Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, was a teacher and principal at Central High School. Few elected officials in the nation understand education and students as he does.
In this article in The Hechinger Report, Baraka describes the daunting challenges that Newark’s children face. And he shows how schools can succeed in overcoming those challenges for large numbers of students.
In the nation, nearly a quarter of children live in poverty. In Newark, it is an appalling 44%.
Baraka shows how schools are building on the framework of a plan called the Newark Global Village School Zone. The framework was designed by NYU Prifessor Pedro Noguera, working with parents and communities in Newark.
“Creating successful schools is not a mystical process. It is grounded in research on best practices and is based on empirical data. Quitman Street School in Newark is an example of how aligning school improvement efforts with investments in health, social services, student supports, and community engagement equip schools with the level of school and community capacity required for success. All schools have challenges. Quitman Street School is no exception.
“However, Quitman’s steady progress toward transformation is linked to its strategic focus on weaving together resources from inside and outside the school and using those resources to build a responsive culture, integrate student supports and drive a focus on learning. In the spring of 2014, the school, led by Principal Erskine Glover, saw the highest reading gains in the district and the fourth highest in mathematics.”
“Prior to its designation as a Renew School in 2012, Quitman Street School was part of another school reform initiative called the Newark Global Village School Zone. Global Village was a reform strategy based upon an expanded conception of education that addresses the importance of academic skills and knowledge, as well as the development of the whole child. The Village brought social service agencies, community-based organizations, business, universities, and families together to build partnerships that supported the instructional and educational goals of schools in the Global Village network.
“Quitman Street School and Central High School, where I was principal, along with five other schools in Newark’s Central Ward, collaborated with New York University to develop the Global Village strategy from 2009 until the Renew strategy was implemented in 2012. Community partnerships, school-based professional development and collaboration, academic enrichment, extended learning time, and integration of student supports were core to our improvement plans. Developing these systems in the Global Village shifted the paradigm for school reform in our schools and established comprehensive and cohesive systems to help students bypass barriers and create opportunities for learning so they could thrive. Of course, the implementation of the Global strategy varied school by school. It is, however, safe to say that Quitman Street School embraced being part of the Global Village wholeheartedly so that by the time it became a Renew School a solid foundation on which to accelerate the school’s transformation had been established.”
Collaboration with parents and social service organizations; teamwork; respect for parents and students and teachers. Start there.