Resident Perceptions of Public Education in Newark: A Community Survey
Over the last six months, Newark has been at the center of debates about urban educational reform in New Jersey and nationally. Since 1995, New Jersey‘s education authorities have operated the Newark school district, the state‘s largest. The district was taken over because of poor student achievement and fiscal and operational problems. Sixteen years later, the Newark school district is still under state control.
In September 2010, Mark Zuckerberg made a historic $100 million gift to Newark for educational improvement. Mayor Cory Booker undertook to raise matching funds. Shortly thereafter, two non-profit organizations were established to receive and disburse those funds: Startup Education for the original Zuckerberg gift and Foundation for Newark‘s Future for the matching funds.
In October 2010, Mayor Booker created the Partnership for Education in Newark (PENewark) to implement a large-scale community engagement project focused on the community‘s perceptions and beliefs about the state of public education in the city. The project includes the community‘s views on how to improve public education.
PENewark developed its strategy for community engagement through a series of meetings with community stakeholders including the Mayor and Shavar Jeffries, former chair of the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board. Local research universities known to be independent and non-partisan also assisted.
The strategy involved a four-step process. The first step consisted of a short-form survey (short survey) designed by PENewark, which was to be distributed to every household in Newark, mainly through door-to-door canvassing. The second step consisted of forty community forums sponsored by PENewark and organized around various important educational issues on which community residents were asked to weigh in. In December 2010, the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University (Metro Center) and the Newark Schools Research Collaborative (NSRC) at Rutgers University- Newark signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PENewark to conduct the third and fourth steps of the strategy. The third step consisted of a longer-form survey (long survey) developed and distributed by Metro Center and NSRC. Finally, Metro Center and NSRC were commissioned to compile and evaluate the results of this multi-step community engagement process and issue a report for public dissemination.
This report summarizes the perceptions and beliefs of Newark residents—and recommends that they become one part of the complex data that will inform the direction of educational reform in the city. As the state, city, and a new NPS superintendent move forward with educational reform plans, we believe the results reported here suggest that state and city political leaders provide the type of leadership resulting in more consensus and less conflict. Despite the differences among stakeholders, our report demonstrates that they all, at the end of the day, want the same thing—to provide an excellent education for all the children of Newark.
A full copy of the report is avaliable at: HERE. Appendix A and Appendix B.