Debating Newark School Reform

Thursday on the Brian Lehrer Show

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The crowd and panel at a community forum on education in Newark, New Jersey, moderated by WNYC's Brian Lehrer. (William Neumann Photography)

Wednesday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Brian moderated a community forum on school reform issues in Newark and throughout the state of New Jersey. On today's show, hear analysis of the conversation from New Jersey Public Radio's Nancy Solomon and John Mooney of NJ Spotlight, plus highlights from the forum, including:

Full Audio of "Which Way NJ: School Reform in Newark

William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
"Which Way NJ: School Reform in Newark" forum at NJPAC
William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
The crowd at "Which Way NJ: School Reform in Newark" forum at NJPAC
William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography

The panel at "Which Way NJ: School Reform in Newark." From Left to Right: Superintendent Cami Anderson; Principal Erskine Glover; teacher Michael Dixon; parent activist Sharon Smith; CEO of Newark Charter School Fund Mashea Ashton; Newark Mayor Cory Booker

William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography/William Neumann Photography
William Neumann Photography


Cory Booker, John Mooney and Nancy Solomon

Comments [24]

lizzy from Newark

Principal Glover failed to mention that 5 teachers left mid year because of the issues with working with him. He did not listen to his teachers, he talked down to them and if a question was asked he would talk to you as though you are an idiot. Glover also says he was a great teacher, but every professional dev day he was so boring many times we were just told to read articles and comment.

Aug. 21 2013 07:32 PM
rh from nyc area

Near NYC, "conversate" is rather common to hear; probably more likely to hear than "converse" because people just say "talk" or "discuss". It is in Merriam-Webster as a dialectical or non-standard form: and a comparison might be "orientate" from "orientation," the former of which is commonly used in the UK.

Here is a discussion on the word (warning, there is some explicit language used in the article):

Apr. 24 2013 05:40 PM
AnneNJ from NJ

Please consider a show on the public misconceptions that still plague charter schools. Liberals still refuse to agree with Booker's view that "one type of school doesn't fit all." As a member of the parent community of a suburban charter school in Morristown, we see the chronic misunderstandings that range from taxpayers all the way up to the DOE. Our sustainability-missioned, positive-discipline K-8 school (so popular that it draws from six counties) was recently categorized by the NJDOE as "100% Special Ed." No one is willing to hear from parents and what made them choose charters: these parents may be a minority, but we are progressive, committed to our children's education, and doing the necessary, tiring daily work to get our children to school.

Mar. 23 2013 11:16 AM
Concern Student from Newark

I am a student of NPS. The main issues with this interview were circumlocution from Superintendent Anderson and Mayor Booker and lack of interest for student's wishes and demands. Throughout the interview, Anderson and Booker gave vague, empty responses to the questions regarding what the Zuckerberg donations are used for and teachers' feelings and concerns about contracts. Moreover, the elephant in the room was "Why is NPS still under state control, rather than local control, after passing the QSAC." The questions were totally avoided by Booker and Anderson; in addition, when NPS students expressed their freedom of speech in a united, clear chant, they were kicked out. The purpose of educators and education is to serve the students, education is the not a game of politics or economics. I urge you all to support the Newark Students Union (NSU). You can contact us at @NewarkStudents

Mar. 22 2013 10:59 PM
Connie from Trenton / Ithaca

I attended the session on Wednesday night, too, and the comment that most blew me away was by Cami Anderson. Here she is the CEO of Newark's schools and an advocate of charters, and she stated, per my notes, that she "did not study the CREDO report very carefully." This report. from Stanford University, was commented on all over the state when it came out earlier this year. Chief finding (don't have in front of me to cite specifically) -- less that 20 % of charters in NJ achieve better test scores than other public schools. More interesting -- and I would think valuable to her efforts -- would be to read Bruce Baker's analysis of the report and what it said about the Newark schools that charters drew from. Booker, Ashton, and Anderson all talked about finding middle ground -- and it would seem to me that carefully analyzing that report would be essential to her doing her job. (Baker is a statistician at Rutgers who blogs at School Finance 101).

