Tag Archive: charters

Welcome to Camden, President Obama. Here are some things I think you need to know – about education

Barack ObamaKeith E. Benson is Education Chair at Camden County NAACP, a teacher at Camden High School, and a Doctoral student at Rutgers University GSE. This is the 2nd post today addressed to President Obama – the first was from James Harris, immediate past president of NJ NAACP. Read that here. Promoted by Rosi

On November 4th, 2008 I, as well as many other Camden residents celebrated your victory in the Presidential election against John McCain. Indeed I remember residents of Greenwood Avenue in the Parkside section of Camden, literally celebrating in the streets with the election of the nation’s first black president – something many of us believed we would never see in America with its deplorable history regarding its treatment of black and brown people. A new optimism was apparent and visible on November 5th, 2008 and lasted for some time, until the reality of what an Obama presidency meant for urban America became apparent. By many metrics, things have gotten worse for the most vulnerable urban Americans under your administration, due in part to the intransigence of our US Congress, hostile policies put forth at the state and local levels, but also because of some your very own policies. In Camden, NJ there is no clearer embodiment of the harm some of your policies have wrought upon the urban poor, than in education.

An Air-brushed State of the City Address in Camden

Cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog.

“Air-brushing” Camden – DAMN – that’s the perfect phrase. Thanks, Stephen, for this post about what the Christie administration and official and corporate Camden refuse to give a damn about. THIS POST is what they should be reading. – Rosi

No matter how skeptical I am walking into the building, the shark room in the Camden Aquarium always takes my breath away. It’s majestic. It gives any event a little gravity. Not that the Cooper’s Ferry Annual Meeting, featuring the mayor’s State of the City Address, needed more pomp and circumstance. It had every Camden dignitary, politician, potential developer or cheerleader possible (and they were all thanked more than once). But the meeting made me sad. It made me sad because it was a dishonest conversation about Camden. The Narrative (with a capital N) was that everything is fixed, everything is getting better, everything is hopeful. But to make that case, the speakers had to hide the real Camden, the one I know and love. I long for the day that we can stand in front of developers and tell them about Camden as we know it, not about a 5 block radius of downtown, and talk about Camden’s diversity and history as assets, not something to sweep under the rug. I walked into the aquarium wanting to hear a pitch for Camden that asked people to be a part of what was already here, not pine about a mythical shining city that fails to resemble the city we live in.

The Week “Reformy” Died In New Jersey

Efforts to suppress freedom of opinion … they don’t just happen in Paris. Among the issues Jazzman deconstructs in the reformy-clan’s disastrous week is this: the desperate attempt by the charter forces to intimidate and silence an academic researcher and critic, Julia Sass Rubin, because as usual they’re failing at making relevant data go away. – Rosi

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

re•form•y /



1. of, denoting, or pertaining to education policies that have little to no supporting evidence, yet allow supporters of those policies to feel like they care about children more than you do.

2. (of a public education policy) used to justify inequitable and/or inadequate education funding.

3. (of a public education policy) infuriatingly smug while concurrently so freakin’ ignorant that you just want to bash your head on your keyboard over and over and over…

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“Jersey Jazzman just read the latest reformy argument on his computer.”

This was a bad week for “reformy” here in Jersey; dare I say it, we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end of the “reformy” movement in the Garden State. Let’s review:  

Camden Schools Remade in the Image of “No Excuses” Charters

Cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

There has been a lot of attention, and rightfully so, to the opening and approval of new “No Excuses” charters in Camden. These schools have questionable pedagogical practices, and a putrid record of educating black males. But, as of the latest numbers of new “No Excuses” school attendees were only in the low 500s. Plenty of students remain in traditional public schools, and those schools are being forcibly remade in the image of charters. They are adopting “No Excuses”-style discipline, pedagogical methods, and even using assessment tests from Uncommon’s North Star Academy in Newark.

Community Voice in Camden: Teachers Missing from Our Schools

The community fight against school privatization in Camden leaps forward. Promoted by Rosi, cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. The speech below was given by Camden parent Carmen Crespo at a press conference last week announcing a lawsuit against the Camden School District:

It is an honor to be here today speaking on behalf of the thousands of parents of school age children in this city who, until very recently, haven’t had their voices heard. Until just a few months ago, I, like most Camden parents, was unaware of the changes coming into our district or how they would affect my children and my neighbor’s children. I quickly learned that our school district was supposedly in a funding deficit and would be laying off many teachers and support staff to cover this supposed deficit.

Missing-PieceI also learned that applications were filed to open new Renaissance schools, using the district funding that Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard claimed that we did not have. The more I learned, the more I felt the need to advocate on behalf of our children and of the teachers and staff who were being taken away from us. Those teachers love our children and have dedicated their lives to educating them so that they can grow up and be successful adults.

