The complicated implications of alleging school segregation
As charter school defends demographics, stats show similar divide in other Hoboken schools
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
May 11, 2014 | 5051 views | 35 35 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print

As local parents wait to find out whether the state Dept. of Education will allow a local charter school to expand by two grades, complaints from the local school board that the city’s charter schools are creating segregation may call attention to a similar situation in the district’s own public schools.

Last November, the superintendent of the Hoboken public school district, Dr. Mark Toback, wrote a letter to the then-commissioner of the New Jersey Dept. of Education, Christopher Cerf, asking Cerf to carefully consider whether a local charter school should be allowed to add a seventh and eighth grade.

His main argument was that as the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School – or HoLa – grows, it will put too great a financial burden on the local public schools. But his other argument, which has caused significant controversy since Toback’s letter became public, was that HoLa, the newest of three charter schools in the city, was (albeit unintentionally) causing racial and socioeconomic segregation in Hoboken’s schools.
_____________
Why is one of the elementary schools less diverse than the rest?
____________
“The most important thing that the Dept. of Education (DOE) can do now is hold the charter schools accountable for enrollment requirements,” Toback wrote in November. “It seems hard to believe that 40 years after the civil rights movement that I would be writing about the need to integrate public schools.”

Despite Toback’s pleas, the state approved HoLa’s expansion in March. In response, the Board of Education, which supported Toback’s original letter in November, filed a petition in April with the state Department of Education to have the charter renewal, and the expansion, revoked. The board also hired an attorney for $20,000 to deal with the matter.

The HoLa community – parents of 220 students in kindergarten through sixth grade – has reacted angrily to the board’s approach, and tensions between the board and HoLa have run high. This past March, Board President Leon Gold, in an interview with the online magazine Salon, claimed that HoLa and the other charters were fostering “white flight” from Hoboken’s public schools.

“We are creating separate but equal school systems,” he said. “HoLa has now become an alternative, in my opinion, white flight school…”

The state DOE is legally required to study the possible segregative effects a charter may have on its wider community, so Toback’s request is not out of line.

But are the comments about HoLa being segregated accurate? And what if the other public schools – the ones under the Board of Education’s control – also vary along racial and ethnic lines?

The stats

Gold’s claim that the local charters foster “white flight” can be backed up by statistics. A 2010 survey from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) showed that HoLa was 61 percent white, 26 percent Hispanic, and 7 percent African-American. The city’s other charters, one of whom educates Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s children, have similar breakdowns. These statistics are in line with the makeup of Hoboken, but not with the public schools, who serve a population that is approximately 61 percent Hispanic, 20 percent white, and 16 percent African American.

Charter supporters have argued that the schools operate a random lottery for students, and that these schools have reached out to all segments of the community.

But it appears that charter schools are not the only places where segregation may exist.

One of these schools is not like the others

In Hoboken’s three public primary schools – Calabro Elementary, Connors Elementary, and Wallace Elementary – statistics show a student body starkly divided along racial and socioeconomic lines.

Statistics from the state DOE show that Connors School, which is located closest to the Hoboken Housing Authority projects and is attended by many of the economically disadvantaged Hispanic and African-American students in town, has roughly eight times fewer white students than Calabro and Wallace, and 20 percent more African-Americans. Students at Connors are also about 33 percent more likely to receive free lunch, a typical measure of a student’s socioeconomic status, than students at Calabro and Wallace.

And though roughly 60 percent of students at Wallace and Calabro achieve math and reading proficiency at their grade level, Connors students are doing as well. In 2012-13, only 28 percent and 43 percent of Connors students proved to be at grade level in reading and math, respectively.

‘Intensely segregated’

Neither Toback nor Gold has said that this is a clear-cut case of segregation. Defining segregation is complicated, and it can be measured using markers other than race and socioeconomic status, Toback said.

“Something to keep in mind is that there are socioeconomic and racial differences, but there are a lot of ways to slice and dice these things, and there are many ways to look at this,” said Toback in an interview on Thursday.

Furthermore, the Hoboken school district, despite running on a neighborhood school system, does not require students to attend their neighborhood school. When registering to enter the school system, parents are allowed to list their first, second, and third choices. First choices are granted more often than not, said Toback.

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) describes schools with fewer than 10 percent white students as “intensely segregated.” According to USDOE data, 43 percent of Hispanic students and 38 percent of African-American students in the country attend such schools.

Connors is 63 percent Hispanic and 32 percent African-American. Only 3.9 percent of its students are white.

