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This past January Bruce Baker ( Rutgers prof. and anti-reform blogger) and Mark Weber (Baker’s Ph.D. student and anti-reform blogger) released a report entitled “An Empirical Critique of One Newark.”
In response to inaccuracies in Baker and Weber’s “critique,” NPS just put out a response called “Correcting the Facts about the One Newark Plan.”
One Newark is the strategic plan issued by Newark Public Schools (NPS) that aims to increase student access to the city’s best schools (“out of 100 schools, 20 are good”) by creating a “universal enrollment plan” so that all families can easily apply to traditional and charter schools. Additionally, as enrollment decreases, so do facility needs, so the plan provides a rationale for necessary school closures.”
But Baker and Weber contend that NPS’ Plan judges schools’ effectiveness without regard for different populations like special ed and ELL (English Language Learners), and targets black students. They write,
Schools slated for charter takeover and closure serve larger proportions of students who are black; those students and their families may have their rights abrogated if they choose to stay at a school that will now be run by a private entity.
Also, claim the authors, NPS’s categorization of schools is “arbitrary and capricious,” and the “assumption that charter takeover can solve the ills of certain district schools is specious at best.”
In response, NPS’s Office of Strategy and Innovation just released a response in order “to correct the misstatements” made by Baker and Weber. Here are some of the highlights:
- “Nearly half of our families are expressing dissatisfaction with NPS and seeking other options.Currently, approximately 8,000 students are in public charter schools and 10,000 families are on waiting lists.In the South Ward alone, 40% of families are applying for charter seats…We see a similar phenomenon in non-NPS run early childhood sites.”
- “As a result of families leaving NPS, district schools are increasingly under-enrolled,” necessitating building closures.”
- “Since 2010-11, over 7,500 students dropped out or disconnected from NPS between the ages of 14 and 21.7. “
According to the rebuttal, Baker and Weber “claim that NPS’ rationale for determining which schools to target forclosure, renewal, or charter takeover is based only on academic performance and building utilization.” However, NPS explains, there are actually seven factors to that determination:
What is the quality of our buildings?How many early childhood classrooms currently exist? How many district K-8 schools do we need based on enrollment trends? What are the different options available for high school students? How does the plan preserve history and community? What will be the impact on neighborhoods? Which buildings do we need to divest (e.g., monetize or level)?
And, finally, one important detail easy to overlook: “the source of the data used by the authors is unknown and the data is inconsistent with that collected by NPS.” (Note: the data used by Baker and Weber, Weber now says, comes from Education Law Center. ELC has a long history of advocacy for poor minority students and, ironically, a crescendo-ing antipathy for school choice, especially charter schools.)