The gentrification of Camden’s schools Part II: Love is all you need

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. And promoted by Rosi.

gentrification-noun 1. the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

In Part I of my interview with Camden educator Keith Benson we talked about his views on the state takeover, what his students face on a daily basis, and whether he thinks the charters coming into the city can truly address the needs of children living in chronically high poverty. Part II is at the end of this post.

Greetings from Camden Camden has been in the news a lot lately. Earlier this week on her show, Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane of Philadelphia’s public broadcasting station, WHYY, interviewed David Sciarra, Executive Director of NJ’s Education Law Center, Stephen Danley, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers University, who also writes the Local Knowledge Blog, and Carmen Crespo, parent activist and member of the grassroots pro-public education group Save Our Schools NJ about the separate and unequal state takeover of Camden’s public schools. Last month she interviewed Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard, the TFA alum and former Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Newark Public Schools.

The public outcry against the decimation of public education in the poorest, most dangerous city in the country has been well documented here, here, here, here and here. There is much more, and I encourage readers to search for themselves.

Notice that all but the WHYY link are to blogs, and there are more blog links below. Apartheid is alive and well in NJ and around the country as scores of black and brown children living in high poverty are being discriminated against, their schools closed, their neighborhoods up-ended, and their voices silenced. And yet the mainstream media is perfectly content to ignore it while rolling out the red carpet for Campbell Brown. And if you’re reading this and still have no idea who she is and what she’s up to, start here.

The Gentrification of Camden’s Schools Part I

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield blog.  Promoted by Rosi.

gentrification-noun 1. the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

Greetings from CamdenSince public educators have been largely excluded from the education ‘reform’ agenda, it’s up to bloggers and others on social media to tell our side of the story. And that story cannot be told without including the socioeconomic and developmental impacts on children living in poverty. Nowhere in the United States exemplifies this like Camden.

The bitingly witty Massachusetts ed blogger EduShyster recently posted a guest blog by Camden educator, Keith Benson, on how the gentrification of that city is really for ‘other people’. [We posted it here at Blue Jersey, too.] Please be sure to read it. This quote sums up what Keith lives every day:


It’s as if the city so desperately needs people with disposal income that those who have it are catered to relentlessly. And underneath such puzzling interactions is a deep frustration that much of Camden is not designed for its residents because of their low incomes…The message to local residents is clear: The nice things here aren’t for you. We need other people.

Earth to @starledger: There Are No Miracle Charter Schools

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

What do you do with someone who, when presented with the truth time and time again, refuses to see it? What do you do when a person of influence — for example, the Star-Ledger’s Editorial Page Editor, Tom Moran — repeatedly, stubbornly, infuriatingly continues to perpetuate myths that are demonstrably untrue?

Newark, for all its woes, is a city that’s surprisingly easy to fall in love with if you spend enough time here.

It’s not beautiful by any stretch, and it breaks your heart all the time. The violence here devours children with a merciless regularity. The schools lose one-third of their students to the street before high school graduation.

Public meetings turn into ugly and pointless shouting matches all the time.

But it always feels that something better is just around the corner for Newark. And people here never seem to give up. That fight is baked into this city’s DNA.

And good things do happen. A downtown construction boom. A miraculous chain of charter schools. New parks. Hope lives. [emphasis mine]

Go ahead and read the rest of this patronizing nonsense if you want. Apparently, Ras Baraka’s desire to be paid like a professional when he was principal at Central High (where even Moran admits he did an outstanding job) gives Tom Moran a case of the vapors. Let’s concentrate here on this particular phrase: “A miraculous chain of charter schools.” Click on the link and you will be guided to US News’s rating of TEAM Academy Charter High School. TEAM is a division of KIPP, the national charter management chain. Is TEAM “miraculous”? Let’s hold off for a second on testing that claim with some outside sources and look, instead, at what US News has to say:  

Selling Us Out – Newark residents tell Shavar Jeffries their city is not for sale

Tomorrow – Tuesday – is one week before election day in Newark. And resistance to the privatization of the city’s public schools – coming from hedge funders and tycooning opportunists under a state plan orchestrated by Chris Christie’s hand-picked schools chief Cami Anderson – is centering as a crucial issue of the race for mayor. The race is between Ras Baraka, councilman and Newark Central HS Principal (on leave) and Shavar Jeffries, a former state assistant AG. Voters go to the polls May 13.

The race may hinge on how clearly that community-based hunger for local control, with heavy participation from Newark parents and students, will hold against a huge influx of cash behind Jeffries from ‘Education Reform Now,’ a NYC-based organization run by pro-charter, pro-privatization hedge fund managers, with donors investors from Connecticut to Texas. They just infused $850k into the Shavar Jeffries operation. Rob Duffey, whose New Jersey Working Families Alliance paid for the ad, says that’s “because they know Jeffries won’t hesitate to sell out Newark’s schools for their personal profit.” In this ad, we see some Newark residents who say their city isn’t for sale.