Newark Public Schools Opens the School Year by “Celebrating Student Success”

Highlighting Unprecedented Gains in Graduation Rates, Releasing Student Achievement Data in Renew Schools, and Celebrating Increased Enrollment in Early Childhood

September 3 – On the first day of school, Newark Public Schools celebrates student success. Over the past 3 years, NPS has increased graduation rates, improved academic performance in its Renew Schools, and added quality seats in early childhood education.  Since 2011, NPS has:

  • Grown early childhood enrollment by 1,000 students and won a $7M Head Start grant (only the 2nd district in the U.S.)
  • Shown significant student achievement gains in 2013-14 at Renew Schools in Reading and Math, even as state tests have gotten harder
  • Increased the HSPA graduation rate by 11% and overall graduation rate from 56% to 68%, while retaining more students in school; the number of graduates has increased by 7% and 500 fewer students have dropped out

“Too often, discussions about education turn to personalities and politics.  Today, we celebrate what really matters: student success,” said Superintendent Cami Anderson.  “You demanded more from your Newark Public Schools, and we listened.  For years, Newark families sought greater choice, better schools, and a focus on student achievement, so we responded with urgency. System change is hard but it’s necessary to get results and to make sure that kids are ready to succeed in college and careers.”

Extensive community engagement and outreach have resulted in higher rates of student enrollment in free, universal early childhood than at any point in Newark’s history.  “Year after year, we have seen that when students come to Kindergarten ready to learn and able to read, they are much more likely to succeed in school and in life,” said Rashon Hasan, chair of the Newark School Advisory Board and father of a new Pre-K student who will benefit from early childhood learning. “The increase in enrollment along with the Head Start grant will provide all Newark students – my son included – the opportunity to enter the race for greatness just as prepared, productive and confident as their peers in other districts.”

Newark Public Schools announced the formation of “Renew Schools” in the Spring of 2012 which included Camden Street, Chancellor Avenue, Cleveland, Peshine, Quitman Street, Sussex Avenue, and Thirteenth Avenue.  The goal of each Renew School is to effect dramatic gains in student outcomes by concentrating on five ingredients for success – (1) a clear mission and vision, (2) a transformational school leader, (3) teachers who were hand-picked according to quality and fit for the school, (4) resources and facilities to support students, and (5) engaged families who feel a part of the school transformation.  With more time for students to learn and teachers to collaborate, the Renew Schools are showing unprecedented growth.

In the 2013-2014 school year, Renew Schools made noteworthy strides toward improving test scores and advancing college readiness.

  • The overwhelming majority of Renew Schools increased their scores in both the math and language arts portions of the New Jersey Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (NJ ASK)
  • The average NJ ASK math score increased for every grade level tested
  • Renew schools constitute ¼ of NPS schools showing improvement in both math and language arts literacy
  • Nearly all Renew Schools saw increases in the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks in math, science and English

“We have worked hard to make sure we have great people in our Renew Schools.” said Peter Turnamian, Assistant Superintendent.  “The release of our student achievement data proves our principals’ and teachers’ hard work and perseverance is putting their schools on track to achieving a successful turnaround in our first cohort of Renew schools.”

“When the Renew Schools were announced several years ago, I was skeptical because this school has been failing for so long,” said Camden parent Raheem Coleman.  “But, this school has completely changed for the better.  Students are happy and focused.  Parents are welcomed.  We are always at the school.  There is a sense of hope and focus.  I never thought Camden Street could feel this way.  We are all proud.”

“I want Peshine to be a school where I would put my own kids,” said Peshine Principal Chaleeta Barnes.  “We want this school to be great and our team is committed to achieve excellence for the kids and families that we serve every day.”

NPS Teacher Joanne Rutherford-Pastras also credited the Renew School effort with creating a sense of focus and urgency.  “The extra time to plan and collaborate is invaluable.  At Renew Schools, we work harder but it is worth it,” said Rutherford-Pastras.  “I am growing as a teacher because I am pushed by my colleagues and administrators.  I am also seeing my students excel.  It is exciting to be part of something this important.”

For several years, NPS has increased diversity at magnet schools, providing students with disabilities and struggling learners with access to excellent schools.  Magnets outperformed all schools in assisting struggling students in achieving academically while also supporting its high-performing learners.

“It is false to think you have to choose between supporting students who struggle and challenging those students who are academically ahead,” said Robert Smith Gregory, Principal of American History High School.  “At American History, we have seen an increase in our graduation rates, in the number of students passing AP exams, and in the number of struggling middle schoolers who are doing well.  I have never seen our district so focused on moving all learners.  We are excited to celebrate our success today.”