Two new charter schools are coming to Paterson, according to a statement released by the New Jersey Department of Education. The first one: Paterson Arts & Sciences, which well serve grades k-8, and will have an enrollment capacity of 540 students; the second: Paterson Collegiate Charter School, will serve grades k-5, and have a capacity of 548 students.
Both schools have been approved, but this approval does not represent the awarding of a final charter; there is another step left in the process: preparedness review. The department defines the preparedness review as follows, “[to] ensure they have the academic, operational, leadership and organizational capacity to successfully meet the needs of children through high quality academic programs, financial viability, equitability, and organization soundness.” After the schools approved meet the aforementioned standards, only then are they given a final charter of operation. “After a review of the applicants’ submission of this information in June 2013, the Commissioner will render a final approval decision on July 15 for charters to begin operation in September,” according to the department.
When well they be open? The department says, “Paterson Arts and Sciences… will be eligible to open in the 2013-2014 school year, while Paterson Collegiate Charter School requested to open in the 2014-15 school year, which was granted.”
School officials in Paterson did not take the news kindly; some suggested it was an insidious plan to break up the Paterson School District by bringing in charter schools to replace the presently State operated district.
Although in its announcement the department mentioned the words “high quality” many times, is that really the case with charter schools, in other words, do they offer a better education in comparison with traditional public schools? And the answer is most likely no because last year a study done by Stanford University found that, ” There are no differences in learning gains between charter students [and traditional school students in Paterson].”
If that study is any indication inviting charter schools into the city might be a mistake.