Feisty Forum on Newark School Reform

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An overflow crowd gathered at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Wednesday night to debate the dramatic efforts underway in the Newark school system which in many ways is a microcosm of New York City's, or at least a large section of it.

The event was charged with tension and emotion. Audience members regularly chimed in, sharing a range of views whether they were pro- or anti-charter schools, suspicious about data regarding student performance, or supportive of the new method in place to evaluate Newark's teachers.

WNYC Host Brian Lehrer asked Newark Mayor Cory Booker at the beginning of the forum why Booker supported a variety of school models: "Why, if you are going to create every school as an excellent school, why do you need a separate charter system?"

"The goal is to create a system of high-performing schools," Booker said. "Let's not focus on the type of school. Let's focus on student outcome."

Booker was joined by School Superintendent Cami Anderson, Mashea Ashton, chief executive of the Newark Charter School Fund, Erskine Glover, principal of Quitman Street School, Michael Dixon, a teacher at Ivy Hill Elementary School and a vice president of the teacher's union, and Sharon Smith, a parent activist and mother of four Newark public school students.

Here's the audio of the full forum: