Report Sets Goals for Newark to Regain Control of Schools

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -

A report released Monday spelled out what New Jersey’s largest city must do to regain control of its school district from the state for the first time since the 1990s.

The report was issued by the Newark Education Success Board, a panel created a year ago by the city and the state. It said Newark has earned control in three of five key areas — personnel, fiscal management and operations management — but must show continued progress in governance and instruction/program.

If a state review at the end of the upcoming school year “determines that the district has maintained its progress in those two areas, and if the state evaluates that adequate programs, policies and personnel are in place, it is expected that governance will be returned for the 2017–18 school year,” the report concluded.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, a former high school principal who made the return of local schools control one of his primary campaign pledges in 2014, called it “another giant step toward the day when the people of Newark regain control of our schools.”

The state took over Newark’s school district in the mid-1990s, citing years of mismanagement, chronically low test scores and crumbling infrastructure. The district serves approximately 40,000 students.

Monday’s report listed more than 100 recommendations. Among broader goals, it urged the city to focus on changing the “idea of low expectations, assigning of blame” and the belief the schools are incapable of ensuring students’ academic success.

It also emphasized inclusiveness and combating unconscious bias against students of different backgrounds.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million donation to Newark’s schools about six years ago, when current Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker was mayor. The goal was to make the struggling city a national model.

Advocates see success in the fact that many more students are in charter schools. But critics have said that has come at the expense of public schools, which educate most of the city’s children.