Mar. 22 2013 10:14 AM

They are playing "gotcha' in all the Newark Public Schools. and the schools where Cami Anderson trained the Principals.

Mar. 21 2013 09:12 PM
Julia from Princeton, NJ


The use of the word conversate was your take away from this event?

Have none of your ever used an inappropriate word?

I find this focus on one word in the Principal's speech to be incredibly condescending and racist. And, I am white.

I attended last night's event and here's what I heard: passionate, intelligent individuals, including the incredible Newark high school students and other members of the audience, who are concerned about equity and social justice for all of our children.

Mar. 21 2013 02:57 PM
Joe Nazaro from Kearny

The students disruptive demonstration in the middle of a serious meeting shuts many down to what they have to say regardless of the content. It is hard to take a bunch of kids throwing a tantrum in the middle of a serious meeting seriously.

Mar. 21 2013 12:49 PM

Why is it whenever the conversation is about schools and school performance the parents and students are never held accountable? I taught for a short while in elementary school in New York City and teachers are heroes 3/4 of the teacher’s time is spent in discipline. The biggest change I see in the school system is the breakdown in behavior. There is no respect for the teacher, the principle or the parents by the students and by the system. Charter schools that do well, have the ability to expel unruly students, not poor performing students but unruly students and have good contact and rapport with the parents. The elephant in the room are the parents and their parenting skills. Schools should have parenting classes beginning when the child enters school. (Maybe not call it parenting class to not offend and to attact all parents but every parent should go through an orientation period so they will know what to expect and what is expected of them). New York City schools offer an enormous opportunity but the system is being failed by those who don't use it properly.

Mar. 21 2013 12:18 PM
Susan from Morningside Hts.

I checked the website Mayor Booker mentioned, and here are what the Foundation funds:

Key Priorities

The Foundation for Newark’s Future invests in six areas of impact:

• Early Childhood Education

• At-Risk and Out-of-School Youth

• Community Engagement

• Common Core Standards

• Teacher Quality and Principal Leadership

• High Quality School Options

Note that the last three are basic components of the Ed Reform movement. "Community Engagement" was being fostered under Pedro Noguera, but his input and organization has now been removed from Newark. Why? Because the Ed Reform Movement does not really want community engagement or "local control" as the student at the end was asking about.

This funding, along with Race to the Top (RTTT) and School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding are all "self-funding" mechanisms for the Corporate Reform movement. That is, they fund measures that foster their own goals, and nothing else. Not only that, but the costs to districts for carrying out these measures far exceeds the funding received (See the report at That is how and why school districts and their schools are being starved and diminished by these reforms.

Mar. 21 2013 12:08 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Curfews for school age children and their parents/guardians.

Eliminate rap/hip hop music.

Eliminate gangs.

Eliminate guns.

Eliminate drugs.

Mar. 21 2013 11:56 AM
John from Washington Heights

@ Mark from Newark--Sorry but using "conversate" isn't a slight mistake when it comes out of the mouth of an educator. To even bring the word up means it must be part of his regular vocabulary. And this isn't nitpicking. Think about it. This man walks around his school hallways representing "success" to impressionable minds. They hear him use "conversate" and think it's a perfectly fine word. Then at some point--be it college admissions or, more tragically, a job interview for something beyond flipping burgers, they bust out the word "conversate" and that interviewer internally shuts down and thanks them for their time and never calls them back. Proper grammar usage and using ACTUAL words still means something in the professional world. You don't get high paying, white collar jobs when you say "conversate".

Mar. 21 2013 11:52 AM

@ john from office-

Racist much?

Mar. 21 2013 11:50 AM
Alan from Brooklyn, NY

I've heard people talk with the inspiration that Mr. Glover exhibits before. I was hired by someone who sounded just like him when I began teaching at a
new turnaround high school in Baltimore 5 years ago. Today, I'm in New York, no longer teaching. The man who hired me is no longer the principal, and neither is his successor. I find it interesting that Mr. Glover said that being a principal is the most important job in the world, vs. being a teacher, because I think that the job of a principal should be to serve his teachers, doing whatever he/she can to enable them.

