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Newark Superintendent Roger León lies to the public with impunity, a tic unrestrained by the district’s Board of Education which is charged with overseeing his performance. Last month, as revealed in today’s Tapinto Newark, León took his characteristic deceit to a new level by insisting that four Newark high schools in the North Ward are “beat the odds” schools and a whole slew of others are “high-performing.”
They’re not: Only 13% of Newark students are proficient in math and 27% in reading, well below state averages. The public would know this but doesn’t because New Jersey is one of only nine state where State Education Departments are withholding spring test data. The Murphy Administration’s subterfuge gives León license to brazenly lie but why is he doing so? What is his endgame? Is he simply delusional?
I’m not a psychiatrist. But let’s examine the chasm between the reality of Newark students’ low levels of proficiency and León’s bogus claims, based on TapInto’s access (through an Open Public Records request) to school-by-school results on this past spring’s state standardized tests
Lie: León names four North Ward high schools (Tapinto doesn’t specify which ones but I’d guess they include Science Park and Technology, two magnets with selective admissions) and says “nobody in Newark is beating these four schools.”
Truth, via Tapinto: “not a single one [of those four schools] met the cutoff for proficiency as set by the state on the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment (NJSLA) taken in the spring.”
Lie: León names 13 schools as “high performing” and 18 schools as “beating the odds.”
Truth: “Beat the odds schools” is a technical term referring to schools that outperform demographically comparable students in other parts of the state. Very few Newark district school “beats the odds” (no K-8 schools do) compared to other New Jersey districts with similar populations. Yet it’s an interesting choice of words: in 2020 a report found that 75% of Newark’s public charter school sector were “beat the odds” schools, making it the top charter sector in the country. Only 16% of district schools met the criteria.
And we all know what León thinks of charters.
Of course, León has a long record of lying on the record, whether he’s denying bomb threats or chronic absenteeism. What exactly is León trying to accomplish? Is his opinion of board members and parents so low that he thinks they’re suckers for his lies? Does he engage in magical thinking?
Newark parent Jasmine Morrison, executive director of Unapologetic Parents, isn’t having it. She told Tapinto,
If we’re receiving messages that says that our children are in high performing schools, it gives parents the illusion that they had their children in the right place, that they are on the right track and that they have the resources that are needed for their children to succeed now and in the future.. So failure does not just lie in the scores. Failure lies in the misinformation perpetuated from the leadership that doesn’t give us the opportunity to correct the failure.
Someone should ask the School Board (which declined to comment for the story) what they’re trying to accomplish as well. By not speaking out they’re complicit in León’s lies. The man doesn’t need enabling; he needs a different job.