Jersey Jazzman: One Newark is a Bad Plan. REALLY Bad

June 5, 2014

This past week, State Superintendent Cami Anderson went on the offensive, making the case for her plan to restructure Newark's schools, One Newark. For Anderson, the problem isn't that her plan is illogical, innumerate, secretive, and ill-conceived.

No, the problem, apparently, is "politics":

Anderson: Political season is always tough. People say a lot of things, but my job was and always remains keeping laserly focused on a day when we have 100 great schools. Laserly! Because the consequences of not doing that are profound, so I try really hard to live up to my responsibilities and my goals and let the politics play out as they will.

Let me be very clear about this:

One Newark isn't being rejected by the good people of Newark because of "politics"; One Newark is being rejected because it is a bad plan, and all the evidence suggests it will not work.

- One Newark won't work because it imposes sanctions on schools -- closing them, "renewing" them, or turning them over to charter operators -- that are racially and socio-economically biased.


From "An Empirical Critique of One Newark." Schools facing sanction have larger populations of black and free lunch-eligible students, and fewer English Language Learners (ELLs).

- One Newark won't work because the charter school managers taking over NPS public schools have never taught as many children in economic disadvantage as the schools they are replacing.


From "An Empirical Critique of One Newark." Charter schools (the filled diamonds) don't serve as many children eligible for free lunch as the schools they are taking over (the unfilled diamonds). There is no evidence they will do any better than NPS at teaching the same student population.

- One Newark won't work because NPS's analysts judged schools on their "performance" without accounting for the differences in their students. 

From "An Empirical Critique of One Newark." TEAM Academy performs under prediction when accounting for student characteristics on Grade 8 Language Arts. But TEAM is taking over Hawthorne and Bragaw, two schools that perform above prediction. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

- One Newark won't work because it is punishing more black teachers than white teachers for doing nothing more than taking on the "toughest" school assignments.

From “One Newark’s Racially Disparate Impact on Teachers." Black teachers are far more likely to teach at a "Priority" school. And yet...


Those same black teachers are far more likely to suffer a consequence under One Newark.

- One Newark won't work because Anderson's staff have shown themselves to be incapable of producing a methodologically competent analysis of Newark's schools.

From "A Response to 'Correcting the Facts about the One Newark Plan: A Strategic Approach To 100 Excellent Schools.'" Among other flaws, NPS's analysts included both %-black and %-Hispanic in their regression model. This is a huge statistical no-no. Read the report for more details, including how NPS  averages scale scores that should not be averaged.

- One Newark won't work because it doesn't take into account the high attrition rates of charter schools like North Star Academy.

From "A Response to 'Correcting the Facts about the One Newark Plan: A Strategic Approach To 100 Excellent Schools.'" It is more likely that a recruit makes it through Navy SEALs training - the toughest training in the military with a 70% dropout rate - than it is that a black boy makes it from Grade 5 through 12 at North Star Academy.

- One Newark won't work because it gives parents bad information about schools: specifically, it classifies schools as "Great" just because they have fewer black boys in economic disadvantage who have special needs.


From "Buyer Beware: One Newark and the Market For Lemons." Schools listed as "Falling behind" on the One Newark application have proportionately more black, free-lunch eligible, and special education students than schools that are "Great." Incredibly, "Great" schools also have a statistically significantly smaller population of boys.

Folks, I haven't even addressed here some of the other major problems with One Newark that I and others have explored. How, for example, does NPS plan to transport its students all over the city without having built an adequate infrastructure? How do we know One Newark complies with state laws that require lotteries for over-subscribed charter schools? And why is NPS selling its properties to private interests, possibly to the detriment of New Jersey's taxpayers?

One Newark is a plan doomed to failure -- that's why it's being criticized so loudly and strongly. When Anderson blames "politics" for her current predicament, she is evading responsibility for putting out a plan that all the evidence shows will not work.

Yesterday, Bob Braun asked why the major stakeholders in Newark's pubic schools haven't yet tried to stop One Newark in court. Unlike Bob, I'm not a lawyer; I have no informed opinion as to whether One Newark can or should be legally challenged. But I do know this:

One Newark is a lemon. There is no evidence it will work; to the contrary, all the evidence suggests it will plunge Newark's underfunded schools further into chaos and dysfunction. For the sake of the city's children, One Newark needs to be stopped.


One Newark: like driving a lemon off of a cliff.
(h/t Leonie Haimson for the inspiration)

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Jersey Jazzman

The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

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Jersey Jazzman

Jersey Jazzman is the pseudonym for Mark Weber, a New Jersey public school teacher and parent. Weber is also a doctoral student at Rutgers University in Education Theory, Organization, and Policy.