While we would all love a silver bullet that could radically transform a city’s public schools for the better, gradual, systemic approaches that get widespread buy-in are what really positively transform schools. A recent New York Times op-ed by David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, looks at how this truth has played out in two different cities in New Jersey.
Public schools in Union City and Newark have both faced many challenges in recent decades—from improving low graduation rates to helping large numbers of English language learners master a new language. The paths to educational improvement the cities have taken, however, are very different—and so are the outcomes.
Newark made headlines in 2010 when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg invested $100 million in the city’s public schools. The city had big plans, but the hurry-up, top-down style leaders employed did not ultimately help students.
Kirp writes, “Today Union City, which opted for homegrown gradualism, is regarded as a poster child for good urban education. Newark, despite huge infusions of money and outside talent, has struggled by comparison. In 2014, Union City’s graduation rate was 81 percent, exceeding the national average; Newark’s was 69 percent.”