Gary Orfield, a professor of education at the UCLA Civil Rights Project, a group that studies the effects of race and class in public schools, recently offered a sobering indictment of diversity in today’s public school system to neaToday, the official magazine of the National Education Association.

“What we’ve seen over the past two decades is a slow but steady increase in the isolation of Black and Latino students. It’s not just an issue of race. There is ‘double segregation’ of race and poverty,” said Orfield. “Few people want to address these issues, but we must talk about the value of diversity and the success of stable, integrated communities so we can start to reverse these dismal trends in our schools.”

Toback said he is aware of the demographics of Hoboken’s elementary schools and acknowledged that Connors’ lack of diversity, while unintentional, is less than desirable.

“We know there’s an issue,” he said. “It’s not like this is something that’s unknown to us or the community, and we’ve tried to figure out how to improve it in the past. This is not a new thing for us.”

But does it need to be forcibly changed? In fact, Toback tried to do so three years ago.

The Princeton Plan

In his first year as Hoboken superintendent, Toback floated the idea of overhauling the way the public school district divides students into its various available school facilities. Rather than having neighborhood schools, Toback suggested a switch to the Princeton Plan.

In 1948, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court would rule school segregation unconstitutional in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the Board of Education in Princeton, N.J., decided to divide students not by neighborhood, race, or class, but by grade level. Early childhood students attended school in one building, elementary school children in another, middle school in a third, and high school in a fourth. The system is currently used in various Hudson County districts, including Weehawken, Union City, and West New York.

“The issue was that we didn’t have a lot of connection between each of the school communities. So the idea was that we could bring all the schools together to strengthen the community through the Princeton Plan. It’s used to create equitable demographics throughout a district,” Toback said. “Based on the facilities we have, the idea was to have Calabro and Brandt as early childhood schools, Wallace would accommodate first through fifth grades, and Connors would be a middle school.”

Under Toback’s proposal, Hoboken Junior-Senior High School, which houses seventh and eighth graders, would have remained ninth through twelfth grades only.

But the plan was shot down before it ever came to a Board of Education vote. Parents were concerned about transportation – why should an uptown parent of a preschooler have to walk half a mile to Calabro?

Toback said that the circumstances simply would not have allowed the Princeton Plan to succeed.

“We don’t have a centrally located campus, we have neighborhood schools. We didn’t have the means to transport kids at the time,” he said.

How do parents choose?

So if one of Hoboken’s three elementary schools, Connors, performs as poorly as it does on state standardized tests, why do parents send their kids there? The main reason is that it’s in the neighborhood. Despite the city’s mile-square size, shuffling around young children can be tough, especially in bad weather with no car.

“While we don’t have geographic boundaries that compel students to attend a certain school, the students who go to Connors are students who want to go there,” said Toback. “The convenience of a neighborhood school doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong being done to segregate people.”

So why are there so few white students at Connors? Even if the Housing Authority projects are located just two blocks from the school, and most of the children who live there are minorities, there are also a significant number of white families who live in the area, which includes some of the city’s most expensive condominiums.

A Caucasian mother of HoLa students who lives near Connors, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, said it’s an open secret in the neighborhood that Connors is the worst of Hoboken’s three elementary schools. And she also said that most mothers, especially those who belong to an online forum called “Hoboken Moms,” are aware of how to rig the registration process to avoid their children being sent to Connors.

“You just say on the form that you need aftercare,” she said. “Connors doesn’t have aftercare, but Calabro and [Brandt and] Wallace do.”

The mother also said that she only knows of one case where a parent who requested to have her child placed outside of Connors was denied the option. That woman, who lives in the Hoboken Housing Authority projects, is convinced that her address was the only factor that worked against her. But Toback said that the registration forms are processed fairly and thoroughly. The default option, if no special requests are made, is to place students in their neighborhood school.

“We look at other issues like location; we work to balance classrooms by gender, but we do ask for a preference and when we do, we ask parents to explain [their preference],” said Toback. “Connors is the only school we have in the southern part of town, and so the children there come from that neighborhood. That’s the closest school to the Housing Authority.”

Toback also said that he does not believe that there is a perception among parents that the elementary schools are segregated.

The mother of three said that some parents are turned off by the school’s test scores – thus, their reasons for preferring Wallace or Calabro are not based on race or class. But however innocent the intentions, the situation can create a dangerous cycle, and not just in Hoboken.

