Newark Schools – Handing Back The Keys Is A Start

John M. Abeigon
John M. Abeigon
Twenty-two years of state takeover of the Newark Public Schools came to an end on February 1, 2018. Books have been written on the subject and no doubt more will be written in the future. Hundreds of newspaper articles and opinion pieces have been published regarding the infamous $100 million Facebook donation. Most of that donation went to settle labor contracts (two years in arears, mind you), but the balance was consumed by so-called education reform groups and consultants.

No expense was too great to present to the state taxpayers the appearance of a graceful exit. Over the past two months their media machine has boasted about the instructional gains of the Newark Public Schools under their watch. Some of it true and verifiable – such as improved classroom test scores and higher numbers of effective and highly effective teachers. Much of it is self-serving, such as how much of this success was due to the efforts of the corporate-style education reformers appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie and not the teachers themselves, who met and exceeded the challenges of the new teacher evaluation system meant to torture them.

Newark teachers are evaluated in a manner unlike any of their counterparts elsewhere in the state; the Newark Public Schools, under a waiver, and wave of reformers, developed its own evaluation tool. Teachers who had been evaluated under the traditional framework not only adapted but exceeded expectations, with over 80 percent of the teachers being ranked effective or higher. While not a perfect framework, it did allow for teachers ranked highly effective to receive a bonus. NTU members remained at the table as part of a committee constantly reviewing and providing feedback to fight for equitable implementation.