NEWARK, NJ — A recently released report has found that out of 50 cities studied, Newark is a national leader in schools that help students outperform statistical predictions based on their racial and socioeconomic makeup.

The city’s academic success showed up in both the district and charter schools, where Newark’s school district was twice as likely to have beat the odds schools as other districts, and 75% of the charter sector made the “beat the odds” mark.

“Beat-the-odds” is determined using statewide data to predict test scores for each school based on the share of students by racial/ethnic category, the share of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and other school-level characteristics. 

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A school whose actual test score sustainability exceeds its prediction is considered a beat-the-odds school, according to the study, released by McGrady Research and authored by Jesse Margolis and Eli Groves. Sixteen percent of Newark’s traditional district schools qualified as beat-the-odds schools, twice the national average. 

“These findings tell a shared success story. Newark continues to show the nation that we can create a system of great public schools when district and charter schools work together to expand educational opportunity for all,” Kyle Rosenkrans, CEO and founder of New Jersey Children’s Foundation, which commissioned the study.

The New Jersey Children's Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2019, is focused on creating a system of cooperation between traditional district and charter schools, the latter of which have long been a flashpoint in Newark. The group has funded earlier research to accomplish what they see as “fact-based education reform.” 

Among other findings, the study found that Newark has twice the rate of beat-the-odds schools as the next-highest city. The geographic distribution of “beat the odds” public schools of any kind varied widely from a high of 44% in the city’s West Ward, to 42% in the North Ward, 36% in the Central, 27% in the South and 17% in the East Ward.

Margolis said that the report provides a city-by-city view of which large school systems are best delivering education opportunities to “historically disenfranchised” groups. 

“Our goal is to provide insight into which cities have school systems that are helping students beat the odds, as well as explore their early approach to teaching students in the era of COVID-19,” she said. “Given the closure of school buildings over the past three months, we are particularly concerned about the resilience of beat-the-odds districts during a time of remote learning.”

Researchers utilized a database from the Center on Reinventing Public Education to catalog the year-end remote learning practices of during COVID-19, finding that beat-the-odds districts and Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) have been relatively more likely to adopt practices like synchronous teaching, student engagement and attendance tracking. 

“Newark’s students, teachers, and leaders deserve immense credit for this historic achievement. When things got tough, the city banded together to create more unity, and study after study has shown that we now have a stronger school system for our children,” Rosenkrans said.