According to neaToday, “When a school becomes segregated by income and race, it’s difficult to break that cycle. Concentrations of poor or minority students – and often, poor and minority go hand-in-hand – combined with low school performance drive middle-class families away, further distilling the concentration and exacerbating its effects.”

But what about HoLa?

So, was it unfair of Toback – who is superintendent of the public schools but has no jurisdiction over the charters, which are overseen by their boards of trustees – to argue that HoLa’s expansion is having segregative effects on the Hoboken community?

The superintendent said that although diversity in the public schools is largely outside the district’s control, the state is legally required to monitor any segregative effects within the charters.

“This is a nationwide issue and there have been many concerns expressed regarding charter school enrollment,” he said. “They enroll a different demographic than the demographic in the normal public schools. But there’s a very different enrollment in our charter schools, and the enrollment has changed over time. The question is, is the situation getting better or getting worse?”

In fact, there are statistics that support Toback’s claims. According to figures compiled by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), a non-profit, pro-charter advocacy group, the demographics of Hoboken’s charter school population are in stark contrast with state averages. Most charters are designed to give disadvantaged students an alternative to failing public schools, and so their populations are such that the majority of students are Hispanic or African-American.

According to NAPCS figures for the 2010-11 school year, New Jersey charter schools are attended by 61 percent African-American students, 25 percent Hispanic students, and only 10 percent white students. But in Hoboken, where most minority students attend the public schools, the charter school demographics are nearly inverted from state averages – 59 percent of students are white, 25 percent are Hispanic, and only nine percent are African-American.

The contrast, according to Barbara Martinez, the president of HoLa’s board of trustees who works for a pro-charter think tank in New York City, is due to Hoboken’s population overall, and is not indicative of a plot to segregate the schools.

“I think you can’t really compare Hoboken to the state average because most charters in New Jersey are in places like Newark and Camden where the majority of the population is black or Hispanic,” she said. “That’s not the case in Hoboken.”

The city’s other two charter schools, Elysian Charter and the Hoboken Charter School, were started in the mid-1990s to provide families with alternatives to the existing public schools, which had a poor reputation at the time. Groups of “reform” politicians have come and gone on the school board, with the current group, Kids First, supporting Toback’s move against HoLa and touting improvements they say they have made in the public schools.

Several years ago, a group of educators in Hoboken attempted to start a science and math charter school, the Da Vinci School, but the Board of Education took a stand against it, claiming too many resources would be taken from the other public schools.

According to Board of Education figures, HoLa’s expansion to sixth grade, reflected in the 2013-14 budget, will cost the district $575,000 – but both sides of the debate have argued over the meaning of this number and whether federal or state aid covers it.

Toback said regardless of the motives, apparent segregation in the charter schools warrants a comprehensive study by the state.

“There’s a requirement for the commissioner to look at the segregative effect. No one has ever said HoLa has systematically found a way to rig their system to create a certain demographic in their school,” he said. “What we are saying is that there is an issue of de facto segregation. Whatever process there is now is leading to a result that we think the Department of Education should look at.”

Gold did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

Comments
(35)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
truthmeter
|
May 15, 2014
So far nobody has addressed my question as to why a universal lottery would successfully make the district schools any less segregated. It doesn't address the segregation within the district and it doesn't address any of the reasons why so many not poor families are choosing not to send their kids to district schools even if they don't get in to charters.

If Dr. Gold is correct and they are fleeing the district (or choosing Wallace or Calabro) because of "white flight" its hard to see how this revised lottery system would change anything.

Perhaps the reason the district wants to "integrate" the charters has nothing to do with addressing a segregatory effect. Perhaps it lies somewhere else entirely.

Families are not engaging in "white flight." They are engaging in "bad test score flight." Dr. Toback has made it clear that he believes the test score disparity between charters and the district is entirely the result of differences in demographic mix not school quality. If true, then adding more economically disadvantaged kids to charters will drive down the charters' test scores making it clear to all that the charters are not actually any better than the district schools.

The economically disadvantaged kids who will attend charters as a result of lottery changes will not actually benefit at all since the charters are not really any better than the district schools but the charter fraud (as the school board and Dr. Toback see it) will finally be exposed for all to see.

Of course if people agree that changing the charter lotteries in a way that will make charters more diverse is a good thing, then they may be able to find common ground whether they think that because they believe charters are great or want to prove they are overrated.

