact and began fighting.

The quality of teaching and the morale in most of the renew schools improved, but only Peshine made modest gains in both math and literacy on state tests. Six others declined in one subject or both, and the seventh remained unchanged in one and increased in one. This wasn't surprising. It takes more than a year for reforms to take hold and show up in test scores. Across the district, in Anderson's first two years, the percentage of students passing the stateâs standardized tests declined in all but two of the tested grades. She questioned the validity of the tests, saying that they had become harder and the students needier, although she used them to determine which schools were failing and required overhaul. After her first year, she announced a ten-per-cent gain in the high-school graduation rate, but A.C.T. scores indicated that only two per cent of juniors were prepared for college.

Anderson recognized that the schools needed more social and emotional support, but pointed out that Newark already spent more money per student than almost every other district in the country. She urged principals to shift their existing budgets accordingly. "There's no pot of gold," she said.

In fact, there was a pot of gold, but much of it wasn't reaching students. That was the reformers' main argument against the wasteful administrations of urban schools. More than half of the Newark district's annual budget paid for services other than instructionâoften at inordinate prices. Charter schools received less public money per pupil, but, with leaner bureaucracies, more dollars reached the classroom. SPARK's five hundred and twenty students were needier than those in most Newark charters. To support them, the principal, Joanna Belcher, placed two teachers in each kindergarten class and in each math and literacy class in grades one through three. Peshine could afford only one in each. SPARK also had more tutors and twice as many social workers, who provided weekly counselling for sixty-five children. Last year, SPARK's inaugural class took New Jersey's third-grade standardized tests. Eighty-three per cent passed in language arts and eighty-seven per cent in math, outscoring the district by almost forty points in each.

Reformers also argued that teachers must be paid according to competency. "Abolish seniority as a factor in all personnel decisions," Zuckerberg wrote in September, 2010, in a summary of his agreement with Booker. Tenure and seniority protections were written into state law, so the negotiations took place both in the legislature and at the bargaining table. After arduous talks with the state teachers' unionâthe biggest contributor to New Jersey politicians--a major reform measure was passed that made tenure harder to achieve and much easier to revoke. But, in return for union support, the legislature left seniority protections untouched.

Soon afterward, in November, 2012, the Newark Teachers Union agreed to a new contract that, for the first time, awarded raises only to teachers rated effective or better under the district's rigorous new evaluation system. Those who got the top rating would receive merit bonuses of between five thousand and twelve thousand five hundred dollars.

All of this came at a steep price. The union demanded thirty-one million dollars in back pay for the two years that teachers had worked without raises--more than five times what top teachers would receive in merit bonuses under the three-year contract. Zuckerberg covered the expense, knowing that other investors would find the concession unpalatable. The total cost of the contract was about fifty million dollars. The Foundation for Newark's Future also agreed to Anderson's request to set aside another forty million dollars for a principals' contract and other labor expenses. Zuckerberg had hoped that promising new teachers would move quickly up the pay scale, but the district couldn't afford that along with the salaries of veteran teachers, of whom five hundred and sixty earned more than ninety-two thousand dollars a year. A new teacher consistently rated effective would have to work nine years before making sixty thousand dollars.

The seniority protections proved even more costly. School closings and other personnel moves had left the district with three hundred and fifty teachers that the renew principals hadn't selected. If Anderson simply laid them off, those with seniority could "bump" junior colleagues. She said this would have a "catastrophic effect" on student achievement: âKids have only one year in third grade.â She kept them all on at full pay, at more than fifty million dollars over two years, according to testimony at the 2013 budget hearing, assigning them support duties in schools. Principals with younger staffs were grateful. Far fewer of the teachers left than Anderson had anticipated. She hoped Christie would grant her a waiver from the seniority law, allowing her to lay off the lowest-rated teachers, a move that both the legislature and the national teachers' union promised to fight.

Improbably, a district with a billion dollars in revenue and two hundred million dollars in philanthropy was going broke. Anderson announced a fifty-seven-million-dollar budget gap in March, 2013, attributing it mostly to the charter exodus. She cut more than eighteen million dollars from school budgets and laid off more than two hundred attendance counsellors, clerical workers, and janitors, most of them Newark residents with few comparable job prospects. "Weâre raising the poverty level in Newark in the name of school reform," she lamented to a group of funders. "It's a hard thing to wrestle with."

