One of the big goals of this blog is debate and conversation. And yesterday’s post on the Camden Enrollment System has started plenty of that. So here we go — some critics and some other thoughts from folks. I’ll try, tomorrow or Saturday, to do some response, but I like to let these responses largely stand on their own:

Brendan Lowe from the Camden School District reached out to ask if I’d seen that the school promotion videos (which I mention in the post) had been released. 

I’m working my way through these videos, and think it’s a really cool project. The point of yesterday’s piece, which has gotten a little lost in the shuffle, is that the District needs to wrestle with its role in this competitive system because it puts District schools at a disadvantage. People within the District are considering this, and these videos are evidence of that. Here’s one of my favorite videos (from the Cramer School) and I’ll make sure to highlight more of these throughout the next few months: 

Also, great to see the @CamdenSchools account promoting these videos: 

There was also some chatter about the screenshot and comment about Camden Community Charter’s Wawa gift card, which my fiancé Sue Altman kindly contributed. Here’s her comment: 

Example of the gift card game: Camden Community Charter offered $15 gift certificates to Wawa to attend an info session. (Promoted via sponsored Facebook post!) Camden Community Charter is run by a for-profit Charter Management Organization.

Since these charters are “public schools,” that means taxpayer money is going to fund some pretty tacky used-car-salesmanesque advertisements, that ultimately benefit a for-profit school management company.

Will district schools have to add “Advertising & Marketing” into their annual budgets in order to keep up with the Jonses?

(Fun fact: there are no Wawas in Camden!)

CCCS Wawa Gift CardAnd some of the twitter chatter about it: 

The post made the rounds in education circles of a few different political persuasions, and Laura Waters even wrote a response. Here’s an excerpt which makes a comparison to hospitals. It’s well worth going and reading the whole thing: 

Let’s start with the logic. What if we were talking about hospitals? Let’s say a city, poor or rich, has two hospitals but one of them has better patient outcomes that they’re not afraid to advertise  (after accounting, of course, for various factors like preexisting conditions and stuff.). So people in this city tend to go to the better hospital and this threatens the poorer-performing hospital. Would Danley argue that the hospital that more people die at should be propped up because the other hospital had a “thumb on the scale”?

Ah, says Steve (a very nice guy, by the way, who I met at a meeting in Camden), in this example you’re talking about two traditional hospitals. In my example I’m talking about traditional schools that exist solely within the district bureaucracy, as opposed to renaissance schools, which have one foot in the bureaucracy and one in the non-traditional sector. Apples and oranges.

Sorry, Steve. False dichotomy. Certainly, there are differences between traditional schools and renaissance schools. The latter, for example, have to build their own facilities (which you complain about because they’re nicer), can adjust calendars to suit student needs, and don’t have to hire unionized teachers and administrators. But remember that these hybrids must be approved by the local school board and accept all kids within the catchment areas. These are all public schools and, judging by the enrollment patterns that you’re so concerned with, parents don’t really care whether you call them traditional or hybrid or charter.

And finally, there’s been some increased attention to the ways these schools are evaluated, as evidenced in my colleague Julia Sass Rubin’s comment, excerpted here:

The Christie Administration’s Camden Superintendent and his team have attached labels to the local public schools on the Camden Enrollment page, with many labeled “under performing” or “needs improvement.”

There are no explanations for how those labels were determined and whether the criteria used were appropriate, fair or accurate.

The renaissance schools do not have labels, presumably because they are too new to be rated.

So, what parents see when they go to the selection page is public schools described as inadequate and renaissance charters with no information available about quality.

Hmmm. Even playing field?

I have a lot of thoughts about all of this, but again, the goal is dialogue. My thoughts will come later. What I’d love to see is more folks talking about this — it’s a critical issue, if a wonky one.



  • Dr. Danley, like my son told me one day, you are too nice. I understand, that in your position, you feel you have a duty to be as objective and open-minded as possible. That’s not a bad thing. However, when CCSD includes a few “good” district schools all polished up for picture taking in their videos, I call that slick marketing. See, we’re not biased toward charter/renaissance schools! Rubbish. Why don’t they put out videos about the underfunded, crumbling district schools that are being set up for failure so charter/ren schools can support the profiteers and overpaid executives-er-administrators.

  • The tortured hospital analogy by Laura Waters (a very nice lady, by the way, who I met at a meeting in Camden…) is a tough one to follow.

    So there’s a hypothetical hospital situation, followed by a hypothetical response by Steve, which warrants a hypothetical critique?


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