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Jersey Jazzman Tells New Jersey Legislature Why “One Newark” Is Unlikely to Improve Education

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Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber (public school teacher, public school parent, and doctoral student at Rutgers University) testified before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools of the New Jersey Legislature about “One Newark,” the plan devised by Cami Anderson, state-appointed superintendent of the Newark school district.

 

Weber says:

 

Our research a year ago led us to conclude that there was little reason to believe One Newark would lead to better educational outcomes for students. There was little empirical evidence to support the contention that closing or reconstituting schools under One Newark’s “Renew School” plan would improve student performance. There was little reason to believe converting district schools into charter schools would help students enrolled in the Newark Public Schools (NPS). And we were concerned that the plan would have a racially disparate impact on both staff and students.

 

In the year since my testimony, we have seen a great public outcry against One Newark. We’ve also heard repeated claims made by State Superintendent Cami Anderson and her staff that Newark’s schools have improved under her leadership, and that One Newark will improve that city’s system of schools.

 

To be clear: it is far too early to make any claims, pro or con, about the effect of One Newark on academic outcomes; the plan was only implemented this past fall. Nevertheless, after an additional year of research and analysis, it remains my conclusion that there is no evidence One Newark will improve student outcomes.

 

Further, after having studied the effects of “renewal” on the eight schools selected by State Superintendent Anderson for interventions in 2012, it is my conclusion that the evidence suggests the reforms she and her staff have implemented have not only failed to improve student achievement in Newark; they have had a racially disparate impact on the NPS certificated teaching and support staff.

Weber asks at the outset why the New Jersey Department of Education is not doing the kind of independent research that he presents. Could it be that the Department answers  to Governor Christie, as does Cami Anderson. It may be wishful thinking to expect nonpartisan research when education agencies are politicized.

 

The four components of “One Newark” are charter schools, “renewal” schools, consumer choice, and continuing state control. Without the last component, the others would surely be eliminated, based on the negative reaction of parents and students to the plan.

 

Weber demonstrates that Newark’s charter schools are not serving the same demographics as the public schools, and that the charters had few advantages over the public schools. Furthermore, the charters spend more on administration and less on support services for students.

 

As for the “Renew” schools, Weber says there is no evidence that terminating the entire staff of a school leads to improvement of the school. My review of the research shows that there is no evidence that reconstitution is a consistently successful strategy for improving schools. In fact, reconstitution can often be risky, leading to students enrolling in schools that underperform compared to where they were previously enrolled.

 

He ends his testimony by calling again for the state education department to exercise oversight and to provide the impartial data analysis that will help policymakers. He and the state’s education scholars stand ready to help.

 

 

 

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