New Newsworks Post: What’s up with ACLU’s Fight Against Racial Disparities in South Orange-Maplewood?October 30, 2014
Sunday LeftoversNovember 2, 2014
This week Mark Weber and Julia Sass Rubin published a “data-driven” analysis of New Jersey’s charter schools. The report, paid for by a Rutgers grant (Weber is a student and Rubin is a professor there), claims that N.J. charters serve fewer special education students, fewer students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and fewer English Language Learners.
The report’s been largely ignored, except by fellow travelers like Diane Ravitch and Blue Jersey, probably because of its pedigree: Weber analyzes data for NJEA and Education Law Center, which function in part as anti-charter lobbying groups, and Rubin is founder of the virulently anti-charter organization called Save Our Schools-NJ.
The Star-Ledger, however, ran a piece authored by Ted Sherman, the reporter who uncovered corruption within the Elizabeth Board Of Education. In this article, Rubin reiterates the tired anti-charter talking points: that public charter schools “siphon off” money from traditional public schools, that charters selectively enroll higher-achieving students, etc. Then Sherman asks her about the cause of these disparities:
While Rubin said her study did not look at the causes for the demographic disparity she found between charters and districts, she suggested poor families are less able to focus on the best place to educate their children.
“People in abject poverty don’t have the bandwidth to even evaluate charter schools,” she said. “It’s just not going to be high on their list.”
I don’t need to point out the noblesse oblige arrogance of this sort of defamatory discourse, because a parent in Newark did it for all of us.
Here’s Chrystal Williams, Newark mother of five (including one child with special needs) who has “bandwidth” to spare. I’ve tried to edit her guest editorial, “Pushing Back on Reckless Critique of Carter Schools,” but I can’t. I’m just going to reprint the whole thing.
Who is Julia Sass Rubin and what does she have against my kids?
Yesterday, the Rutgers University associate professor was quoted in The Star Ledgersaying that “people in abject poverty don’t have the bandwidth to even evaluate charter schools. . . .It’s just not going to be high on their list.”
And about a month ago, in her quest to restrict the choice that parents like me have, she falsely suggested that the school my child attends in Newark loses more black boys to attrition than the district schools and that our school doesn’t serve “difficult” black boys.
Nothing could be further from my reality.
As an associate professor who lives in one of this state’s most affluent communities, Ms. Rubin should know better than to try to speak for me and my neighbors in Newark, because she certainly doesn’t know our story.
When Prof. Rubin attacks my child’s school, North Star Academy Charter School, where 3,600 mostly low-income black and Latino students are heading to college, she uses faulty, snapshot data that is not only misleading but false.
First, let’s get it straight about black boys at North Star and about special education.
I have three children at North Star. My son, now in fourth grade, is a special needs child. He sure isn’t easy to manage in class. But the teachers saw what I saw: more than a little boy with uncontrollable anger. He is so good in math and enjoys reading to me at night.
I used to be afraid that he was one of the many black boys in my neighborhood headed for prison. I don’t have to worry about that anymore. I have a different vision for him, one where he is graduating from M.I.T. and working as an engineer.
This school, the teachers and administrators are part of my family. We trust and respect one another because the ultimate goal is to see all of our children own gain their freedom through educational achievement. Ms. Rubin needs to realize that slavery still exists in the form of sub-standard education. This injustice keeps communities in bondage–never able to truly live the American dream.
Why on earth would Prof. Rubin want to block my child’s path to college? It is his civil right. Why would she want to turn back the clock for him?
When my son is having a bad day, his teacher will text me and will even arrange to put him on the phone with me, so between she and I, we can get him back on track as quickly as possible.
She also texts me when he’s having a good day. My son’s teacher is always a text or cell phone call away. Unlike your suggestion that North Star teaches only the “easiest” children, my son is evidence that our teachers believe in the genius of every child.
Does that sound like a school that is trying to get rid of its troublesome black boys?
Her “study” yesterday was nothing more than a series of cherry-picked numbers chosen to create a false narrative, but it has little resemblance to the story of my family’s life. My child’s experience is proof of that. And the real evidence coming out of the high-performing charter schools shows that she is just wrong.
A few months ago, Newark families were asked to pick the public school they want to send their child to. More parents made North Star Academy their first choice than any other school, suggesting that Newark families — even those in “abject poverty” as Prof. Rubin claims — do indeed have the “bandwidth” to want the best for their children.
Also noteworthy: the “report’s” release ignited an animated twitter thread that included two Newark charter school leaders, TEAM’s Ryan Hill (RHTEAM) and Uncommon’s Barbara Martinez (BMartinez42), Weber, Rubin, and Rutgers professor Bruce Baker (SchlFinance101), who is Weber’s doctoral advisor.
During the exchange, Hill and Martinez tried valiantly (within the constraints of 140-character limits) to explain the data distortions imbedded in the report. Martinez suggested that the statistical analyses were so flawed that the report would never survive the process of peer review. Baker tweets back,
@BMartinez42 @RHTEAM @SavOurSchoolsNJ @UncommonSchools I could probably get some of this through peer review.
Martinez begs to differ. Baker responds,
@BMartinez42 @RHTEAM @SavOurSchoolsNJ @UncommonSchools You overstate value of peer review. Lot’s of crap gets through peer review.
@SchlFinance101 @RHTEAM @SavOurSchoolsNJ @UncommonSchools Did you just admit this is not a high quality analysis? I think you did.
I think he did.