Tag Archive: Schools

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.

New Jersey Legislators Need to Stand up for Our Children

Promoted by Rosi.

UPDATE: Assemblyman Dan Benson, a sponsor of this bill, suggests we name the sponsors/co-sponsors of the bill, so people can know who to focus on – or who to thank for already supporting. Great idea: Assembly sponsors (A4165). Senate sponsor is Shirley Turner. Contact info for NJ Legislators is here.

95% participation

The first administration of the experimental new PARCC high-stakes standardized tests is only weeks away and parents are increasingly concerned. Hundreds of families have notified their school districts that their children will not be taking the PARCC tests.

Approximately one-fifth of all New Jersey school districts have responded by assuring parents who refuse the test that their children will be provided with an alternative location, or at least the ability to read in class, while their classmates take the test.

Other districts, however, have taken a much more punitive approach, threatening to force children as young as eight to remain in the testing room with no other activities except sitting and staring for the two-week duration of the test.  Some districts have even threatened students whose parents refuse the test with disciplinary actions.

In response, parents are asking the New Jersey legislature to intervene and pass A4165/S2767. This legislation requires all districts and charter schools to provide consistent, humane treatment for children whose parents refuse standardized tests.

As growing numbers of legislators indicate their support for A4165/S2767, officials within the New Jersey Department of Education have apparently initiated a campaign to block its passage by claiming that the proposed legislation would cost districts precious dollars. Specifically, the NJDOE is arguing that the US Department of Education would use powers it has under the No Child Left Behind law to cut Title I funding for any schools that fall below 95 percent student participation levels on the PARCC.  

Gov. Christie in Iowa (again). Oh really?

After a disastrous trip to London, bad press over his luxurious travel style and calls for him to focus on NJ issues, Gov. Christie returned to Iowa yesterday to speak to Dallas County Republicans. He said, “What we need in this country more than anything else is some blunt, direct, straight talk to fix big problems we have been avoiding for too long because we care more about the comfort of people’s feelings than about telling the truth and fixing the problems that need to be fixed.”

Oh really? What he thinks of as straight talk is more frequently his solution to a problem (often a bad solution), his bluntness can be crude and rude, and his directness oversimplifies problems. In the meantime he blithely ignores or postpones issues he does not want to address and refuses to turn over documents requested by OPRA. His big problem early in his administration included fixing the transportation fund by canceling ARC, drawing funds from affordable housing, schools, and environmental programs. Most recently he fixed Pen/Ben, boasted about it, and then reneged on the agreement. After months of waiting there is still no plan for Pen/Ben, transportation, or Atlantic City. Also, caring for the comfort of people’s feelings is not a highlight of his career.

After blowback from his inoculation comments, he attempted to recover in Iowa. He said, “I have no concerns at all because when people really listen to what I said they know that I favor vaccines and I favor them strongly.” Oh really? In London he mentioned “choice” and “balance.”

So Governor Christie, combining travel time spent a day or more out of state, incurred police security costs (which may or may not be reimbursed), likely ignored pressing NJ issues, and for what? He met privately with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and spoke to more than 50 people gathered in a hotel ballroom.  

Cami’s epic fail in the eye of another epic snowstorm

So, Chaotic Cami, who cannot seem to overcome her own organizational problems (among other things), didn’t get it together to inform parents what was going on for school today until kids were already on their way in, and many parents already on their way to work. Promoted by Rosi. Cross-posted with Marie Corfield.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.24.51 AM

The only way you don’t know about this is if you’re sipping umbrella drinks pool-side in Cabo-or, apparently, you’re Cami Anderson.

At 4:33pm yesterday, NJ.com reported:

Blizzard warnings have been issued for northern and eastern New Jersey as a “crippling and potentially historic” storm sets its sights on the northeast.Snow totals could exceed two and a half feet. Drifts could be far higher. High winds will reduce visibilities to near zero.

Before 8pm last night they posted a list of school closings and delays, including early dismissal for Newark’s TEAM and Link Charter Schools. Superintendent robo-calls went out state-wide last night to inform parents of their district’s plans. I got my call. And in case anyone missed any of it, everyone took to social media to spread the news.

I saw a couple of posts from teachers in Newark who were pleading with Cami to make the call-any call: early dismissal, school closed, SOMETHING!

Does New Jersey have the Political Will to Help Camden?

Promoted by Rosi. This is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog:

A Camden High School student spoke at my class last semester. He told one particularly poignant story, of how he’d been evicted from his home and had spent a few months living out of a car. Each morning, at 5:45am, his mother would wake him so that he could be the first person to go into the local McDonalds. There, he would brush his teeth and get ready for school.

Among all the stories I’ve heard in Camden, I think this one may be the most important. It is about stability, and how hard it is for young people who lack it to succeed. This student talked about how he never had that stability, how he was constantly moving, until he joined the Junior ROTC program. The stability and structure of going to that program each day after school was what turned his life around.

This young man isn’t alone in his need for stability. Camden City as a whole desperately needs sustained commitment from the state of New Jersey. Because Camden runs a significant annual deficit, it is constantly in need of state support. The politics of giving that support can make or break the city.

2014 Education Recap: The Good, The Bad, The ‘Reformy’

Cross-posted from Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

Happy New Year!

In my humble opinion 2014 was a watershed year for public education. While there were plenty of knuckle-headed ‘reform’ policies and decisions, there were also some big wins, a lot of small victories and the beginnings of a shift in public opinion. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look back on the good, the bad and the ‘reformy’.  

The 12 Reformy Days of Christmas

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi. “A test designed for students to fail …” Yikes.

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope all my fellow educators out there are enjoying a much-deserved break before we gear up for testing season! (Sorry, no coupons, sales or bonus buys are associated with this much anticipated season, but boy-oh-boy your job sure is on the line!)

To keep you all in the holiday spirit for a few more days, here’s a little Christmas ditty from me to you. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Save Our Schools NJ for inspiring me with their great post on the upcoming PARCC test!  

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.