School employees' unions, community leaders, and parents decried the budget cuts, the layoffs, and the announcement of more school closings. Andersonâs management style didnât help. At the annual budget hearing, when the school advisory board pressed for details about which positions and services were being eliminated in schools, her representatives said the information wasn't available. Anderson's budget underestimated the cost of the redundant teachers by half.

The board voted down her budget and soon afterward gave a vote of no confidence--unanimously, in both cases, but without effect, given their advisory status. At about the same time, Ras Baraka declared his candidacy for mayor, vowing to "take back Newark" from the control of outsiders. He made Anderson a prime target. "We are witnessing a school-reform process that is not about reforming schools," he told a packed auditorium in his South Ward district. He gave no hint that although he detested the reformers' tactics, he shared a number of their goals.

In May, with Baraka leading the charge, the city council unanimously passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on all Andersonâs initiatives until she produced evidence that they raised student achievement. Later that month, Anderson sent a deputy to ask Baraka to take a leave of absence as principal of Central High. She argued that he had a conflict of interest: as a mayoral candidate, he was opposing initiatives that he was obliged to carry out as a principal. He refused, and a video of his defiant account of the incident was e-mailed to supporters with the question "Are we all going to stand by like chumps, and allow this 'Interloping Outsider' to harass one of our own?"

Hundreds of Baraka's supporters, including union leaders and activists, attended a school-board meeting that month, to defend him and to denounce Anderson. Her assistant superintendent asked renew-school leaders and parents to testify at the meeting. As Peshine parents and teachers spoke, Anderson's opponents held aloft signs saying "Paid for by Cami Anderson." A Peshine teacher confronted Donna Jackson, an activist and perennial detractor of Booker and Anderson, asking why she would deride Newark teachers who were helping children. "I'm sick of hearing these good things about Peshine," she said. âThat just gives Cami an excuse to close more schools."

On September 4, 2013, Christie said he planned to reappoint Anderson when her term expired, at the end of the school year: "I donât care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.â But Anderson was increasingly on her own. Christie was campaigning for reëlection and laying the groundwork for a Presidential campaign. Booker was running for the Senate in a special election to replace the late Frank Lautenberg. Six weeks later, he won, and left for Washington.

Many reformers were unhappy with Anderson, too. They objected to her postponement of the dramatic expansion of charter schools that Booker had promised, saying she was denying children the chance for a better education.
IV. ONE NEWARK

Anderson spent much of the fall working with data analysts from the Parthenon Group, an international consulting firm that received roughly three million dollars over two years from Newark philanthropy. She wanted to come up with a plan that would resolve the overlapping complexities of urban schooling. How could she insure that charters, as they expanded, enrolled a representative share of Newark's neediest children? How could district schools be improved fast enough to persuade families to stick with them? How could she close schools without devastating effects on the neighborhoods? How could she retain the best teachers, given that, by her estimate, she would have to lay off a thousand teachers in the next three years? "This is sixteen-dimensional chess," she said.

She called her plan One Newark. Rather than students being assigned to neighborhood schools, families would choose among fifty-five district schools and sixteen charter schools. An algorithm would give preference to students from the lowest-income families and those with special needs. In a major accomplishment for Anderson, sixteen of twenty-one charter organizations had agreed to participate, in the name of reducing selection bias. Of the four neighborhood elementary schools in the South Ward slated to close, three were to be taken over by charters, and the fourth would become an early-childhood center. In all, more than a third of Newarkâs schools would be closed, renewed, relocated, phased out, repurposed, or redesigned. Beginning in early January, thousands of students would need to apply to go elsewhere. Anderson said that the entire plan had to be enacted; removing any piece of it would jeopardize the whole, and hurt children.

In the fall, she held dozens of meetings explaining the rationale for One Newark to charter-school leaders, business executives, officials of local foundations, elected officials, clergy, and civic leaders. But participants said she didn't present the specific solutions, because they weren't yet available. Similarly, parents learned in the fall that their schools might be closed or renewed, but they would not get details until December. During the week before the Christmas vacation, Anderson sent her deputies to hastily scheduled school meetings to release the full plan to parents. She anticipated an uproar--"December-palooza," she called it to her staff--which she hoped would diminish by January.

