How Peaceful is Camden?

The Courier-Post is all over Camden Public Schools’ failure to accurately report incidents of violence and vandalism. (See earlier story here.) Each year, per state mandate, districts file reports with the State DOE listing rates of violence and then the State reports out to the Legislature. While there has been a 6.4% increase in violent incidents (some of this, no doubt, attributable to the new Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying legislation), Camden Public Schools appears to be a land of milk and honey: there were only 29 incidents all of last year and only 35 for 2010-2011.

Among other districts in the area “almost 30 districts reported more violent incidents than Camden – including Audobon, Cherry Hill, Cinnaminson, and Washington Township.”

So how does Camden’s reported serenity – just 35 incidents all year — align with reality? In 2010-2011 “Camden police officers responded to 308 such incidents involving students, according to police records obtained Wednesday. That’s 273 more cases than Young’s administration cared to report and perhaps several hundred more than actually happened because police don’t respond to every incident.”

Due to the discrepancy the State will now launch an investigation.

The responsibility for the fictional tranquility in the Camden Public Schools is on its Superintendent, Bessie LeFra Young, who is out on medical leave and not returning phone calls from either reporters or School Board members.

Under-reporting of violence and vandalism isn’t all that’s wrong with Camden. At Camden High, for example, only 21% of its students graduate by passing the state assessment, an 8th-grade level test. Average SAT’s are 330 in math and 340 in verbal. Not a single kid took an Advanced Placement course in 2009. 71% of its 9th-graders actually show up for school. According to state data, 23% of Camden High’s kids drop out – and that information is self-reported and may be as misreported as its violence and vandalism rates.

The Courier-Post’s Jeremy Rosen predicts that Camden Public Schools may be taken over by the State based on its failure to meet benchmarks on QSAC, which rates districts on instruction, personnel, operations, fiscal management and governance. A reliable source (well, editor of the paper and former Camden school board member) told Rosen that the Camden’s QSAC report was leaked and predicted that it will score less than 50% on instruction, personnel, operations and governance. Districts are required to score 80% on each section.

Will a state takeover help Camden’s school kids? Who knows. Doesn’t seem like it can get much worse.

What do you think?

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