Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg made headlines last September when he announced a $100 million pledge to improve the Newark, N.J. school system. Newark, whose schools have been under state control since 1995, has some of the lowest test scores and graduation rates in the state.
Recognizing the historic nature of the pledge, and wanting to engage the public in a discussion on how best to improve that city’s schools, community leaders formed the Partnership for Education in Newark (PENewark), a nonprofit group that has been gathering public input about Newark’s schools.
The group recently hired the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at NYU’s Steinhardt School and the Newark Schools Research Collaborative at Rutgers University to design and implement a survey that will reach a representative sample of 1,500 residents about their perceptions of Newark’sschools. A $1 million grant to PENewark is supporting work that includes the survey project that will be used to help the state decide how best to use Zuckerberg’s gift.
Edward Fergus, deputy director of the Metro Center, explained that the center’s existing work in Newark made itan attractive collaborator to PENewark. Since 2009, the Metro Center has been engaged with state, city, and local leaders in Newark to help reform the public school system, a project called the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA). Working with seven schools in Newark’s Central Ward, the Metro Center team, led by Executive Director and Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education Pedro Noguera, has been engaged in strategic planning and data analysis to support the five pillars of BBA — high quality educational reforms, early childhood education, social service provision, community engagement, and economic development.
Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; Edward Fergus, NYU.