Earlier this year, after noticing that someone with a Senate email was looking at my LinkedIn page, I received an invitation from Sen. Cory Booker’s press secretary to talk about new research showing enormous progress in Newark schools, which he attributed to reforms implemented when Booker was mayor. I gathered up copies of the studies and drafted a few questions for a short January interview with a busy senator.
Rather than a quick question-and-answer session, the senator talked for nearly 90 minutes about his high-profile efforts to turn around Newark’s failing schools with a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and its spectacular rollout on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show. He spoke about why he decided to tackle education reform and the difficult politics around reforming urban schools.
Frustrated by the negative coverage of the city that came out of Dale Russakoff’s 2015 book The Prize, he said Newark’s rising English and math test scores in grades 3-8, a shrinking achievement gap, and improved graduation rates — up nearly 20 percentage points since 2010 — prove that Newark’s reform efforts were very much a success.
He said he hoped these studies would help turn around the persistent negative narrative.
8 thoughts on “Cory Booker Speaks Out About Newark School Reform.”
Interesting work. I had read all the negative coverage but any of the positive studies you refer to at the end. I liked your piece–truly fair and balanced! Thanks!
You are really good at writing these articles, and I think I read a lot of the genre.
I think that there’s a certain kind of elite (Booker, Obama, Vance, . . . ) who believe so strongly in the institutions that catapulted them to success that they think that with just some simple tweaks, the same ideas will work for everyone. I myself am guilty of this frame. It allows us to avoid the difficult questions and maintain the rules that gave us our own status. I fear that the Booker/Zuckerberg/Newark example, in spite of a more nuanced reading of the success, is one of the examples of trying to fix problems without really changing anything that Anand Giridharadas has been commenting on (while promoting the book Winner Takes it All): https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/08/anand-giridharadas-on-his-book-winners-take-all-and-the-farce-of-elites-claiming-to-make-the-world-a-better-place.html.
I think it’s hard to fix education, and I also think that it’s wrong to imagine that fixing education will fix all the problems. It’s a trap that winners in the meritocracy fall into.
Finally, the top-secret interview comes out! Very cool.
Booker is on the news right now. I went down to Newark twice last spring. That last article was based on the first interview, which lasted 90 minutes and yielded 24 single spaced pages. The second interview was a walking tour of Newark and a trip back to his apartment, which lasted two and a half hours. I haven’t transcribed that interview yet. Think I should?
Yes. But don’t try to save it for a slow news day. I’m not sure any of us will see that again.
Yes, or have someone do it for you.
Oh, definitely. I don’t know where you publish long-form journalism today, but it seems like a perfect New York Times Magazine, he’s-about-to-announce-his-candidacy kind of piece.
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