Yesterday, Keith Benson’s post on the Camden education debate brought a lot of folks here. Welcome! It was also a landmark day for the Local Knowledge blog – it was our first guest post from a local teacher, and first guest post from a Camden resident. Thanks! I received a lot of wonderful feedback (some of it is in the comments there). Jose Delgado, a former member of the school board, specifically asked me to share his thoughts. We certainly welcome these (and more), and as the week goes on I’ll be sharing some other (non-education) events that are being passed my way: 

Keith,

Wonderful presentation. With your permission I would like to elaborate on a few parts of what your presentation. 

 First, I urge everyone to Google a document prepared by the NJ DOE’s “Office of Portfolio Management” power point leaked by the C-P last year. Second, I think that everyone should become knowledgeable of the concept of Portfolio Management as applied to public education.

Let me just summarize, this document outlines the philosophical underpinnings and implementation details that will result in the State becoming the “portfolio manager” in the district. The district will be relegated to being just a “school operator.”  In other words the citizens of Camden will lose operation control of the educating of their children and the traditional neighborhood school concept will be a thing of the past.  This long standing role will be taken over by non-transparent not-and for-profit franchises ultimately responsible to the state.  

The goal is to reduce the current 12,000-student population to just under 9,000.  At least 7- to 10-schools are projected to be closed.  I think the number is closer to 15.  The “vacated” land and/or buildings could then be sold or leased to charters schools.  As can be expected qualified teachers will be laid off. Probably replaced with lower paid, poorly trained and less experienced teachers. The variety and size of programs will be reduced or eliminated in the remaining public schools.  But not so in the charters.  We will be left with a two-tiered system of well founded for- and non-profit charters, and, poorly funded public schools addressing the needs of what are often referred to as the “hard to educate” students.  Many of these student will be the squeezed out problem-child unwanted in the charters. For example – we looked at the graduation ration of students attending the KIPP school in Newark. We followed the 2002-2003 8th-graders to their graduation year of 2008-2009 and discovered that 64% of the black males had “left” the school prior to graduation.  The 5-or so Hispanic males left earlier.

In addition there are no resounding research findings that the various “portfolio management” models produce any educational benefits to students.  The same can be said of studies of the impact of charters on student performance – consistently two-thirds of charters do as well or worse than do the corresponding public schools.

The new superintendent is doing his job of implementing this ideological and corporate led invasion of the public schools and those associated with them.  My feeling is that as long as George Norcross and others can make money, directly or indirectly, this is going ahead full steam.  By the time the residents of Camden realize what has happened it will take years and a monumental effort to reverse course.

One last word, rather a prediction, the current variety of charters will change over time as the market share reaches saturation.  What are sometimes referred to as “mom & pop” charters will be eliminated in favor of the corporate-franchise charters, like KIPP.   The politically connected will probably survive, the rest are in jeopardy.

 

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