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Zuckerberg's $100 Million Education Gift Solved Little 335

An anonymous reader writes "In 2010 the state of public education in Newark, New Jersey was dire. The city's school system was a disaster, replete with violence, run-down buildings, and a high-school graduation rate of only 54%. Newark's mayor at the time, Cory Booker, teamed up with governor Chris Christie to turn the schools around. At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg was looking to get his feet wet in big-time philanthropy. The three hatched a plan, and Zuckerberg committed $100 million to reforming the schools. Four years later, most of the money is gone, and Newark's children are still struggling. Tens of millions were spent on consulting groups, and yet more went to union negotiations. Plans to change how teacher seniority affected staffing decisions — in order to reward results rather than persistence — were dashed by political maneuvering. The New Yorker provides a detailed account in a lengthy piece of investigative journalism, and MSN provides a summary."
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Zuckerberg's $100 Million Education Gift Solved Little

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  • Imagine that! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:09PM (#46994905)

    Throwing money at every problem doesn't make it go away. Who woulda thunk it?
    While I appreciate the research potential of this experiment I just don't think people are looking at the human element when it comes to social problems like education and welfare. Our politicians don't seek a better answer because they don't care that people are wasting their lives on reality TV and booze as long as they get their pockets lined from it.

  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:09PM (#46994907)
    there was a time when they paid more taxes, and they were still rich (and also employed many others in this same country).
  • Technically (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:12PM (#46994931)

    - - - - - — in order to reward results rather than persistence — - - - - -

    If my inferior public school education is any guide, I believe that is technically known as "begging the question". There was no evidence beforehand that there are significant problems with US K-12 education on average, but there was and is absolutely zero evidence that the vast majority of teachers weren't already working hard 'to achieve results' before Grover Norquist and Michelle Rhee got involved to "improve" the situation. On the other hand, there is over 100 years of evidence as to why schools tend to evolve toward seniority systems (hint: not to protect "incompetent" teachers), all of which was ignored.


  • Re:Dear Mark (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:15PM (#46994953)

    - - - - - Next time hire me to handle it and come up with a plan based on set goals and achievements. - - - - -

    In other words, the way dedicated and capable public school teachers have been handling it in the United States for 275 years. Good plan.


  • Re:Dear Mark (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:19PM (#46994981)

    > Next time hire me to handle it

    Sounds like an example of the Dunning - Kruger effect.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:25PM (#46995029)

    We spend more on public education in America than any other country. Money is clearly not the problem unless you are talking about controlling waste spending and corruption. Liberal idealists cannot come to terms with the ideas of hard discipline and failing students who disrupt other students' education. Social liberals are too afraid of the politically correct reality that some students need to be held back. Instead they will bankrupt society to try to find any solution that doesn't cause people to "track" students. Tracking being the process of putting some kids into an honors level classroom and then failing others and holding them back. It's more politically correct to throw money at schools with horrid student bodies than admit that the problems have little to do with money.

    Conservatives are generally no better. They preach fiscal responsibility but then privately take taxpayers and citizens to the cleaners to advance their own personal agendas and businesses. Chris Christie had no problem duping some morons out of $100 million just to get himself a nice photo opportunity and some good press. Christie and Booker knew that any donated money was free from public oversight. A con in broad daylight.

    In America we pay the highest cost per capita for public schools. Our rewards as taxpayers? Graduation rates in the 50-60% range for large cities. Illegal immigrants using public schools as nothing more than free daycare centers. Kids who graduate with no skill sets and are churned out just so a school can keep its funding. Abandoning of once good public schools by wealthy citizenry who can afford to take their kids into a neighboring school system in the suburbs that actually is an environment of learning. Detroit is the future of lots of cities. Newark is another corrupt murder capital with crumbling schools yet billions to spend on solutions that never materialize.

    If Christie, Booker, Zuck, and ever other smug douchebag wanted to really find a solution....they'd send their kids to these schools. If rich asshole politicians had kids in these schools you'd see no problems. If these liberal do-gooders had kids in these schools there would be far less problems.

  • Re:Dear Mark (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:28PM (#46995047)

    - - - - - Next time hire me to handle it and come up with a plan based on set goals and achievements. - - - - -

    In other words, the way dedicated and capable public school teachers have been handling it in the United States for 275 years. Good plan.


    We haven't HAD dedicated OR capable public school teachers in about 275 years.

  • by Vermonter ( 2683811 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:30PM (#46995069)
    If the money was wasted by upper management, then that should be a big red flag that the problem is most likely with upper management.
  • Re:Dear Mark (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:36PM (#46995099)

    - - - - - Objective measurement about the tools, use and progress. Not replace the manager and everything will be fine.
    Something the cheaply measure progress, and allow the teacher to set progression goals with the plan as aggressive at any specific student can handle. - - - - -

    Two points: the hideously counterproductive NCLB went into effect in 2002, and there has been enormous amounts of work done on testing and reporting numerically consistent results since that date. In some lower-performing school districts children now spend very large amounts of time per year taking tests (I've heard up to 20% of total school time, although that's probably an exaggeration). So whether those systems are good or bad, well-designed and managed or not, the one good result is that it is not possible in 2014 to argue that there are no standardized standards or reported numerical "metrics" for public education (many categories of private schools and of course homeschoolers being exempt from this testing, natch). If you have a better standardized evaluation system by all means form a company or nonprofit and start selling it, but let's not pretend that evaluation isn't occurring.

