Friday, September 4, 2015

This Is 8th Grade In Newark

Newark Public Schools have been under State control since July 1995. Twenty years. In that time, the citizens of Newark have had no say in what happens to their schools. They have watched their neighborhood schools close. They have watched as District money is funneled into charter schools. They have listened to the politicians in this state criticize the very District they are responsible for. Frankly, twenty years later, anything that is not working in Newark Public Schools is squarely on the State’s shoulders.

Have you ever wondered what a student’s schedule looks like? After all, New Jersey Department of Education is laser-focused on standardized test scores and being college and career ready. How does New Jersey translate that into the lives of the young citizens of Newark?

A Newark dad shared his child’s schedule. To my suburban friends, can you ever imagine your child bringing home a schedule that looks like this? Or a superintendent selling this to you? No? Me neither. This is outrageous.

ELA = English Language Arts. SS = Social Studies. It’s not possible to tell how often Social Studies will actually take place, but given that it’s not currently tested and used to condemn students, teachers, and schools, one would presume more time will be given to ELA. By the way, what the heck is a STEM class? In a 30-period week, they already have half devoted to STEM.

We hear a lot about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Really, we should be hearing more about STEAM (A = Arts), but I digress. Should any student be subjected to so narrow a curriculum? And in 8th grade no less!

Where are music? Chorus? Art class that’s more than one period a week? Languages? Gym that’s more than two periods a week?

College and career ready is all we hear about from the US Department of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education. They haven’t bothered to define what that is exactly, but from this schedule, for kids in Newark, it means ELA and Math to exclusion of all else that makes life interesting, worth living, and generally makes for a well-rounded person. 

Edit to add:
Well, this clearly struck a nerve. Here is the 8th grade schedule from a dad in a decidedly Sparkly District. This is what Newark students' schedules should look like.

Edit to add:
Link to Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post: An eighth-grade boy's 'outrageous' class schedule


  1. I am beyond angry, reading this. How can they do this to all of those children? How can anyone accept this as a legitimate education?

    Thank you so much for sharing that schedule. It was a real shock to see.

  2. Today we found out that the newly appointed Super, less-than-super, Chris Cerf, is rolling back another 15 million dollars in cuts. What will be cut now on the school level...Much needed after school programs, activities, clubs and sports. Smart right? Let's get more kids on the streets of Newark for longer hours.

  3. Unacceptable! This made my stomach turn and my blood boil in complete repulsion to what is happening to students in Newark and other districts throughout our Country. These students aren't even being given a chance to survive in today's world. Where did all that Facebook money go? Not to the children, that's for damn sure!!! Control needs to be taken back from the state!

  4. 8th grader in Marlboro, NJ. We are just as bad. This is from wealthy suburban school. Homeroom,1- Social Studies, 2- shared between Health, applied tech, art and computers, 3-Math, 4-written expression, 5-lunch, 6 is shared between spanish (other option was French we don't get Asian studies or other choices) and phys ed, 7- Literacy (yes they have dual English split), 8-Science. So at least you have STEM. By the way what happened to recess? We get gym alternated with fgn language as our gym.

  5. dear julie: as an high school graduate (even i'm finishing my university) i can consider, making a flashback, i would receive a better education looking at seven areas, not 13 as i did. the apporach showed, inisting in maths, language and science, not only aswers to conditions from the ocde, but it really agrees to the market's requirement, it wants young graduates with communication and alalitical skills. so, i can see the very complain from you is not about curriculum but public educational politics. your claim for gimnastics, music comes from an humanistic approach wich is valid, i think there rather be more options for parents and students, specially for students with these kind of fitness, but the quantity of areas i consider it right

  6. One thing that's missing from this discussion, as it does from nearly every similar discussion: What did the child want?

    When I was in 8th grade I attended a somewhat experimental school and from Monday through Thursday took three two-hour blocks: English, Math (50 minute lunch) Science. On Fridays I would work all day on a guided elective. One month was on the Supreme Court and school desegregation; another month was on Jack London's stories; and so on. I was on the soccer team after school and played an instrument on my own time (and did a month of Fridays on music theory to support that).

    All of which is to say, my schedule might have looked very limited to a lot of folks, but I loved those two hour blocks of time during which to focus on one subject.

    What does the child want to study?

  7. What the hell is "social studies?" When I was in 8th grade, it was "European History." Also French, Algebra, Biology, English, PE, Art, Geography. Math, "Science", etc. are recipes for boring content-free classes.