Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to Newark schools: Five years later, charter …

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

10 Things to Know for Today.

Shavar Jeffries took over last week as president of Democrats for Education Reform, the national group that represents the wing of the Democratic Party that has embraced public charter schools, merit pay, mayoral control of urban school districts and other measures at odds with another Democratic constituency, the teachers unions.

Francis, who will arrive in Washington later today, encourages Cubans at a delicate point in their own history to overcome ideological preconceptions and be willing to change.Precisely five years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show to announce a $100 million donation to remake education in Newark as an effort to make a struggling city a national model for turning around urban schools. Jeffries takes the helm of DFER, founded by a group of New York City hedge fund managers to be a counterweight to the unions, at a time when the movement to change education policy has been criticized by some for being too white and elitist. His partners, then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, outlined a broad five-year plan to change the future of education in the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken city, where nearly half of the public-school students drop out of high school.

With bitterness and division in the air, its two emergency meetings this week won’t provide any quick solutions to ease the plight of tens of thousands of people seeking sanctuary in Europe. The exodus of students and the public funding which comes with them from the Newark Public schools has deepened a financial crisis in New Jersey’s largest city. Jeffries, a 40-year-old attorney raised by his grandmother in Newark, N.J., won a scholarship in eighth grade to Seton Hall Preparatory, New Jersey’s oldest Catholic school. Describing a scene in her new book, The Prize, the longtime Washington Post reporter Dale Russakoff, who also volunteered as a tutor in the district, writes that when it was Zuckerberg’s turn in the TV interview to speak, the Facebook co-founder wasn’t able to finish his opening sentence.

Their push toward the capital against Shiite militants is stalled by no gains on the ground — despite an airstrikes’ campaign by a Saudi-led coalition that relentlessly pounds rebel positions. “All I can do is come before you and ask for forgiveness from you and the people back here. Mark Zuckerberg’s mission was to improve the traditional public schools while there have been major changes as student test score have been mixed.The awe of Zuckerberg’s high-minded intentions for using his first major foray into philanthropy in order to try to effect the sweeping change has receded. Newark’s public school system currently faces a fiscal crisis that unquestionably harms its ability to provide high-quality education to the 35,000 students with whose hearts and minds the district is entrusted daily.

He went on to Duke University and Columbia Law School and was founding president of TEAM Academy, a Newark outpost of KIPP, the country’s largest public charter school network. Will this big scale philanthropy guarantees quick change? “The gift has been enormously productive and beneficial,” said Christopher Cerf, the district superintendent. “It’s also been pretty deeply misunderstood.” Even Zuckerberg didn’t expect quick results and he said in an interview last year that it would take years to measure.The politicians agreed on a strategy focused on closing the worst schools, offering incentives to higher-performing teachers and launching new kinds of schools – and they sold it to Zuckerberg.Whereas the Charter schools which will run by the private entities with a bit of freedom than traditional public schools.Ryan Hill who is the chief operating officer of the New Jersey schools said that the contributions allowed the group to expand the Newark schools from two to eight. We continue to talk about closing achievement gaps and improving schools in a high poverty city where some schools have poverty rates above 90 percent. Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education foundation says that it’s applying some lessons from Newark,”the importance of meaningful community partnerships.” A market-driven public education agenda has been passed off as school reform that is in the interest of the black and brown children often living in poverty and educated in Newark’s public schools.

Jeffries unsuccessfully ran for mayor in Newark in 2014 — with backing from DFER — in a race that became a referendum on Christie’s school reform plan. Bradford pointed out that $200 million is a tiny portion – about 4 percent – of what it has cost to run the school district for the past five years. Politically well-connected wealthy people have used their power and resources to impose educational policies on our community, our schools and our children.

