The new superintendent of public schools in Camden, N.J. announced this week that only three — THREE! — students in the entire district who took the SAT during the 2011-12 academic year scored high enough to qualify as college-ready.
Paymon Rouhanifard learned this incredibly depressing tidbit of knowledge on the “listening tour” he commenced when he took the job in August, reports ABC News. Speaking to the school board and members of the community, he described finding out about the low number as a “kick-in-the-stomach moment.”
The superintendent told the city’s board of education that the school system must do more for students who want to attend college.
According to the College Board, which markets the SAT, a college-ready score is essentially a score just above average on the standardized test’s three sections (currently called critical reading, mathematics and writing).
Camden is no tiny town. The population is about 80,000 people. About 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty line. The FBI has ranked Camden first in the nation for violent crimes per capita in cities with over 50,000 residents.
The upbeat website of the Camden Education Association, the local teachers union, doesn’t appear to mention the disastrous failure of the union’s teachers to prepare students for college.
“The Camden Education Association shall continue to advocate for quality working conditions, economic benefits, political involvement, and professional growth for its membership in order to promote the best education for Camden City students,” the site perkily promises.
Various links on the site take visiting teachers who managed to make prepare three students for college and various other readers to angry screeds against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s education reform and angry blog posts ranting against things like merit pay.
Another link is for purchases of fire engine-red t-shirts because “unity is the key to our success.” The shirts say “CEA FIRED UP! READY TO GO! ARE YOU?”
Figures provided by the Common Institute of New Jersey show that the Camden school district spends $23,770 per student each year. Across the United States, average spending per pupil is a little over $10,000, according to Governing.com.
In June, the state of New Jersey took control of the city’s schools.
According to the jobs website Indeed.com, a typical teacher in Camden brings home $52,000 per year.
Superintendent Rouhanifard said one immediate action he will be taking is waiving a $75 fee for background checks for any parents who want to volunteer in Camden’s schools, notes ABC News.