    Second point: the entire job of a teacher, particularly a K-8 teacher, is to evaluate students and set good progression goals for that student. That's what they do all day, every day. I'm sorry if you personally had some K-12 teachers who missed that mark (I'm not saying there aren't some at the lower end of the capability distribution - stats says there will be), but the vast majority of teachers I've met work very hard to do just that and are quite good at it.


  • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:40PM (#46995133)

    - - - - - If you think taxpayer-funded governmental programs are rife with waste and inefficiency, you're probably correct. - - - - -

    I don't, no. Compared to other large-scale human endeavors decently funded universal public school districts receiving strong societal support are among the most efficient institutions known to man.

    But compared to for-profit charter "schools"? Public schools - even the really bad ones - are havens of efficiency and good results.


  • Re:Technically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:40PM (#46995145)

    Anyone who is a parent with a kid in public education can see that there are flaws. The whole system is setup to reward CYA behavior. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of educators are well meaning and pretty hard-working. But the system itself thwarts them. There is no reward for going above and beyond. There is no reward for reaching out to parents - quite the opposite, since this will make more work for you and increase your risks with absolutely no benefit to your own situation. Problem kids are kept in the system. The system is set up to assume that budgets will always increase - even a mild decrease results in mass hysteria. Construction is shoddy government lowest bidder crap, and maintenance is nonexistent.

    I have my kids in public school to expose them to a diversity of classes and cultures... I feel that being able to relate to people not entirely like oneself is an important life skill. But there is definitely an allure to private schools, where the vast majority of the students are there to learn, most of the parents care enough to spend inordinate amounts of money on education, and the entire system is geared towards keeping your business and keeping those Ivy League acceptance rates up instead of ass-covering.

  • Re:Dear Mark (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:51PM (#46995213)

    - - - - - We haven't HAD dedicated OR capable public school teachers in about 275 years. - - - - -

    An brief examination of the list of Americans who have graduated from New York City public schools alone belies that sweeping statement. The United States has an overall very good public schools with - unfortunately - a few very bad spots. And there are hundreds of thousands of dedicated and very good public school teachers in the US to match. Your statement is the sort of baloney that makes glibertarians look utterly foolish.


  • by See Attached ( 1269764 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:52PM (#46995223)
    Sounds like the problem with Newark schools are the folks that -HAD- a great opportunity to make things better, but diverted it into each others pockets rather than into programs that actually increased the chances that the students would prosper? Is this a small scale version of municipal budgets and quest for opinion and appearance rather than results? I mean .. publicity and appearance over real change?
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:53PM (#46995235) Journal

    Dept. of Ed. and others do fund research. The results are usually ignored as they do not fit in with people's world views or funding restrictions.

  • Throwing money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Livius ( 318358 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:04PM (#46995293)

    Throwing money at a problem does not result in a solution, it results in a well-funded problem.

  • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:12PM (#46995347)

    - - - - - but they are definitely not private schools.- - - - -

    Technically, some states do give charter funds directly to what were historically considered private schools. Although see Louisiana for why the charter crowd turned out not to be so happy with the consequences of that one.

    But that's not my point. I didn't say that "charter schools" were private. Some are, most aren't. But "charter schools" are not part of a universal free (and equal) public school system, and are in fact specifically designed to destroy free universal equal schooling. So charters are in no way shape or form public schools. You might want to check back with your private school logic teacher for a bit of a tune up.


    This can be confirmed by what happens when charter schools fail: their students are sent back to "the public schools" - namely the local universal public school district.

  • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:15PM (#46995379)

    Not that it's surprising. It's about the most American concept in existence: ignore a problem chronically until ignoring it further would cause chaos... then smother it with money and hope it goes away.

    The education system
    The financial crisis
    The war on drugs
    The war on terrorism
    (goddamn, America loves its wars)

    No real plan, no forethought, just vulturous agencies and contractors circling the poor starving bastard, waiting to feast on that juicy pile of cash that they know will come soon enough.

    Show me a national problem where this response isn't the default.

  • Re:Dear Mark (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:11PM (#46995701)

    - - - - - But just like any occupation, you have a few outliers. My beef with the public school system is that these outliers are protected as if they are just as valuable as the others. The teachers unions would earn a lot more respect from me if they thinned the herd a bit. - - - - -

    You do realize that while this is common rhetoric from both the hard radical right and the neoliberals (President Obama being an example of the latter) it really (a) isn't backed up by factual and statistically-valid evidence (b) often is based on conservative objections to any amount of worker protection and due process in the work environment (b) even where true (NYC for example) is often the result of years of abuse of the labor force to the point where anyone with a shred of self-respect and a shred of belief in the mission would adopt a similar position?