But I still haven't seen a persuasive case made for how such a change will address the only (non-funding)issue involved that is legitimately the concern of the district which is the purported segregative effect of charters on the district.



n_larusso@yahoo.com
|
May 17, 2014
The answer to your question, in my opinion, is that a universal lottery ALONE will NOT make the Hoboken schools less segregated. But increasing the number of seats in the charter schools ALONG with universal lottery would both increase opportunities for people to access the schools that are in highest demand while making that access more equitable. And, if people were given the facts about school performance at the time they chose which school to enroll in, they would likely make different choices. I suspect that some of the people choosing Connors other schools -- which would disperse some of Connor's current minority, lower income population to other publically funded schools. Short of that, I think there is no way to make the schools less segregated, save instituting the "Princeton Plan" as Toback had contemplated earlier.

Also, you bring up a very good point in questioning how performance metrics might change if a more representative sample of students attended the Charter schools. I agree that this is a good question -- but you presume to know the answer -- "charter fraud", i think you call it. I think its time we start to test this -- see if there has been real value to the Charter School educational experiment by raising the level of difficultly on the Charter Schools -- level the playing field a bit between the Charters and the HBOE schools to see how the Charter's alternative curricula and administrative structures really are. We might find that some or all of the differential goes away, but we might not. In fact, to assume we would not is to assume that there is no better option for our kids than what the HBOE offers - and I think that is a foolish assumption. We cannot know how much better the Charters really are unless we force them to educate a more random sample of the student population.

And, if it turns out that the charters do a better job of educating our local kids than do the HBOE, shouldn't we reallocate resources to increase spots at the charters? It's hard to see a reason not to.

iron1c
|
May 18, 2014
I believe HCS has a high school that serves similar demographics as HBOE.
truthmeter
|
May 15, 2014
There are really two separate questions here. First would the Charter schools provide a better educational experience for their students by adding diversity through changes in their lottery systems. This is an issue for the Charter schools (and the State regulators who must approve) to decide for themselves.

The only appropriate role district officials have in these discussions

relates to the effect the charters have on their district. This means that district officials should be explaining how any "solution" they propose will help their district get less segregated, not how it will make charters more diverse since the latter is simply none of their business.

It's not obvious to me why increasing the percentage of poorer students in charters, something I strongly support) will make the district schools either less segregated or better. It may well result in the opposite effect by "creaming off" better students from poorer families while many of the not poor families who as a result do not get in to the charters choose not to send their kids to the district because rightly or wrongly they are put off by low test score performance. In addition,if those that do choose the district schools attend Wallace or Calabro the segregation within the district would actually intensify.
n_larusso@yahoo.com
|
May 15, 2014
This post brings up the biggest issue at play here, which is the mismatch between authority and interest that is inherent in the current system. By design, the Charter Schools are pitted against the HBOE, and it obscures the fact that these are all publically funded schools. As such, decisions about resource allocation (including admission and the number of seats) should be deciding looking at the population as a whole. Right now, the money available for publically funded education in Hoboken is NOT allocated in a way that best responds to the needs and demands of the local population within the taxing jurisdiction. If it did, there would be more seats in the Charters, where demand is high, and fewer seats in the HBOE schools. The notion of separate "school districts" is a bit baffling -- it reflects governance and labor issues, but doesn't really reflect the true basis of the public education system -- which is that tax revenues from the local community go to support the education of children within that community -- ALL of the children, regardless of race or income. It is the state's and municipality's obligation to provide a seat for every child in the jurisdiction -- but in Hoboken, kids are only guaranteed a seat in one of the HBOE schools, and not it the Charters. And the scarcity of the Charter Schools seats means that how we allocate them is very important to the fairness and success of the entire system.

Making access to the Charter School lottery universal ALONE will probably not solve the problem of "segregation" in the HBOE schools. I think the entire process of school choice needs to be redone. First, take a survey today of families with kids in pre-K 4, entering Kindergarten next year, an ask them to rank their preferences among all of the publically funded schools in Hoboken -- Charters and HBOE. Accompany that survey with a set of facts about each school -- description of the facilities, student performance by school, overview of curriculum, services offered on site (special ed, after care), and also include a map showing the location of each school -- so that people could make an informed decision about which combination of performance, services, and convenience best match their needs and desires. Then, base the allocation of resources to match the preferences -- whether charter or HBOE. If this were to result in a concentration of poor, minority-students in Connors -- then I think we could all agree that this concentration was the result of choice, and not of circumstance. But, unless all students have the same "choices" and the system is set up to match the supply of seats in a given school with the expressed demand of the community, we will continue to fall short of providing each child with fair access to the best education available in the current publically funded system.