The issue is simply that we are not providing nearly the resources to address the actual issues that exist. I don't care how energetic a person is, if your school is truly serving the most challenging demographic, the only sustainable approach is to try to reach the kids you can, because if you truly believe that providing an excellent education to every student NOW is absolutely imperative, you WILL burn out. Maybe there are people out there who can handle the job, but there are not enough of them to teach every kid. We need to structure our schools in such a way that teacher can succeed in their jobs with sustainable effort. Anything else is doomed.

Mar. 21 2013 11:46 AM
john from office


Mar. 21 2013 11:45 AM
Olivier from Da Bronx

I wish my wife could be available to comment in lieu of me.

She is an ELL teacher in the southeast BX.

She is surrounded by, granted nice and well meaning but mostly resultant of Teach for America and other such programs. So they are cheap for administrators, union unaware and willing, able and eager to go above and beyond what is required of them. Either because no family life or inability to say no and stand ground.

Her school Adlai Stevenson has been segmented into 8 units. Meaning a redundancy of administrators that would not be tolerated in the private sector.

Schools should serve the majority of its students. New schools lack the upperclassmen and women to teach(slap) some sense in the kids. I understand the want to shelter the kids from their own predatory, cruel nature. I am a pacifist and communist at heart but human nature is worse than i am willing to accept.

Gangs are magnate schools of their own.....

Mar. 21 2013 11:42 AM
Riichard from Levittown

I hesitate to add my voice to this very familiar conversation, but I felel compelled. As a person who has spent his professional life around public and private schools (administrator, teacher, college professor) this topic of school change usually ends in overlooking the complexity of a massive and complex human enterprise. At 83 years old I thought I would just listen and not comment, unfortunately I took the risk- Discussions such as these often have impact only on the "image of school life" not on the actual operation and implementation at the building and district levels. I have been involved in many "school change" programs, funding and research efforts, and actual teaching and implementation of "new" thrusts. Basic principles of how "change" actually takes place must begin with clearly stated principles, or theoretical frameworks that are based on research studies conducted with precision and expert design. The human and organization complexity of "school change" are based on many decades of careful and scientific findings. Discussions such as the one in Newark will probably "vent" for the individuals, but "real" change must be based on strong foundations of reseaarch and field studies completed over many decades.

Mar. 21 2013 11:41 AM
john from office

This segments shows why African Americans will never escape poverty and being poorly educated. The parents don't parent, they destroy any effort to help and their administrations are always corupt. Look at New Orleans, Detroit etc.

Mar. 21 2013 11:41 AM

"No good deed goes unpunished?" Where is the oversight to make sure that a good deed is dpne?

The $$ were put up, but if the public schools are de-funded to support charter schools, that's NOT a good deed.

Mar. 21 2013 11:36 AM
Mark from Newark

Everybody makes mistakes. Principal Glover was very passionate and inspiring. More principals should be like him. Mayor Booker mentioned student nutrition briefly. Is there anything being done to increase nutritional awareness and availability in Newark or elsewhere?

Mar. 21 2013 11:36 AM
Joe from nearby

1) Booker 'forgot' to mention how private companies are profiting off our public school tax funds.
Curious, isn't it.

2) Do Special Ed teachers get rated the same way as mainstream teachers?
If so, that's completely unfair.

Mar. 21 2013 11:29 AM
John from Washington Heights

Did Principal Glover on the panel use the term "conversate" ?!?! How do you expect to teach children (or judge those that do) when you can't even use the language correctly? And no, I'm not a teacher or a parent of a school age kid, just an observer.

Mar. 21 2013 11:21 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ Robert: I was just about to post the same thing. The correct word is "converse." If we let our school principals and educators get away with using nonwords, we might as well not send our children to school.

Mar. 21 2013 11:20 AM
Robert from Manhattan

Urban Dictionary: conversate conversate A word used by backwards, ignorant, illiterate inner city trash who mean to say 'converse'. "Yo, I just needs to conversate witcha!"

Mar. 21 2013 11:18 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.