Instead, parents demanded answers and didn't get them. Anderson said that students with learning disabilities would be accommodated at all district schools, but the programs hadn't yet been developed. Families without cars asked how their children would get to better schools across town, since the plan didn't provide transportation. Although Anderson initially announced that charters would take over a number of K-8 schools, it turned out that the charters agreed to serve only K-4; children in grades five through eight would have to go elsewhere.

The biggest concern was children's safety, particularly in the South Ward, where murders had risen by seventy per cent in the past four years. The closest alternative to Hawthorne Avenue School, which was losing its fifth through eighth grades, was George Washington Carver, half a mile to the south. Jacqueline Edward and Denise Perry-Miller, who have children at Hawthorne, knew the dangers well. Gangs had tried to take over their homes, tearing out pipes, sinks, and boilers, and stealing their belongings, forcing both families temporarily into homeless shelters. Edward and Perry-Miller took me on a walk along the route to Carver. We crossed a busy thoroughfare over I-78, then turned onto Wolcott Terrace, a street with several boarded-up houses used by drug dealers.

Edward said, "I will not allow my daughter to make this walk. My twenty-eight-year-old started off in a gang, and we fought to get him out. My twenty-two-year-old has a lot of anger issues because Daddy wasn't there. I just refuse to see another generation go that way." Then, as if addressing Anderson, she asked, "Can you guarantee me my daughter's safety? . . . Did you think this through with our children in mind or did you just do this to try to force us to leave because big business wants us out of here?" Anderson told me that she will address all safety issues, either with school buses or by accommodating middle-schoolers in their neighborhoods. Hawthorne parents said they had not heard this.

Shavar Jeffries, Baraka's thirty-nine-year-old opponent in the mayoral election, to be held May 13th, could have been a key ally for Anderson. He was a member of the school advisory board when she arrived, and supported most of her agenda, including the expansion of charter schools and reforms in district schools. But he was also a strong opponent of state control, and he challenged her publicly a number of times, saying she had not shared enough information with the board. He was among those who voted against her 2013 budget. Afterward, according to former aides to Anderson, she told potential donors to his campaign that he was not a real reformer, citing his vote against her budget. (Anderson denied saying this.)

He believed that public schools and charter schools could work in tandem and that education reform could take hold in Newark, but only if residents' voices were heard and respected. "Our superintendent, unfortunately, has in recent times run roughshod over our community's fundamental interests," he said in a campaign speech on education. "I say this as a father of two: no one is ever going to do anything that's going to affect my babies without coming to talk to me."

The day after the release of One Newark, Ras Baraka held a press conference in front of Weequahic High School, denouncing the plan as "a dismantling of public education.... It needs to be halted." Enrollment at Weequahic was plummeting, and Anderson intended to phase it out over three years, moving a new all-girls and an all-boys academy into the building. Weequahic was the alma mater of the long-decamped Jewish community and of thousands of Newark community leaders, politicians, athletes, and teachers, who were protesting vociferously. Photos and video footage of Baraka in front of the building, which has a famous W.P.A. mural==the "Enlightenment of Man"--appeared in newspapers, on television, and on blogs and Web sites. "You could feel a shift in the momentum on that day," Bruno Tedeschi, a political strategist, told me. "I said to myself, 'He's trying to turn the election into a referendum on her. From this point on, it doesn't matter what she does.' She's a symbol of Christie and the power structure that refuses to give Newark what it feels rightly entitled to." Civic leaders and clergy, whom she expected to endorse the plan, backed off. Several weeks later, Anderson agreed to keep Weequahic intact for at least two years.

Christie met with Anderson in Trenton in late December and promised to support her no matter how vocal the opposition. But two weeks later the Bridgegate scandal broke, and Christie had his own career to consider. Anderson moved out of Newark, telling friends she feared for her family's safety.


On January 15th, at the Hopewell Baptist Church, Baraka held a rally for people affected by One Newark. Four principals of elementary schools in the South Ward argued that deep staff cuts over four years had made failure inevitable. Anderson suspended them, and instructed her personnel staff to investigate whether the principals were thwarting enrollment in One Newark. The move set off such a furor that Joe Carter, the pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church, told Christie he feared civil unrest. Christie told Cerf to get a handle on the matter, and within a week Anderson lifted the suspensions. The principals have since filed a federal civil-rights case alleging violation of their freedom of speech.

