Newark Public Schools Open for the 2017-18 School Year

Superintendent Cerf and Mayor Baraka share plans to build on recent progress and work with community members to move Newark schools forward


[Newark, NJ — September 5, 2017] – Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher D. Cerf, Mayor Ras J. Baraka, and other Newark leaders officially opened the 2017-18 school year at Technology High School. Technology is one of Newark’s highest performing schools, where academic gains in recent years have outpaced statewide averages, serving as one example of the academic progress the District looks to build on in the upcoming school year. The Superintendent and Mayor cited this academic improvement, as well as increased community partnership and collaboration, as core examples of why the city is prepared to assume local control of district schools.

“We are excited to kick off another successful year for Newark students, and to build on recent progress,” said Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools (NPS). “Thanks to the hard work of our school leaders, educators, and community members, Newark’s schools are as prepared as they have ever been to serve the students walking through their doors this morning.”

The district opens schools this year during a fall season that many in Newark hope will result in the return of full local control to the Newark Public School district. State control is determined using an evaluative process called QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum), which rates districts across five domains. Newark has already regained control of 3 of the 5 domains, and was provided with updated scores in the remaining two areas (Governance and Instruction and Program) this July. These exemplary results are anticipated to pave the way for full local control later this fall.

“The return to local control of Newark schools, combined with the good news about academic achievement, makes this a first day of school that parents, students, teachers and our entire community can celebrate,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka.

A major contributor to the District’s readiness for local control can be found in its improvement in academics.

  • Preliminary 16-17 PARCC results show that Newark Public Schools students once again made significant gains in both ELA and Math, with NPS’s growth exceeding the state in both subjects.
  • NPS has improved on the state student growth measure (SGP), with students growing in reading faster than their peers across the state in 15-16 (most recent data available).

Newark has also seen consistent improvement in graduation rates.

  • 73.5% of students graduated in the 15-16 year, and this figure is expected to rise to around 77% for the 2016-17 school year when data is finalized by the state later this fall. This number was at 54% when the state took over in the 1995, and had only moved to about 60% as recently as 2011 (an independent audit put the figure at 57%).
  • The 2016-17 graduating class also saw more Newark students matriculating to the country’s most competitive colleges than previous years, with students receiving full scholarships to places like Harvard, Princeton, Rutgers, and other elite schools.

Many other studies and research have reinforced the progress being made in Newark.

  • According to a study by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Newark parents have access to a higher percentage of schools that “Beat the Odds” than in any urban school district in the country.
  • When measured against comparable districts over the last 5 years, Newark’s proficiency has gone from the 41st percentile to the 75th in Math, and from the 44th to the 78th in English.
  • An analysis shows that twice as many African American children are attending schools that beat the state average compared with 2011.
  • A study by the American Institute for Research showed that Newark is also retaining more of its best teachers, more than 95% of those who are most effective, while retaining just 63% of its least effective.

“The progress you see is a tribute to the great educators and school leaders we have here in Newark, and the many students in our community who are taking advantage of the opportunities provided” added Robert Gregory, Deputy Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. “Having worked in this district for 20 years, I’m excited to build on the recent improvements Newark has made during this school year and for many years to come.”

The district has been working diligently over the summer to prepare for a successful school opening. Principals and select members of school leadership teams participated in the Principal Leadership Institute (PLI) throughout August. As a result of getting PARCC results earlier than ever before, NPS was able to share this data with them at this training, in advance of the school year for the first time, and use it to identify specific areas for improvement.

In addition, professional development was also held for all Newark teachers. Those who work for schools on an extended school year schedule (approximately 50% of educators) were in sessions from August 21 through 25, while all other educators reported back to school on August 28 for professional development throughout the week before school. This was the first time all educators in Newark have ever had a full week to prepare for the school year, due to a provision in the newly renegotiated teacher’s contract.

Lastly, the district assembled its Successful School Opening Team for the sixth straight year to ensure that schools are staffed, facilities are ready, and all schedules are prepared for students on day one. A few highlights of this work include:

  • Schools are staffed at higher levels on the first day than at any time in recent history, with approximately 99% of positions hired.
  • Nearly $5 million in major facilities projects and revitalization work has been undertaken throughout the summer including on-going lead remediation that will place water back online.

“We are excited about the 2017 – 2018 school year,” added school board chair Marques Aquil Lewis. “We are ready for our teachers to start shaping the minds of our students, and ready for our students to get back to learning in our classrooms so that together we can build a better future for our children and community.”