n_larusso@yahoo.com
|
May 15, 2014
This post brings up the biggest issue at play here, which is the mismatch between authority and interest that is inherent in the current system. By design, the Charter Schools are pitted against the HBOE, and it obscures the fact that these are all publically funded schools. As such, decisions about resource allocation (including admission and the number of seats) should be deciding looking at the population as a whole. Right now, the money available for publically funded education in Hoboken is NOT allocated in a way that best responds to the needs and demands of the local population within the taxing jurisdiction. If it did, there would be more seats in the Charters, where demand is high, and fewer seats in the HBOE schools. The notion of separate "school districts" is a bit baffling -- it reflects governance and labor issues, but doesn't really reflect the true basis of the public education system -- which is that tax revenues from the local community go to support the education of children within that community -- ALL of the children, regardless of race or income. It is the state's and municipality's obligation to provide a seat for every child in the jurisdiction -- but in Hoboken, kids are only guaranteed a seat in one of the HBOE schools, and not it the Charters. And the scarcity of the Charter Schools seats means that how we allocate them is very important to the fairness and success of the entire system.

Making access to the Charter School lottery universal ALONE will probably not solve the problem of "segregation" in the HBOE schools. I think the entire process of school choice needs to be redone. First, take a survey today of families with kids in pre-K 4, entering Kindergarten next year, an ask them to rank their preferences among all of the publically funded schools in Hoboken -- Charters and HBOE. Accompany that survey with a set of facts about each school -- description of the facilities, student performance by school, overview of curriculum, services offered on site (special ed, after care), and also include a map showing the location of each school -- so that people could make an informed decision about which combination of performance, services, and convenience best match their needs and desires. Then, base the allocation of resources to match the preferences -- whether charter or HBOE. If this were to result in a concentration of poor, minority-students in Connors -- then I think we could all agree that this concentration was the result of choice, and not of circumstance. But, unless all students have the same "choices" and the system is set up to match the supply of seats in a given school with the expressed demand of the community, we will continue to fall short of providing each child with fair access to the best education available in the current publically funded system.

iron1c
|
May 15, 2014
Actually the district and the charters can work together. They can all agree to do an opt out enrollment program. They don't need state laws to change to do that; just cooperation.

Newark is already doing this. Sounds like a great idea for Hoboken.
ForhonestHobkn
|
May 15, 2014
First I want to thank everyone again for intelligent debate. Not really any where else to find it on the web in this town without name calling & c.

Second repeating 'opt out" over and over does not make it feasible. It sounds like a buzzword you keep using to provoke people and would not apply fairly in this situation. As I said these schools were created to be small and have different themes a la service learning, dual language. Why take away the unique parts of the school by sending people who don't care about the theme or might not be that excited about it? I agree that diversity helps these schools so do more outreach but opt out sounds like what you really want are quotas.

Are you in favor of quotas?

I don't necessarily think Hoboken should follow in the footsteps of Newark., You write, "You seem to be okay with small specialized schools having self selection bias."

Are you really worried about poor children being denied access to charters? If so, are you saying then that charter schools are better then the public schools? Is that what you are getting at??
iron1c
|
May 16, 2014
Why wouldn't it be feasible? Other towns are doing it.

You said-"Why take away the unique parts of the school by sending people who don't care about the theme or might not be that excited about it? "

How do you know that the kids don't care about the theme or won't be excited about it?

You said "I agree that diversity helps these schools so do more outreach but opt out sounds like what you really want are quotas."

The administrators all said they have tried everything and Ms. Martinez said she would love to do whatever she could. This is definitely some she (and all administrators) could do.

“What we’ve seen over the past two decades is a slow but steady increase in the isolation of Black and Latino students. It’s not just an issue of race. There is ‘double segregation’ of race and poverty,” said Orfield. “Few people want to address these issues, but we must talk about the value of diversity and the success of stable, integrated communities so we can start to reverse these dismal trends in our schools.”