In late January, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke at a school-board meeting at First Avenue School in Newark. Five hundred people filled the auditorium; another three hundred and fifty listened in the cafeteria, and more than a hundred stood outside, demanding entry. Weingarten pledged the A.F.T.'s support "until this community gets its schools back," and declared,"âThe nation is watching Newark." Baraka demanded Anderson's immediate removal, prompting the crowd to cheer and chant "Cami's gotta go!" as they hurled invective and waved signs reading "Cami, Christie, stop the bullying!"

Then the mother of an honor-roll student at Newark Vocational High School, which Anderson planned to close, stood up and demanded of her, "Do you not want for your brown babies what we want for ours?" She said that Anderson "had to get off East Kinney because too many of us knew where you were going." Anderson reddened, shook her head, and said again and again, "Not my family!" Moments later, she gathered her papers and left. She has not attended a school-board meeting since. "The dysfunction displayed within this forum sets a bad example for our children," she wrote in a statement distributed by the district. Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, who was the board president at the time, responded, "You own this situation. For the third year in a row, you have forced your plans on the Newark community, without the measure of stakeholder input that anyone, lay or professional, would consider adequate or respectful."

"This is the post-Booker era," Ras Baraka said recently at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, in downtown Newark. "The stage has been set, the lights are on, people are in the theatre--it's time for us to perform." He was speaking about this weekâs mayoral election, which he was favored to win, but he could have been describing the city's battle over education. Baraka is heavily backed by education workers' unions, and Jeffries by the school-reform movement. Booker has maintained a public silence about the Newark schools since being sworn in as a senator. Christie has been trying to salvage his Presidential prospects. Almost all of Zuckerberg's hundred million dollars has been spent or committed. He and Chan gave almost a billion dollars to a Silicon Valley foundation to go toward unspecified future gifts, but they have not proceeded with reforms in other school districts, as originally planned. Cerf left his job as New Jersey's education commissioner in March to join Joel Klein, who, in 2010, had resigned as New York schools chancellor to run Rupert Murdoch's new education-technology division at News Corp. Anderson declined to say whether she had signed a new three-year contract. She said that she could have done more to engage the community, but she'd worried that the process would be coöpted by "political forces whose objective is to create disruption." Nor could she vet the plan as it evolved with individual families. "That is the nature of sixteen-dimensional chess," she said. "You can't create concessions in one place that then create problems in another."

Across the country, the conversation about reform is beginning to change. On April 30th, the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture-philanthropy firm, which donated ten million dollars to the Newark effort, held its annual summit for the education-reform movement. "The people we serve have to be a part of their own liberation," Kaya Henderson, the successor to Michelle Rhee, in Washington, D.C., said. James Shelton, Arne Duncan's deputy at the Department of Education, acknowledged the need for more racial diversity among those making the decisions. "Who in here has heard the phrase that education is the civil-rights movement of our age?" he asked. "If we believe that, then we have to believe that the rest of the movement has to come with it."

In Newark, the solutions may be closer than either side acknowledges. They begin with getting public-education revenue to the children who need it most, so that district teachers can provide the same level of support that SPARK does. And charter schools, given their rapid expansion, need to serve all students equally. Anderson understood this, but she, Cerf, Booker, and the venture philanthropists--despite millions of dollars spent on community engagement--have yet to hold tough, open conversations with the people of Newark about exactly how much money the district has, where it is going, and what students arenât getting as a result. Nor have they acknowledged how much of the philanthropy went to consultants who came from the inner circle of the education-reform movement.

Shavar Jeffries believes that the Newark backlash could have been avoided. Too often, he said, "education reform . . . comes across as colonial to people who've been here for decades. It's very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in coöperation with people." Some reformers have told him that unions and machine politicians will always dominate turnout in school-board elections and thus control the public schools. He disagrees: "This is a democracy. A majority of people support these ideas. You have to build coalitions and educate and advocate." As he put it to me at the outset of the reform initiative, "This remains the United States. At some time, you have to persuade people." â¦

— Dale Russakoff
The New Yorker, part 2

2014-05-19

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/19/schooled

NJ


MORE OUTRAGES


FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.