FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Newark, NJ – December 15, 2011 – Mayor Cory A. Booker, State District Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson, and Foundation for Newark’s Future Chief of Staff Khaatim Sherrer El joined the Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) Executive Director Cecilia Zalkind to unveil the Newark Kids Count 2011 Report. The report was unveiled during a press conference today at the Branch Brook School, which has been recognized as having the highest third-grade language arts pass rates of all Newark schools in the 2009-2010 school year. Also in attendance of the press conference were Newark Municipal Council Vice President Anibal Ramos, Jr., Member-at-Large Carlos M. Gonzalez, Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood Engagement Margarita Muñiz, and Acting Department Director of Child and Family Well-Being L’Tanya Williamson.
The report, prepared annually by the ACNJ, is a comprehensive statistical assessment of the issues facing Newark’s youth. It underscores the challenging times Newark’s children face, and families’ growing reliance on the State to meet basic needs. This year’s report focused on third-grade reading scores, as well as child poverty. It reported that half of Newark’s elementary schools saw less than 35 percent of their third graders passing literacy tests in 2009-2010. Some 38 percent of Newark third graders attending traditional schools passed the state’s language arts test in 2010, while 44 percent of Newark charter school students passed. Both are lower than the statewide average of about 60 percent.
“As Mayor I find the information presented in the annual Newark Kids Count helpful in targeting specific problems. This year’s report demonstrates the need to improve reading proficiency for Newark third graders and my administration is committed to working with the school district to implement an overall education reform which improves reading proficiency for Newark third graders,” Mayor Booker said. “What ACNJ’s been doing in our City for over a century in our City is truly incredible. I’m very, very grateful. The real challenge on us now is how can we use the report to transform outcomes? It is hard work. Let us create a City that ultimately exalts the greatest value, which is being there for our children, and empowering them for lifetime success.”
“If a child is not reading proficiently by third grade, that child will struggle for years to catch up,” said ACNJ Executive Director Zalkind. “Third grade is when children must start reading to learn, rather than learning to read. Without strong early literacy, their chances of school success drop dramatically.”
The report examines average pass rates on third grade reading tests in both traditional and charter schools, as well as passing rates by groups of students and individual schools. For several years, Newark students were posting significant gains in reading proficiency, but that trend reversed in 2008-09 when the state changed the test to be more difficult. Since then, scores have dropped for traditional and charter schools in Newark and across the state.
Newark students in traditional schools saw the average pass rate drop from 69 to 41 percent in 2008-09, while charter school students declined from 81 to 49 percent. Statewide, the pass rate dropped from 86 to 63 percent during that same time. A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that children who do not master reading by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who are proficient readers.
The City of Newark is currently supporting the following literacy campaigns in collaboration with the Newark Public Schools district:
Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy - To date, 880 books have been donated to the Brick Avon Academy in the South Ward and more than 6,000 students will receive books as a result of the program.
‘My Very Own Library’ - roughly 5,200 students at eight NPS elementary schools will each receive 10 books (totaling over 60,000 books) of their choosing this school year from a broad selection of titles approved by their school administrators.
Jumpstart’s Read for the Record – single day event with national reach that promotes reading and supports young children. All over the country and on the same day, adults and children gather to read the same book and show their support for early learning by taking time to read with a child.
The report noted that following a surprising decrease in child poverty in 2009, the number of Newark children growing up in families earning less than the federal poverty level grew an alarming 32 percent in one year alone. In 2010, more than 30,000 children — 42 percent of all Newark children — lived in poverty.
“This growing poverty hurts children’s chances of success in school and in life,” said ACNJ Executive Director Zalkind. “Education reforms must recognize this harsh reality for thousands of Newark children and find ways to improve the economic picture for Newark families.”
The report also stated levels of lead poisoning among Newark children have dropped, which drew praise from Mayor Booker. “When I was a Municipal Council Member, the numbers of children suffering lead poisoning were higher. I am proud of how our Department of Child and Family Well-Being and its partners, including the Kresge Foundation, have worked diligently to lower these numbers, and build a healthier future for our children.”
“The success in reducing childhood lead poisoning in Newark is a great example of how we can solve problems and improve child well-being when we make a sustained, concerted effort,” ACNJ Executive Director Zalkind said.
Since taking office in July 2006, the Booker administration has worked diligently with its public and private partners to empower Newark’s young residents with the tools they need to learn, grow, stay healthy, and achieve excellence. These have been codified by the groundbreaking “Children’s Bill of Rights,” which is the basis for all youth initiatives. Newark Department of Child and Family Well-Being Immunization program and the Kresge Foundation funded Childhood Lead Poisoning initiative, are examples of how the City is helping under-insured and at-risk families and children maintain good health. This also includes holistic programs supported by the 11 Family Success Centers, which address a wide range of youth and family issues.
Other initiatives, such as the Summer Youth Work Experience Program, the Youth Employment and Education Success Center, and the Newark Mentoring Coalition are working to provide Newark youth with employment and internship opportunities, as well as workplace and life skill development training. The City is also in the midst of its biggest park expansion and rehabilitation initiative in over a century, has enhanced recreation facilities and created new programs, like the annual Super Summer initiative, to help young residents build strong minds and bodies. In addition, the Mayor’s Academic Challenge in partnership with Newark Public Schools, Brick City Scholarship program for Newark high school seniors and the $20 million Newark Charter School Fund are increasing educational options for Newark youth.
For more information on all municipal policies and programs, contact the City of Newark’s Non-Emergency Call Center at (973) 733-4311.
Contact: Press Information Office – (973) 733-8004
Association for Children of New Jersey:
(973) 643-3876 or: (908) 399-6031