Read more: Hudson Reporter - The complicated implications of alleging school segregation As charter school defends demographics stats show similar divide in other Hoboken schools

In my opinion, it's worth a try.

n_larusso@yahoo.com
|
May 14, 2014
I am so pleased to see so many comments and so much discussion about the idea of an "opt-out" charter school lottery system. To the participants who question whether or not the charter schools "need" to reflect the overall demographic/socio-economic makeup of the Hoboken school age student population, I say this -- I agree that demographic parity is not the goal in and of itself. The real issue is the disparity both in demographics AND performance. The Charter Schools' student population is less diverse, more affluent AND on average, higher performing than the student population in the public schools. To talk about diversity in the schools without talking simultaneously about performance is to miss the point. I honestly don't believe that the white, middle class population of Hoboken seeks out Charter schools to "avoid" poor and/or minority students -- they seek out charters because of the schools' better student outcomes and innovative approaches to teaching. I don't think we really know WHY more lower income and minority families don't register for the charter lotteries, but its hard to imagine that the answer is because they don't want their kids to have a chance to get into the top performing schools in town. Shouldn't it be our goal to maximize every parent's opportunity to give his or her child the best publically-funded education available in Hoboken? The only way to eliminate self-selection bias in the Charter School enrollment is to make lottery registration universal. If parents whose children win a charter seat decide they would rather "opt out" - they certainly can -- but its hard to imagine that someone holding a "golden ticket" to HoLa, or Elysian, or Hoboken Charter, would give it up for one of the other public school options in town, considering how much better Charter School outcomes are than those of the other public schools.

If we had more equality in the demographics of the various publically-funded Hoboken schools, then we might be able to move beyond the "us vs them" mentality of the Charter School / HBOE school discussion.

ForhonestHobkn
|
May 14, 2014
It still goes against the purpose of the schools. If a parent is not going to seek out a certain type of school with a certain theme, and they just don't care, they also won't bother to try to remove a student from that school since there's nothing really bad about the school. So you are hurting those who would like to say get a dual language education fro the beginning focus on service learning etc.

Do you also support this lottery for the other public schools so that a student living near Wallace may end up at Connors which is 4 percent white and has a bigger disperity then the charter schools?

These are small specialized schools and should not be the focus of these big attacks.
iron1c
|
May 15, 2014
Lotteries are used when a school has reached full capacity of registered enrollment. Thus any school that has reached capacity would have a lottery.
iron1c
|
May 15, 2014
You seem to be okay with small specialized schools having self selection bias even if that causes the unintended consequence of poor students being educated in separate schools than mostly wealthy students.

I applaud larusso's idea. The poster seems to want to help all students and schools.
truthmeter
|
May 15, 2014
It seems like Iron1c has no problem with self selection creating segregated enclaves either since that is precisely the system the District has created within its own schools.

I guess consistency truly is the hobgoblin of little minds.
iron1c
|
May 15, 2014
I am not sure where you get that from. I specifically stated that there seems to be issues that could be improved, which is why I liked larusso's idea of opt out.
DancingRudy
|
May 13, 2014
There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding of the issues here, at least as far as State law is concerned. The Charters are not segregated - in fact they are actually ethnically diverse. There exists no legal requirement that they match the socio-economic or ethnic mix of the traditional district schools. The law contains only a hazy requirement that the admissions process seek, to the extent practicable a student body reflective based on "racial and academic factors" of the entire school aged population of the district. A random lottery meets the technical requirements of the law (at least as it has been interpreted so far), though perhaps here in Hoboken it does not go far enough in achieving the law's intent since the Charters fall short of reflecting the overall diversity of Hoboken's school aged population, especially in socio-economic terms. Only about 15% of Charter students qualify for free and reduced lunch as compared to roughly 40% of Hoboken's total school aged population. Tweaking the lottery system to raise the % of poorer children attending charters closer to 40% would certainly be a change consistent with the spirit of the law.



ForhonestHobkn
|
May 13, 2014
All good points, no problem with them being asked to tweak the lottery. But there certainly has been some harsh language directed toward parents and the charter schools themselves, calling them racist and things when it is not true. I think the language needs to cool down. Neither the charters nor the public schools are the enemy...
iron1c
|
May 13, 2014
No one ever called anyone racist nor directed harsh language toward parents and the charter schools themselves.

The language most certainly needs to calm down:

Have you seen this?

Public speakers start at 51 mins.

http://www.boarddocs.com/nj/hoboken/Board.nsf/Public#
ForhonestHobkn
|
May 13, 2014
They certainly did; brainless internet comments saying people who put their kid's in a charter must be doing it to avoid minorities, which is ridiculous, that is harsh and race baiting as usual.
ForhonestHobkn
|
May 12, 2014
I think some of you commenters are so rapped up in political points and political fighting that you are forgetting some basic facts;

Charter schools are created with themes. They are created to provide a different type of education or a different variety. They were not just created to add 200 seats in a school system. The distract had empty seats and didn't need more buildings. So if you just make everyone have the same lottery then you are randomly placing people in schools when some may apply to a specific school because of service learning or in the case of hola wanting kids to learn both languages at a very early age so they can be comfortable in both. Why ruin half the point of a school having a theme? The schools have done more to reach out and find diversity in families then apparently the all white school board has been able to do (and will that be rectified in anyway? they sure have avoided any recent chances.)

