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Newark Clergy address disastrous 'One Newark' School 'reform'

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When we talk about the negative effects of the school reformers on the education system, and when teachers and parents alike gather together to discuss resistance and generate understanding of the very real threat, we often feel isolated in our own bubble, discouraged by the lack of grassroots outcry. Certainly recent events stemming from the latest round of Testing, revealing the insidious dominance of a largely misunderstood and misapplied (by publishers – i.e. commercial for-profit) version of the Common Core State Standards, have led to an emergence of hope. People are apparently less afraid to speak out than they were in the past – perhaps due to the new administration, and certainly the result of mounting evidence from experts, the schools, and the children themselves of widespread ineffectiveness, if not actual abuse.

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Enter Chalkbeat, a daily summary of education topics to which everyone might wish to subscribe:

Tucked away in the list of links, Valerie Straus reports in the Washington Post that support is coming from a new and stunning source – 77 members of the Clergy of Newark NJ.

Let me pause for that to sink in. Newark Clergy warning:

77 separate congregations from the actual communities of Newark currently subjected to one of the most thorough and extreme versions of school reform under Gov. Christie’s appointee Cami Anderson have penned a letter provided in the article linked here, denouncing the complete lack of community involvement. Straus writes:

“And now 77 members of the Newark clergy just sent a letter (see below) to Christie and the acting state education superintendent, David Hespe, saying that Anderson had made nothing less than a mess of her reform efforts and asking that the governor step in. The statement says starkly that the level of anger over the plan has grown to levels that have left clergy members concerned about the community’s future.”

Read the letter in its entirety, but the summary conclusion bears special focus:

It is with great humility and concern for our future that we submit this plea for consideration and compromise. As members of the clergy in this great city it is our earnest prayer that peace and harmony will prevail and that every child in Newark will experience a brighter future.”

One of the remarkable features of working for three years in Newark was observing the almost 100% teacher turnover each year in elementary schools under "One Newark" mandates. The lack of continuity has terrible effects on children and the school communities. Given the high levels of stress already faced by the children, the disappearance of familiar faces and teachers who know and love them is emotionally devastating. See the slide show for an inside look. Another feature is noticing the number of Houses of Worship of every denomination and size throughout every street and neighborhood. Their Pastors must have been hearing some serious commentary locally to rise to this kind of condemnation. People talk to their Pastors, they share their fears for their children and their sense of being totally marginalized and excluded. But the specter of some kind of organized action is not without precedent in this impoverished city. Gov. Christie might want to take this letter very seriously indeed.