Jeffries lost to Ras Baraka, a son of the radical poet Amiri Baraka and a former high school principal in Newark, who got heavy support from the teachers union. While on the show, once the applause died down, he resumed his announcement, citing his desire to see Booker and Christie “turn Newark into a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” The preemptive celebration was telling. To ignore the role that power and capital continue to play in the structure, organization, and mobilization of the systems that impact the daily realities of communities of color is to tacitly support the maintenance of race and class privilege. “The Prize” drives this home regarding the present situation in Newark. The result is a school district that, despite the quiet appearances of the moment and efforts regain toward local control of the Newark school system which was placed under state control in 1995, is crumbling from a structural deficit and continued low performance that begs the question – local control of what?

There was a huge pile of money, with the promise of another $100 million in matching donations from corporate investors and philanthropists courted by Booker. To the television audience of typical Americans, the union of celebrity politicians, crusader rhetoric, and a $200 million gift sparked an attack of the warm fuzzies. Philanthropic foundations including that of Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, and the Walton Family spend nearly $4 billion a year on supporting public K-12 education in America. Disproportionately, the administration of most traditional school districts are white people and the classroom is disproportionately run by white people. Zuckerberg’s generous gift was unique in the sense that he was investing in an effort that tasked politicians with tackling an entire district’s shortcomings.

In the reform movement, we’ve seen Teach for America, for example, has a very diverse demographic … and in charter networks throughout the country, we’re seeing more folks of color, particularly people coming from the community these schools are serving. David Sciarra, director of the Education Law Center, a Newark-based group that has sued the state seeking better educations for low-income children, believes Newark is in worse shape now. But there’s always more that can be done across all institutions of this country to diversify and make sure that other groups that may have historically not been given opportunities have access.

Some education reformers characterize teachers’ unions as a major impediment to progress, but The Prize dives into the whole stew of potential obstacles. As the Newark example demonstrates, when it comes to handling a $1 billion budget (particularly one enhanced by philanthropists’ gifts), school and district administrators, for-profit education consultants, and politicians have much at stake besides improving test scores and vanquishing socioeconomic inequality. We must also collectively call on the recently-appointed Newark Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf, installed by Christie after Anderson’s abrupt departure earlier this year, to request emergency funds from the state. Sciarra believes the growth of charter schools has hurt traditional schools by siphoning off money, as well as students from the families most motivated to succeed.

Nonetheless, they may resist a message of change when they feel the messengers’ tone and tactics are condescending, even “colonial,” as one school board member puts it to Russakoff. The district cannot continue to press forward with policy after policy, initiative after initiative, reform after reform, without holding the mirror up to the face of the decisions made and looking at all of the consequences, intended and unintended, of these changes.

For instance, the son of famous late poet and longtime Newark resident Amiri Baraka, Ras Baraka, an educator and Booker’s eventual replacement as mayor, didn’t like seniority protections for teachers either. The Zuckerberg announcement and the flow of dollars following symbolized an alliance between Christie, Booker, Anderson and private philanthropy that solidified a top-down, market-driven and choice-based education reform agenda for the state-controlled Newark school district.

In the notoriously tough Newark, inadequate social services may keep kids traumatized by crime, poverty, drugs, and abuse from embracing the identity of student, even if higher-quality teachers are recruited to take over the education of these children. There is also – and will likely always be – a consistent presence of voices calling for the community to be involved in defining what school reform should look like, without eroding the role of democracy, in governing public schools. And because of that experience, they have relationships with clergy, with elected officials that they’ve worked with for a long time, and they marshal those resources and said we have to stop those reforms. However, even if only behind closed doors, opposition to the consequences of education reform, has challenged and questioned the reforms from all sides, including choice advocates funders, elected officials, teachers, parents and school leaders alike. It shows how well-intentioned reform-minded outsiders may wade clumsily into a school system’s entrenched webs of traditions, allegiances, cultural habits, and underlying conditions.

Like an army trying to maintain control over occupied territory—while simultaneously playing Whack-a-Mole with the problems that pop up—they may make more of a mess than the one they mop up. With all of our talk about how poverty and race impact student achievement and how widespread these impacts really are, we cannot allow our district schools to face a future of squalor. So these are existing narratives, and any time you want to mobilize people, you can create a whole new narrative, but then you have to create a whole new set of messages and pressure points. He said that he’s had problems with administrative issues, such as transportation, but that his sons dive into their homework every night and seem to be increasingly communicative. Senator.) He shines on the Sundance Channel documentary show Brick City, in one episode rescuing a neighbor from a burning building—an act he immediately shares on Twitter.