  • Re:Breaking news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whistlingtony ( 691548 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:27PM (#46996103)

    Oh, it's public money all right. It's public money going to a for profit company, further weakening our already underfunded schools. They definitely ARE private institutions. When profit motive rubs up against educating kids, what do you think will win? But hey, even if fail, at least the public schools lose more money....

  • by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:36PM (#46996153) Homepage Journal

    Yup, that's why all of the figures on that page are adjusted for it. Total spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, is almost 5 times now what it was in 1969.

  • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:38PM (#46996159)

    The problem is that even *decadently* funded universal government schools that don't have the ability to discipline or expel problem behavior students suffer from the tragedy of the commons in the worst way - a small set of bad apples ruins the whole damn bunch.

    When children succeed in schools, it has much less to do with the school than with the child's family and it's attitude towards education. Asserting that success stories are due to money, and failures are due to the lack of money, is to ignore the first order terms in the equation.

  • Surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:49PM (#46996199)

    While $100 million sounds like a lot of money it isn't and while a lot of these posts are doing a Nelson on Zuck "Ha! Ha!" I'd say that at least he put up some money to try and make a difference. Are we that jaded nowadays that when somebody makes an honest effort that we mock the effort? I mean sure it was naive given the circumstances but at least he tried. How many other billionaires out there are willing to pony up their checkbooks and contribute? We should at least applaud the effort and work towards fixing the system so that the next time somebody ponies up some much needed funds, it goes to the kids and not to a bunch of consultants and union reps looking to milk the situation.

  • Re:Breaking news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:16AM (#46996303) Journal

    Thanks for the link. I have to admit being very ignorant of charters outside of the Philly area. Here, the schools are excellent except for Philadelphia. The Philly public schools are so bad that the last governor (a Democrat) flooded them with money and it had no results at all. The Republican we have now yanked them back to their previous levels and that didn't really help either. ...

    I know, this is /. and the vast majority don't RTFA.

    Here is perhaps a better summary for this story:

    School system in the state is terribly corrupt. $100M given to school, with requirement that another $100M must match it. Over $200M is given to the system. ALL THE MONEY in the known-to-be-corrupt system was spent by politicians, union groups, and administrators, NONE OF THE MONEY was actually spent on students.

    Throwing more money at the people who are known to be corrupt will not correct the corruption problems. To fix corruption requires actually removing those who are corrupt and implementing strong accountability systems that also remove those who are corrupt or underperform. Right now the politicians in the state are among the most immoral corrupt politicians in the world, the teachers union is strong enough that once hired you have a job until you die no matter how bad you teach, and administrators are protected by both the political and the union sides.

    Throwing more money at them is like throwing pretty little fish into a piranha tank hoping it will make a beautiful fishy ecosystem. The natural result should not be surprising. You need to dump the tank and start over.

  • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:55AM (#46997081)

    How on earth do you spend tens of millions on consulting groups? Let's say its 20 million, in 4 years, that's 5 million per year or 416 thousand per month. You can pay a hundred people 4000 dollars a month to work full time (!) for 4 years and still have money left over. It boggles the mind...

    And union negotiations? How much money does it cost to have a meeting with the unions? Do the unions actually charge money for this?


    How about just talking to the school directors, asking them what they need most, and then giving it to them? You could repair a lot of run down buildings with 100 million.

    Consulting groups are for governments looking for ways to waste money. If you're doing philantropy, it's your own money so you just go out there and decide "this is what I'm going to do with MY money to help these people". Screw the consulting groups.

  • Re:Breaking news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @09:35AM (#46998559)

    not to mention, charters have a NUMBER 'unfair' advantages that public schools don't:
    1. by hook and by crook, they reject low-performers... (guess where they end up ?)
    2. (in florida) their teachers DO NOT have to be certified...
    3. they are NOT having to comport to an INSANE testing regimen which FORESTALLS actual teaching...
    4. they do NOT have to accommodate 'special needs' children... (guess where they end up ?)
    5. the kicker: virtually ALL articles/studies on the subject find that -in general- with ALL THEIR HUGE ADVANTAGES, they STILL do not perform significantly better than public schools on the all-fucking-mighty tests... (oh, and they CHEAT on the tests, too...)

    note, NOT that there are NOT good charter schools with good practices which make for a better learning environment; but MOSTLY it is a SCAM: rich pukes are 'investing' in these because they get all kinds of tax breaks to fund NEW SCHOOLS, but not a fucking penny to upgrade existing ones... it is a money-making proposition, has NOTHING to do with actually educating the rugrats...

    'the problem' with public education, is NOT public education (or unionized teachers, you fucking conservatard dingleberries), it is the socio-economic disparity: education/learning tracks EXACTLY with socio-economic status: you come from a middle-class or above family that has books and some discretionary income to go to museums, etc; you do okay in school... you come from a poor family that doesn't have one book in the house, you generally don't do well in school.. gosh, who would have thought that ? well, EVERYONE *EXCEPT* the education scammers who are making money from bad-mouthing public education...

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.