Infant mortality in Camden is 16 percent, significantly more than the 6 percent nationally.vinylextras.com/8678.php
The city laid off officers, half of its police force, until the state sent money that allowed it to rehire 50 of them. The graduation rate at the two main high schools averages just 50 percent. The district has a notorious history of corruption, cheating, and neglect by the grown-ups in the system.
Many education reformers have become convinced that fixing failing public schools is the best, perhaps only, way to revive places like Camden. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has proposed a series of reforms meant to resuscitate failing schools and, with them, failing communities. Christie rolled out a slate of proposals for statewide school reforms including merit pay for teachers, stricter tenure rules, and more efficient means of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.
- Poverty and education reform — and those caught in the middle.
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In Camden this June, he announced another initiative that would hand the management of failing schools over to private organizations. Legislation is pending before the state legislature. But in Camden, even great teachers face obstacles that are difficult to overcome. For the past seven years, Delgado has lived with her three children in the Ablett Village housing project.
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The project is a few square blocks of two-story bunker-style buildings with a reputation for crime and drug dealing. Living there is a trade-off. Although Ablett may be grimy and dangerous, the apartments are at least occupied; about one in seven homes in Camden is abandoned, and at least one rotting, boarded-up house sits on most blocks.
I want them to be police or doctors, so that they do something in the morning. This year, her faith in the power of schools was deeply shaken. She moved her children to new schools, asked for better teachers, and has meanwhile watched the district experiment with reforms like charter schools.
Teachers feel demonised
So she switched to a third-grade book. Wyche, who has two years of experience, works late most days. One of her lowest-performing students often stays after school to finish his homework because his mother works long hours. Even after the parent-teacher conference, Juan still refused to do his schoolwork and was suspended twice for fighting.
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Wyche blames a combination of things: The second time, as I chatted with Principal Tyrone Richards, a school secretary swept him away to deal with an emergency. She applied to four, but her children were waitlisted at each.
The focus on schools as the saviors of communities like Camden have largely quashed discussions about more large-scale anti-poverty policies as a piece of the solution. She lobbied to have Carlos moved into a regular education class for part of the day, where he was enjoying the more challenging work. But the principal told her that because his teacher continued to report behavior problems, he might have to move to a new school this year, which is known for gang violence.
She caught Ninoshka cutting a free tutoring program she had found for her. And she was still at a loss about how to make Juan work harder.
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Another eye-catching policy, announced earlier this year, is to have English-speaking teachers in every school within a decade, and for all children to be bilingual in Spanish and English within 20 years. One in four indigenous year-olds cannot read or write — four times the general illiteracy rate.
Poverty within indigenous communities is rising. Instead, it does the opposite. The children with the most needs get the worst services, like tele-secondary schools [a distance learning model where a reduced number of teachers rely on video and audio materials to teach the curriculum]. School dropout rates, absences and grade repetition are all much worse within its poorer communities. The education budget was slashed by Rivera buys and downloads interactive worksheets on to her personal laptop and projects them on to the whiteboard to try and inspire her class.
When the break-time bell finally rings at 4. Rivera hands her a coin, and Julia runs in, smiling. Straight-talking Jimenez is zealous about the potential of education. But then it disappears and we get disillusioned.
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