Following positive test scores, Camden City Schools determined to regain local control

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

The superintendent of the state-run Camden City Schools came to Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy to deliver some encouraging news — the academy lead the district and city in “ELA proficiency for grades three through eight at 52.6%.”

Superintendent Katrina McCombs delivered the highlights of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment scores for Camden public schools and hybrid public-charter schools, known as renaissance schools.

“The 2018-2019 school year’s results show that regardless of school type, our students continue to improve in both English language arts and mathematics,” said McCombs.

From 2014 to 2019, improvement nearly tripled for the village academy.

The superintendent reported overall growth in English language arts for the district and a similar result for mathematics across the same time frame; the hybrid schools in Camden also showed greater growth in literacy and math.

“We are proud of all our schools’ progress,” said McCombs, adding that she credits “school leader professional development and coaching” for the reported progress.

“I believe that test scores, regardless of what they are, are reductionist in nature,” said Keith Benson, the president of the Camden Education Association. “No matter what the score, they do not and cannot capture the complexity of, and wonderful journey of education. So while I do celebrate any school’s successes, I find drawing conclusions about any school based on test scores is woefully incomplete.”

The superintendent said while the test scores are something to celebrate, she has her target set on closing the achievement gap.

“We know there is still work to be done,” said McCombs. “To that end, we will continue to make a concerted effort to improve upon our teachers’ training, strengthen our community partnerships and improve the facilities in which we facilitate learning.”

McCombs says she’s well aware of what’s at stake and is determined to put the district on path to regain local control.

“We are closer to local control than we’ve ever been,” she said.

Six years ago, New Jersey took over Camden City’s low-performing school system. McCombs said improving test scores and practicing financial responsibility and fiscal sustainability would help the district meet the requirements to regain local control.

“I am hopeful that we will get there sooner rather than later because it would represent a change that would be a national model for what can happen when communities work with schools,” said McCombs.