POint two, why does every school need the exact same makeup? All the schools in hoboken appear to have a minority continge nt and be diverse in some way, maybe except conors.

I understand the need to have diversity but no one ever said a school has to have the exact same percent of minorities in each school to make it make sense. It seems like people have adopted that as the norm and forgotten that most schools in the country are not exactly reflecting all the same makeup or breakdown. the public schools sure do not.

As stated, board of ed is 100 percent white despite the districts demographics and we dont hear a thing about that from the very people who claim the charters should be desegregated and that those schools are not going out on a limb to find minority families!! sounds like pot calling kettle white.

I am glad a reasonable discussion is going on here because it is certainly not taking place in the other media, so lets continue it with facts not name calling. i stated facts above, anyone care to respond to the points raised?
iron1c
|
May 12, 2014


Sure

point 1-Outreach doesn't seem to be working. Why not try something different. Newark had few problems getting charters to go along with this.

"According to figures compiled by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), a non-profit, pro-charter advocacy group, the demographics of Hoboken’s charter school population are in stark contrast with state averages. Most charters are designed to give disadvantaged students an alternative to failing public schools, and so their populations are such that the majority of students are Hispanic or African-American.

According to NAPCS figures for the 2010-11 school year, New Jersey charter schools are attended by 61 percent African-American students, 25 percent Hispanic students, and only 10 percent white students. But in Hoboken, where most minority students attend the public schools, the charter school demographics are nearly inverted from state averages – 59 percent of students are white, 25 percent are Hispanic, and only nine percent are African-American."*

Point 2-

Are we saying we should continue to ignore or make excuses for the glaring differences in the schools? Do we as a community want to perpetuate the system as it is now or do we want to change it for the betterment of our community?

"What we’ve seen over the past two decades is a slow but steady increase in the isolation of Black and Latino students. It’s not just an issue of race. There is ‘double segregation’ of race and poverty,” said Orfield. “Few people want to address these issues, but we must talk about the value of diversity and the success of stable, integrated communities so we can start to reverse these dismal trends in our schools.”

Gary Orfield, a professor of education at the UCLA Civil Rights Project, a group that studies the effects of race and class in public schools"

*Read more: Hudson Reporter - The complicated implications of alleging school segregation As charter school defends demographics stats show similar divide in other Hoboken schools

iron1c
|
May 12, 2014
You seem to have this "white" fixation.

For reference- The VOTERS ELECT the school board, the mayor and the city council. You might want to take that up with the voters.
ForhonestHobkn
|
May 13, 2014
If the reigning administration only puts forth white candidates on their ticket then that is who gets voted in. pretty simple concept, how has their outreach to the 70 percent minority families been going in terms of finding even 1 candidate? Is that system not working?

As for charters; the outreach is working because there are minority students in hola and elsewhere. however perhaps a family that is already bilingual does not feel a need to have its kids learn spanish and english? food for thought.

If charter demographics are not exactly the same as the school system makeup, but are similar to the makeup of hoboken, isn't that ok? still a significant minority population in town. (and again the school board isn't even close to a similar demographic of the school system)

i appreciate your answers and the civil manner in which they were offered. Again I am pleased to see healthy debate here, pretty much the single place left in town you can have it...
iron1c
|
May 13, 2014
Charter enrollment is not similar in make up to the school aged population. The school aged population has about 35% poverty levels.

The "reigning administration" (whatever that means) has several times put forth non white candidates and has been the only "administration" to hire mostly non white administrators.

Still don't see why you would believe an opt out enrollment process would be bad for the community. Charter administrators said that they have tired tirelessly to increase the applications by students in poverty and still have a difficult time getting students in poverty to apply. This would certainly help that situation.



iron1c
|
May 13, 2014
Again you seem to be fixated on this "white" issue. Just curious, does the city council make up bother you as well? 8 city council members are white.
ForhonestHobkn
|
May 13, 2014
The council represents the town, which is less than 19 percent minority. The school board represents a 70 percent minority population and is 100 percent non minority. Big difference. If HoLa is going to be called out for not having the exact same breakdown as the district then why not ask the board to do similar outreach for candidates?

