A newly formed coalition of parents, teachers and civil rights activists called the Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools is undertaking its own survey. Teams of volunteers are visiting every school in the district, asking principals and assistant principals how quickly maintenance repairs are performed, whether students have enough textbooks and other supplies, whether teachers are teaching outside their areas of expertise and whether there are enough social workers.
TheNation.com recently did an exposé on an exceptional Newark teacher named Lenore Furman:
When Lenore Furman teaches, it looks like magic.
Her seventeen kindergarteners at Abington Avenue, a public elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, are rapt as they sing along with Furman’s guitar in English and Spanish, read aloud in unison a paragraph on the change of seasons from fall to winter and learn a list of difficult vocabulary words related to animal hibernation: burrow, perch, trudge and slither. The children gather in a circle to share stories about their lives, then work independently to write them down in full sentences.
CLI’s results are especially exciting in light of the latest research on reading and the achievement gap, showing that a child who finishes third grade reading below grade level has little chance of ever catching up to his or her peers and a disproportionate chance of dropping out of high school. To reach the rest of Newark’s kindergarten through third-grade classrooms in thirty-six schools, though, CLI will need more funding. Former New Jersey legislator and assistant commissioner of education Gordon MacInnes, now a fellow at the Century Foundation, believes scaling up CLI would be an excellent use of the much-hyped $100 million five-year donation to the Newark schools from Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder of Facebook and thirty-fifth richest person in America.
“I would tend to say, Why don’t we use this money to make sure that every third grader in Newark can read?” MacInnes says. “If every third grader can read, there’s a chance they can go on to be educated in science, history and mathematics.”