New Jersey Communities United’s (NJCU) Student Organizing Committee disrupted the Newark School Board meeting this week, demanding transparency and community input over the city’s return to local control.
After more than 20 years under State control, Newark is now reclaiming their schools. But too much of the process has taken place behind closed doors, without real community input. One example has been the search for a new Superintendent. It was rumored that the School Board had met privately last weekend and voted on a candidate for Superintendent. The apparent pick was not the candidate that local education organizing groups felt was the strongest and most likely to fully repudiate the policies and direction of the Christie Administration.
Students converged on the board meeting prepared to protest the pick, and to lay out additional demands: a full, public audit of the district’s finances, transparency and accountability for the city’s charter schools, an end to the One Newark universal enrollment system and a moratorium on new charter schools in the city.
As the students read their demands the Board halted their meeting, went in to Executive Session, and apparently changed their vote to support the Superintendency of Roger Leon—the community’s preferred candidate. The Board’s about-face on their Superintendent pick is an indication of the public pressure being mounted by NJCU and other groups as the long and arduous process of returning the district to local control continues. You can watch the student’s protest on NJCU’s facebook page, HERE.And read about the new Superintendent, and the Board meeting HERE. Photo credit: NJ Communities United.
Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance to Hold First Statewide Convening
The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA) is holding its first statewide convening on June 23rd at Worcester State University. The MEJA gathering will offer parents, students, educators and activists background on the history of MEJA and recent education fights across the state, skills sharing and opportunities for folks to build relationships and plan their activities over the next several months, as MEJA continues the fight for full funding of public education across Massachusetts. See below for a link to registration materials.
New Research on School Closings in Chicago
Chicago’s Consortium on School Research has released an important new report assessing the impact of the city’s unprecedented 47 school closings at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. School Closings in Chicago: Staff and Student Experiences and Academic Outcomesis the first large-scale, mixed method study designed to understand how students and staff experienced the closing process. The report also looks at the short-and long-term effects of the closings on the mobility, absences, suspension rates, core GPA and test scores of students in both the closed and welcoming schools.
Among the findings:
** Staff and students from both closed and welcoming schools reported that the planning process for merging schools was insufficient and left them feeling unprepared for the start of the school year.
** The moving process was “chaotic” and made it difficult to appropriately prepare students;
** The closing process severed longstanding social connections and created difficulties inherent in merging school cultures;
** Additional investments in technology and resources were welcomed and appreciated;
** Student mobility increased over the first year after the merger, for some students;
** There was little effect from the closures on absence or suspension rates or core GPAs, and
** Test scores for students in both closed and welcoming schools were negatively affected.
Guess What? Teachers Support Unions
Voices from the Classroom: A Survey of American Educators was announced this week by Educators for Excellence. The survey was designed by classroom teachers across the country as a way to gather educator’s insights in to what’s working in their schools and what needs to be changed at the union, district, state and federal level.
The preliminary release of survey results showed that 85 percent of teachers regard unions as “essential” or “important,” including 74 percent of non-unionized teachers, and 77 percent of charter school educators. You can read through preliminary results of the survey HERE. The full survey results will be released on August 1.
These results come as public sector unions await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Janus vs AFSCME, which deals with the right of labor unions to collect mandatory fees from non-union members for activities such as bargaining and the filing of grievances. If the right to collect these “agency fees” is overturned by the Court as expected, it will have significant implications for teachers, and other public sector unions, which are often the first line of defense in the ongoing battle against privatization.
Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance Statewide Convening. June 23rd at Worcester State University. See above. Registration available here.