On August 29, 2017 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the opening of the M.E.T.S. Charter School in Newark. M.E.T.S., which stands for Mathematics, Engineering, Technology and Science (a spin-off of the more popular S.T.E.M. acronym). M.E.T.S. also operates a school in Jersey City.
Yesterday it was reported the school would close its doors in June 2018. Students currently enrolled as juniors and seniors will finish the rest of the year, while freshmen and sophomores will be sent back to their neighborhood schools. Less than eight weeks after its doors open with the pomp and circumstance that often follow the highly unpopular governor, the doors will close leaving half the 250-student body without a plan.
This is not the first time these M.E.T.S. students have been displaced. In March, three Newark charter schools — Newark Prep Charter School, Paulo Freire Charter School and Merit Prep Charter School — were on probation for academic problems. After a school performance review, the NJ Department of Education closed the schools. District officials said 110 of the 140 students in grades 10-12 at M.E.T.S. came from the three closed charter schools — Newark Prep, Paulo Freire or Merit Prep (NJ.com).
In a letter sent home to parents, the Board of Trustees cited their reason, “The M.E.T.S. Newark campus cannot in good conscience say that it is currently equipped to provide the highest level of education to the number of students currently enrolled. High school is such a vital time in a young person’s life, and it would be a detriment to our students to not find a truly appropriate placement for them.”
While no specific details have been provided as to exactly why the school is closing, one report noted, Earlier this month, a 15-year-old student was found with a loaded 9MM handgun at the school. The boy was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in an educational institution (NJ.com).
The letter to parents also stated that M.E.T.S. teachers and administrators were working to ensure a smooth transition. This is a complete disruption of learning to at least half the students, who now go back to their neighborhood school likely behind their public school classmates because of this disruption. They were allowed to open in August and then realized a few weeks into the school year that they were going to fail. I’m wondering how long it took to realize weren’t going to make it. In New Jersey as in so many other states, there is no oversight, or accountability to charters. M.E.T.S. got the blessings of the governor to open and seven weeks later there’s a conscience? Irresponsible.
The most hypocritical part of the letter to parents, “We remain committed to our 12th graders and want to ensure you that they will receive an outstanding educational opportunity through the end of this school year that will allow you to graduate from M.E.T.S.” (TapIntoNewark). If your child was a senior, would you trust that?
During Christie’s term as Governor, the number of charter schools has increased from 60 to 89. The website of the Office of the Governor heralded the charter’s opening:
LEGACY OF UNPARALLELED CHARTER SCHOOL GROWTH: Demonstrating his strong commitment to investing in innovative charter schools that outperform and exceed expectations at every level, Governor Christie today helped cut the ribbon for the new M.E.T.S. Charter School high school in Newark, one of 89 charter schools operating in New Jersey this school year.
Further, the website boasts:
EXPANDING CHARTER SCHOOLS TO PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION TO UNDER-SERVED STUDENTS: Five new schools – two of which are in Newark — are opening this year, approved by the NJ Department of Education after meeting a rigorous, multi-stage approval process. The review process is in place to ensure the school has the structures in place to ensure academic success, equitability, financial viability and organizational soundness.
Christie described charter schools, as “salvation for families” especially those in urban districts. He has set goals for expanding charter school enrollment and proposed a charter school deregulation plan currently pending before the state Board of Education (NJ.com).
Camden Community Charter School, which was slated to have its charter renewed this year was denied because of poor academic performance. (NJ.com). Why have 20 charter schools closed in NJ? Because they were failing. The amount of money taken away from public schools to (partially) fund charter schools has a direct impact on the public school’s ability to do the job of educating students. Every student who walks away from the public school to a charter school takes with him the per pupil spending money. Why are charters allowed to experiment with schools and children? Because the governor lets them. Children should not be part of a social experiment.
Christie wants less accountability and oversight for charters, and to lower the certification standards required for teachers and administrators, at the same time so many charters continue to show their inability to meet the basic academic needs of students in New Jersey who need the most help (NJ.com).
These are my reflections for today.
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