My post today at WHYY’s Newsworks is called “Camden’s Rejection of Private School Managers Highlights Bigger Debate Over Urban Education. Here’s the first part:
Over the last week a remarkable story has unfolded in Camden, N.J. At the Camden City Public School Board’s most recent meeting on Tuesday, board members considered four applicants for N.J.’s newly-legislated Urban Hope Act and voted them all down.
The Urban Hope Act, signed by Gov. Chris Christie this past January, allows non-profits to build, manage, and operate up to four “renaissance” schools in three long-suffering school districts: Camden, Newark, and Trenton. Four organizations applied for Camden’s new Renaissance “district,” including one highly-regarded organization called KIPP, which runs some of Newark’s most successful charter schools. After six hours in closed session the Board members, in a move that surprised just about everyone (including the Camden mayor, who appointed them), rejected KIPP’s application by a split vote of 4-4, with one abstention.
This outcome is noteworthy on several levels, and the story itself elucidates one of the thorniest dilemmas that stump people who value public education. When faced with a chronically failing school system like Camden, should the priority be providing children with immediate relief from a district where the majority of the students never master basic academic skills? Or should the priority be lengthy efforts to rebuild the whole system? Does the urgency of the plight of current students trump long-term fixes, or is it the other way around?
Read the rest here.