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A Response to “Correcting the Facts about the One Newark Plan: A Strategic Approach To 100 Excellent Schools”

Full report here: Weber.Baker.OneNewarkResponsewithexecsum

Mark Weber & Bruce Baker

Summary

This brief is a response to the Newark Public Schools rebuttal of our analysis of the district’s schools restructuring plan, One Newark. In this response, we find:

  • The consequences of the One Newark plan are racially disparate, creating a possible legal challenge for both the families of students and staff. NPS, however, has not acknowledged this part of our analysis.
  • NPS uses scale scores from state tests, averaged across grade levels, in their rebuttal. We find these measures to be seriously flawed, and certainly no better than the measures we used in our initial report.
  • Even using these flawed measures, we still find the classifications of schools under One Newark to be arbitrary and capricious when accounting for student population characteristics.
  • Even when using scale scores, we find no evidence that the student population of Newark will do better under schools run by charter management organizations. Further, the patterns of student cohort attrition in some charter schools and other behaviors lead us to question the validity of One Newark’s charter takeover strategy.
  • The statistical models used by NPS in their rebuttal are fundamentally flawed: specifically, the author(s) did not account for collinearity within the NPS model, biasing the results towards NPS’s favored position.

Introduction

On March 11, 2014, the Newark Public Schools (NPS) released a response to our policy brief of January 24, 2014: “An Empirical Critique of One Newark.”[1] Our brief examined the One Newark plan, a proposal by NPS to close, “renew,” or turn over to charter management organizations (CMOs) many of the district’s schools. Our brief reached the following conclusions:

  •  Measures of academic performance are not significant predictors of the classifications assigned to NPS schools by the district, when controlling for student population characteristics.
  • Schools assigned the consequential classifications have substantively and statistically significantly greater shares of low income and black students.
  • Further, facilities utilization is also not a predictor of assigned classifications, though utilization rates are somewhat lower for those schools slated for charter takeover.
  • Proposed charter takeovers cannot be justified on the assumption that charters will yield better outcomes with those same children. This is because the charters in question do not currently serve similar children. Rather they serve less needy children and when adjusting school aggregate performance measures for the children they serve, they achieve no better current outcomes on average than the schools they are slated to take over.
  • Schools slated for charter takeover or closure specifically serve higher shares of black children than do schools facing no consequential classification. Schools classified under “renew” status serve higher shares of low‐income children.

In its response[2], NPS questions both our methodology and our data sources. We are pleased to engage NPS in a thoughtful dialogue about One Newark; however, their rebuttal unfortunately confirms many of our conclusions about the plan, and refuses to even acknowledge many of our critiques.

Rather than answer NPS’s criticisms point-by-point, we take this opportunity to focus on the larger issues NPS raises about our brief, addressing specific arguments within the body of this response. It is our intention here to further the dialogue about One Newark in the hopes that NPS will move toward a position of transparency and engagement with stakeholders, both in and out of Newark.

Conclusions

We are pleased that “An Empirical Critique of One Newark” has generated a response from the Newark Public Schools administration. We have watched over the last few months as the topic of the One Newark plan has generated strong reactions from stakeholders both in and out of Newark. Given the changes that One Newark will bring – changes that even NPS agrees are profound and far-reaching – a measured, careful analysis of the rationale and consequences of these changes is clearly necessary.

Our conclusions are informed by public data using standard statistical methods. We labor to make our results replicable and understandable: we believe it is a testament to our work that NPS was able to respond to “An Empirical Critique” without any questions as to why we reached the conclusions that we did, even if they disagreed with those conclusions.

We believe it is time for NPS to make a similar commitment to transparency in their own formulations of policy. Despite their protestations, we are still no closer to understanding how NPS classified particular schools than we were before. We still do not know NPS’s rationale for why three particular schools are being taken over by two particular CMOs. We still do not know why staff at particular schools face an employment consequence while staff at other schools do not. We don’t know why NPS proposes to divest particular facilities to particular parties.

Backwards-engineering a rationale for One Newark does not contribute to transparency. Using flawed measures like averaged scale scores does not increase stakeholders’ faith in NPS’s ability to justify its plan. Engaging in poor statistical practice does not lead to confidence in NPS’s judgments. And failing to fulfill legal obligations to release data in a timely manner does not encourage a candid exchange of views.

We agree that the educational outcomes of Newark’s students are not acceptable, and that change is needed in the lives of Newark’s deserving children. Whether that change can come solely, or even primarily, through the policies of a state-run school district is an open question. We heartily agree, however, that school policies certainly matter, and Newark should constantly strive to make its schools better, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems whose solutions lie outside the purview of the public schools.

But no change can come unless and until an open dialogue about education takes place in front of a well-informed public, where all stakeholders have access to the inner working of the mechanisms that generate policies. If our briefs have compelled NPS to begin to engage in this dialogue, we will consider our time analyzing One Newark to have been well spent.

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“One Newark’s” Racially Disparate Impact on Teachers

PDF of Policy Brief: Weber.Baker.Oluwole.Staffing.Report_3_10_2014_FINAL

As with our previous One Newark policy brief, this one is too long and complex to post in full as a blog. Below are the executive summary and conclusions and policy recommendations. We encourage you to read the full report at the link above.