We must now agree that we all have a stake in stabilizing the district and ensuring that it has a viable infrastructure to educate every child in a district school. On an episode of her show after the Oprah announcement, Ellen DeGeneres hands him a Superman costume and calls him “Your Excellency.” He’s spent so much time networking on social media, visiting other cities, and appearing on TV shows that the writer Amiri Baraka, according to Russakoff, dubbed him “The Virtual One.” Booker may have charmed the don of Earth’s most traversed virtual world, but Russakoff’s reporting remains balanced. She gained intimate access to many of the powerful individuals involved in the Newark initiative and factored in their perspectives along with the stories of teachers, principals, parents, and students. That doesn’t mean there aren’t dynamics if you’re a superintendent in the middle of this or if you’re a school board president, as I was, in the middle of this, or a philanthropist in the middle of this. Facing poor outcomes, complacency, and bureaucratic clutter, Booker, who didn’t attend Newark’s public schools, promised that the city would witness “transformative,” not “incremental,” reform.

Russakoff reported that a total of $21 million of the $200 million donation ended up going to “technocrats” who commuted from Manhattan with high salaries amounting to as much as $1,000 a day. A: Newark is a reminder to me of how much parents love their children, how beautiful the parents are, how smart they are, how intelligent they are and how they will go to the end of the Earth for their babies. These consultants were skilled at marketing reform efforts, developing systems for evaluating teachers, designing data systems, and reorganizing bureaucratic hierarchies. They didn’t know the community or interact with students in person, but, according to Russakoff’s account, were fluent in education-reform jargon.

In a poor, predominantly black and Latino district, their whiteness, high salaries, and talk of “moving the needle” created tension not only with the on-the-ground employees they were tasked with motivating but also the school board and the union. Money was funneled toward agonizing union negotiations as part of efforts to amend the teachers’ contract—including $30 million in back pay as a compromise in exchange for a merit-based pay system—and positions which didn’t entail direct, meaningful contact with students, like teacher coaches and curriculum-design experts. And second, that becomes your organizing base to sustain these changes politically when there’s the inevitable backlash from those whose jobs and economic interests are put at risk by the changes. Russakoff memorably analogizes that move to tailoring an answer key to a test-taker’s responses; Anderson never missed a bonus, perhaps because she could decide on the goals once she knew the results.

At the same time, Russakoff also notes how, at a 2013 event celebrating her first two years in office, Anderson gave a speech to charter-school advocates, consultants, and civic leaders in a room plastered with posters inaccurately hailing her accomplishments. That’s really the fundamental point of a union, to protect wages and to protect jobs. … I want to protect the job, too, as long as you’re educating the child. In a follow-up questionnaire, she asked attendees for feedback about the posters, but the choices for each response excluded options that would allow negative feedback; the choices ranged from neutral to intensely positive. The district’s future is tenuous amid budget cuts and layoffs. “Two hundred million dollars and almost five years later,” writes Russakoff, “there was at least as much rancor as reform.” The Prize is a cautionary tale. Those who believe philanthropy can bolster the futures of marginalized American schoolchildren may gain some inspiration, though not the sort that Booker and his allies envisioned in 2010.

In 2014, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced another round of generous donations for education: $120 million in grants dedicated to improving conditions at Bay Area schools in low-income neighborhoods. This week, Steve Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, announced a sleekly marketed $50 million education-focused project that also eschews incremental changes in favor of new models. Her plan involves encouraging teams of educators (and students) to submit plans for alternative ways to envision the high-school experience, the most impressive of whom will receive grants by next fall. As bold and invigorating as the ideas may be, her advisers are Obama appointees, celebrities, district administrators, start-up specialists, and corporate vice presidents—not teachers, principals, or public-school parents.

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