No more extended days for Newark’s struggling schools

Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter! We have news this week about the end of a program meant to improve low-performing schools and the new superintendent's message to students. If you haven't already, you can subscribe to Chalkbeat newsletters here.

Patrick Wall, Senior Reporter

The big story

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

In 2012, former Superintendent Cami Anderson and the Newark Teachers Union agreed to extend the hours at struggling schools. The extra time could be used for staff meetings, extracurricular activities, or longer classes. In exchange, teachers were paid an extra $3,000 per year.

But as often happens in education policy, things didn’t go quite as planned.

Some teachers complained that their schools squandered the extra time, and that administrators threatened to force them out if they did not agree to work the longer hours. Also, early data showed that student test scores didn’t improve in most of the extended-day schools.

Now, six years later, Superintendent Roger León has decided to end the school-improvement experiment. Low-performing schools will return to regular — shorter — hours.

“He came to the conclusion that we expected any true educator to reach: that the program was not working and was never going to work,” said the teachers union president, who praised the move.

Read the full story.

What to watch

Important things happening around Newark schools.

Superintendent León to students: Show up to school, get good grades, earn rewards.

  • What to know: León set out to motivate students during their first week back from summer break.
  • He visited several schools and asked all eighth through 12th graders to come see him at the Prudential Center.
  • One big message: Keep showing up. León is aiming for perfect attendance for every school — an improbable goal in a district that struggles with chronic absenteeism.
  • Another strategy: District-wide incentives for students who meet León’s high expectations.
  • He told ninth-graders they will be able to join a class trip to Florida their senior year if they maintain high grades, good behavior, and participate in extracurricular activities. However, they still will have to pay $800 for the trip.
  • One big question: Will the pep talks and prizes have any tangible effect on student outcomes this year?

Newark news

A roundup of the past week’s local education reporting.

Back to school…

  • Superintendent León and Mayor Ras Baraka visited schools they formerly attended or taught at on the first day of school, where they emphasized their goal of improving attendance. Chalkbeat, Patch
  • In a speech to students, León promised to be the “children’s superintendent.” Chalkbeat

Selling the reforms…

  • As Sen. Cory Booker weighs a run for president, he’s hoping to change the narrative about the dramatic education changes he oversaw in Newark. The 74 article and interview

Attempted assault…

  • Newark police are searching for a man they say forced a 16-year-old girl into the back seat of a vehicle on the first day of school. NJ.com

Rotten ranking…

  • A new analysis deemed Newark as the worst city to raise a family in the U.S. NJ.com

News from Trenton

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

Apprentices wanted…

  • A new report calls for more more career-training programs across the state that target students beginning in middle school. NJ Spotlight

Exit exams…

  • Op-ed: A New Jersey superintendent makes a case against the exit exams that students must pass in order to earn diplomas. NJ Spotlight

Extra credit

Want to showcase your school or an upcoming education event? Send me photos and details.