Odd that you would call me fixated on race since I am responding by suggesting that everyone is TOO fixated on race. But if they are going to fixate on race, why only do it for the charters which are working? If the school board itself can't reach out to minority families in town maybe they should be looking at themselves first.

I dont see that every school needs exactly the same mix. I just do not see it.
iron1c
|
May 14, 2014
Again, they have run with non-white candidates. The voters elect school boards.

I think the opt out lottery could help both district and charter schools.
iron1c
|
May 12, 2014
I agree with the poster below,Opt out would be a great way to solve these issues. Charter schools may do this on their own. They don't need the state law to be changed, just an agreement with the district. Newark is doing the same,right now.

I say we ask all the boards and leaders of all schools to enter into this agreement immediately. Easy to do and can be done immediately.
ForhonestHobkn
|
May 12, 2014
ok so will many white parents who have kids in a certain public school right now (wallace or calabro for example) have to move them next year to connors? all these people who are calling for desegregation must be in favor of that too. lets see them back this immediately. no grandfathering then, its obviously too important!
iron1c
|
May 12, 2014
white parents? Wallace?

I would assume something like this would affect all races of students, not just white students.

Maybe all of the administrators can view what others are doing in regards to enrollment policies.

Are you opposed to opt out? One would still have an option to opt out. It merely means that every child who registers has their name put into the lottery.

Why would you be opposed to that?
iron1c
|
May 12, 2014
test
truthmeter
|
May 12, 2014
Dr. Toback claims that the charter schools have an illegal segregatory effect on the district that he thinks the state is required to address while admitting that his own policies have a segregatory effect that he is he has chosen not to address because his solution was wildly unpopular and, while he doesn't actually say this, the public doesn't actually perceive the discrepancies within the district to be a problem. In fact, it is those very discrepancies that has helped attract a more diverse student body to some of the district schools, and imposing a "solution" might well have the effect of reducing diversity by driving families out of the district system.

Dr Toback may or may not be right about the application of the law to the facts with HoLa's expansion but his failure to address the same issue within his own system, not because he can't but because he has chosen not to (for reasons that may well be valid) speaks volumes about how complicated the issues are and how misleading, unnecessary and counterproductive the divisive rhetoric of Dr. Gold and others has been.

It's too bad that Dr. Toback did not take the opportunity to acknowledge that, instead of talking in circles.
Viva_HoLa
|
May 11, 2014
Indeed good article that sheds light on the hypocrisy of the Hoboken Board of Education. I am a proud HoLa parent - I find it amazing that Dr. Toback comes up with excuses about their own segregation, yet incessantly puts HoLa on the ropes because of alleged practices that his own district not only practices. Dr. Toback, say what you want about being a neighborhood community, lack of funds for transit - perhaps all true - but the reality is your own elementary schools are grossly segregated - you are being completely hypocritical by pulling the segregation card.

N_Larusso - for the integration effort and the BOE's alleged financial woes that they claim the Charters cause - there must be better solutions out there. Yours is interesting - I wish our Board of Education could think out of the box, instead of just lashing out at a successful, innovative bilingual school that has created hundreds of happy families in Hoboken. Getting in the way of our program - and yes, their lawsuit states putting our renewal aside, so don't let them lie to you that they aren't trying to shut HoLa down - getting in the way of successes in town is simply not the way to fix education in Hoboken.
n_larusso@yahoo.com
|
May 11, 2014
Thanks for shedding further light on the complicated issues of race and income our community schools -- HBOE and charters. What seems clear is that, while in theory open to all children, the 3 charter schools in Hoboken attract a disproportionate share of white, middle/upper income people, people who often leave town if they don't get a spot in the charter schools -- which is why the public schools are disproportionately Hispanic and African-American. If we really want to ensure equality in the Charter School system in Hoboken -- we would automatically enroll all school aged children in the charter lotteries. Making the Charter System "opt-out" instead of "opt-in" would guarantee that no one is systematically left out of the chance to get a charter spot. this Opt Out system would likely lead to more minority students in the Charters.
Pat1109
|
May 12, 2014
Opt out is an excellent idea! Charters have a self-selection advantage. The mere act of applying eliminates a population of students with disengaged parents. Opt out fixes that.

On the traditional public school side, I'd like to see more interaction between the Union City and Weehawken districts. They have similar student demographics, but their test scores are much higher. Teachers should visit schools outside of their districts and trade advice, peer-to-peer. Same for administrators. If Hoboken can significantly and consistently raise test scores, more affluent students will apply.