#FeedbackFriday – Do we need more student activists?

Today we ask the question – do we need more student activists? In case you haven’t heard, a group of students called the Newark Students Union, are actively staging a peaceful protest at the offices of Cami Anderson (Newark’s Superintendent of Schools). According to the group’s Facebook page, the students are protesting the policies of the school district and are simply looking for a seat at the table with regards to their own educations.

Newark Student Union

Newark Student Union

“We the students of the NPS, in order to establish and protect or rights, form student unity, voice our concerns and grievances, promote active participation in the policy making process, and to secure the integrity of our education for ourselves and for future students do establish the Newark Students Union.”

– Newark Students Union’s Mission Statement

What interests us at edu|FOCUS is the sheer determination and perseverance of this small but very vocal group. Reminiscent of student groups from the 60’s they represent a struggle for everything that is wrong with our education system as a whole; all reasons why The Franklin Foundation for Innovation was started in the first place. But these are students, not parents, fighting for their own futures and the right to receive an excellent education devoid of standardized testing pressures and declines in the availability of key arts, sports, and extra curricular activities. In an age where millions are spent on testing, and very little on things that engage students and keep them interested in school, their protest is both timely and relevant.

Visibly missing from the protest have been parents – who are seemingly taking a back seat in the struggle. A large number of teachers, however, are supporting the movement providing moral and logistical support to the students. As of this writing, the school district’s superintendent, Cami Anderson, has yet to even address the protesters which is not odd when you take into account the fact that students do not vote. So the question for #FeedbackFriday is this – do we need more student activists if we expect to truly reform education? Do our children, who’s futures hang in the balance with every new law past and every new test developed, have to take the reigns themselves or should parents step up and take the lead through every channel available? Do you agree with the movement or not?

By the way – visit the group’s Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter @NewarkStudents for more information.

Please share with the community and let’s have a healthy debate about student activism.

Joanna Walls
Joanna Walls
joanna.walls@franklinfound.org

<p>Joanna Walls a mother to a young son. She believes in the importance of early childhood education and access to a quality education for children regardless of their socioeconomic status. </p> <p>A graduate of Bryn Mawr University and Capella University where she received her Masters Degree in Business Administration, Joanna has spent her career helping others. She worked as a social worker in some of Philadelphia’s most depressed neighborhood before transitioning into Human Resources.</p>

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  • North Jersey Reader

    1. Many of the #Occupy NPS teens attend Science Park HS, a magnet school.
    2. Do Franklin Fdtn folks attend NJ Science convention? Oct 13, 14 are 2015 dates at Princeton Marriott Forrestal. They might welcome proposals for staff development sessions. Website says info will be up ~Mar 1.

  • Gayle

    These kids are right to protest but it will only have an impact if hundreds of teachers and parents get out there with them. All this and nothing has happened really.

  • NewarkMom

    She makes $250 a year plus like a $50K bonus and for what? She doesn’t even go to school board meetings! She is a joke and needs to go!

  • North Jersey Reader

    The NSU students are protesting much more than test-driven ed. The One Newark plan has decimated neighborhood schools; universal enrollment is unreasonable (NPS refuses to disclose algorithm); superintendent sold a closed school at below market value to charter leaders w. whom she had ties prior to coming to Newark.

    If state-appointed Superintendent Anderson had attended the Advisory Board meeting Tuesday night (the last she attended was Jan 2014, a year ago) the students wouldn’t have felt need to sit in. Anderson could have met them 48 hours earlier than she finally did Fri AM (great decision-making by $251K leader).

    Google Cami Anderson’s 3-17-14 Huffington Post essay, “Reflections of a Lifelong Activist.” She relates her college activism to get “three new boats” and plane tickets to crew races for Berkeley’s women’s team under Title IX.
    But Barringer HS didn’t have enough desks for students by Oct ’14.

    • Endre Walls

      Never knew any of that information. Why was she state appointed in the first place? Any links to her resume or qualifications?

      • North Jersey Reader

        Ms Walls, Read Bob Braun’s Ledger and Jersey Jazzman blogs. They’re both great reads. Also School Finance 101 by Dr Bruce Baker, prof Rutgers GSEd.

        There are currently a US Dept Ed investigation & NJ state lawsuit re discrimination/One Newark plan.

        Newark public schools were taken over in ’95 because financial funny stuff (cars & trips for board members) & low student performance. Governor appoints superintendent.

        Anderson, a Berkeley grad, did 2 yrs w. Teach for America, got Harvard MPP. Worked for TFA NYC office or New Leaders New Schools? then NYC District 79 (alternative schools), where she closed the schools hat had on-site day care for teen mothers. She had taken work leave to work on a Cory Booker campaign. Christopher Cerf was acting commissioner educ NJ (may have known Cami from his time w. J Klein) when she was named.

        Nov ’14 Anderson was scheduled speaker at AEI in DC. When she arrived she learned that a number of Newark students and Communities United adults had registered (she won’t go to Newark Advisory Board meetings, so they took a bus to DC to be heard during the scheduled Q&A time). CA refused to speak; AEI declared a “security breach.” Rick Hess later videotaped her without an audience.

      • North Jersey Reader

        Read also The New Yorker article “Schooled” by Dale Russakoff May 19, 2014 issue. Detailed look at Booker bringing Zuckerberg matching donation to NPS, how $ spent to date.

  • Don P.

    These kids need to go back to school and stop protesting. They’re trespassing on school property and should probably be arrested anyway. The whole occupy thing makes zero sense and its teaching kids to be lazy and expect people to do things for them. The schools are a mess, but sleeping in the school office isn’t gonna change squat.

    • Endre Walls

      So the real question in my mind is – why do some folks believe that students shouldn’t have a say in the process that educates them? Especially older students. I get that they’re young and “inexperienced” but can we not trust them to tell us what’s working and what’s not from their own perspective? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to really use to evaluate teachers – how well they manage their classrooms and individual student needs and outcomes? We can agree tests don’t get us to that goal can’t we?