Executive Summary

In December of 2013, State Superintendent Cami Anderson introduced a district-wide restructuring plan for the Newark Public Schools (NPS). In our last brief on “One Newark,” we analyzed the consequences for students; we found that, when controlling for student population characteristics, academic performance was not a significant predictor of the classifications assigned to schools by NPS. This results in consequences for schools and their students that are arbitrary and capricious; in addition, we found those consequences disproportionately affected black and low-income students. We also found little evidence that the interventions planned under One Newark – including takeovers of schools by charter management organizations – would lead to better student outcomes.

In this brief, we continue our examination of One Newark by analyzing its impact on NPS’s teaching staff. We find the following:

  • There is a historical context of racial discrimination against black teachers in the United States, and “choice” systems of education have previously been found to disproportionately affect the employment of these teachers. One Newark appears to continue this tradition.
  • There are significant differences in race, gender, and experience in the characteristics of NPS staff and the staff of Newark’s charter schools.
  • NPS’s black teachers are far more likely to teach black students; consequently, these black teachers are more likely to face an employment consequence as black students are more likely to attend schools sanctioned under One Newark.
  • Black and Hispanic teachers are more likely to teach at schools targeted by NJDOE for interventions – the “tougher” school assignments.
  • The schools NPS’s black and Hispanic teachers are assigned to lag behind white teachers’ schools in proficiency measures on average; however, these schools show more comparable results in “growth,” the state’s preferred measure for school and teacher accountability.
  • Because the demographics of teachers in Newark’s charter sector differ from NPS teacher demographics, turning over schools to charter management operators may result in an overall Newark teacher corps that is more white and less experienced.

These findings are a cause for concern: to the extent that the One Newark plan disproportionately affects teachers of one race versus another, the plan may be vulnerable to legal challenge under civil rights laws.

Conclusions and Policy Implications

In our previous brief, we found that the One Newark plan imposed consequences on schools and their students that were arbitrary and capricious. We found little evidence to support the claim of NPS that One Newark would improve student outcomes, and we found that the students who would see their schools closed, turned over to CMOs, or “renewed” were more likely to be black and/or suffering from economic disadvantage.

In this brief, we turn our attention to the effects of One Newark on NPS staff. We find patterns of racial bias in the consequences to staff similar to those we found in the consequences to students, largely because the racial profiles of students and staff within the NPS schools are correlated. In other words: Newark’s black teachers tend to teach the district’s black students; therefore, because One Newark disproportionately affects those black students, black teachers are more likely to face an employment consequence.

NPS’s black teachers are also more likely to have positions in the schools that are designated by the state as needing interventions – the more challenging school assignments. The schools of NPS black teachers consequently lag in proficiency rates, but not in student growth. We do not know the dynamics that lead to more black teachers being assigned to these schools; qualitative research on this question is likely needed to understand this phenomenon.

One Newark will turn management of more NPS schools over to charter management organizations. In our previous brief, we questioned the logic of this strategy, as these CMOs currently run schools that do not teach students with similar characteristics to NPS’s neighborhood schools. Evidence suggests these charters would not achieve any better outcomes with this different student population.

This brief adds a new consideration to the shift from traditional public schools to charters: if the CMOs maintain their current teaching corps’ profile in an expansion, Newark’s teachers are likely to become more white and less experienced overall. Given the importance of teacher experience, particular in the first few years of work, Newark’s students would likely face a decline in teacher quality as more students enroll in charters.

The potential change in the racial composition of the Newark teaching corps under One Newark – to a staff that has a smaller proportion of teachers of color – would occur within a historical context of established patterns of discrimination against black teachers. “Choice” plans in education have previously been found to disproportionately impact the employment of black teachers; One Newark continues in this tradition. NPS may be vulnerable to a disparate impact legal challenge on the grounds that black teachers will disproportionately face employment consequences under a plan that arbitrarily targets their schools.

The Opportunity Costs of Teacher Evaluation: A Labor and Equity Analysis of the TEACHNJ Legislation

Policy Brief: DougLarkin&JosephOluwole-OpportunityCostPolicyBrief

Dr. Douglas Larkin
Dept. of Secondary & Special Education
Montclair State University
Dr. Joseph O. Oluwole,
Dept. of Counseling and Educational
Leadership, Montclair State University

Executive Summary

In 2012, the New Jersey State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act. This brief examines the following questions about the impact of this law:

  • What is the effect of intensifying the teacher evaluation process on the time necessary for administrators to conduct observations in accordance with the new teacher evaluation regulations in New Jersey?
  • In what ways do the demands of the new teacher evaluation system impact various types of school districts, and does this impact ameliorate or magnify existing inequities?

We find the following:

On average, the minimum amount of time dedicated solely to classroom observations will increase by over 35%. It is likely that the other time requirements for compliance with the new evaluation system, such as pre- and post-conferences, observation write-ups, and scheduling will increase correspondingly.

The new evaluation system is highly sensitive to existing faculty-to-administrator ratios, and a tremendous range of these ratios exists in New Jersey school districts across all operating types, sizes, and District Factor Groups. There is clear evidence that a greater burden is placed on districts with high faculty-to-administrator ratios by the TEACHNJ observation regulations. There is a weak correlation between per-pupil expenditures and faculty-to-administrator ratios.

The change in administrative workload will increase more in districts with a greater proportion of tenured teachers because of the additional time required for observations of this group under the new law.

The increased burden the TEACHNJ Act imposes on administrators’ time in some districts may compromise their ability to thoroughly and properly evaluate their teachers. In districts where there are not adequate resources to ensure administrators have enough time to conduct evaluations, there is an increased likelihood of substantive due process concerns in personnel decisions such as the denial or termination of tenure.