For the very first time more than 250 families who call Camden home joined together on October 19th for what will become an annual event: the Camden Parent Power Summit. Sponsored by Parents for Great Camden Schools, the event featured leadership training, workshops, networking opportunities, a local business expo, and a “Kids Fun Day.” The point was to train parents in educational advocacy, raise their comfort level with school involvement, and celebrate the academic gains in what was once the worst school district in New Jersey.
“Parents often feel overwhelmed by the education system, especially because it’s the same system that may have failed them in the past,” said executive director Bryan Morton. “By introducing Camden families to parent leaders across the country and providing access to information about what is really happening in our schools, we believe we make the system less daunting. We are building parents’ skills sets and confidence so that they can immediately become more effective advocates for their children,” said Morton.
Dignitaries included Superintendent Katrina McCombs, Camden Mayor Frank Moran, and DOE Commissioner Lamont Repollet. McCombs in particular noted the effect of what she called “high-quality choices” available to parents through the growth of renaissance schools (hybrid district-charter schools) as well a robust charter sector. “The education landscape is improving,” she said.”Regardless of what school a parent chooses, he or she deserves one that is fully funded, safe, with caring teachers, a rigorous curriculum, and an environment that is welcoming to families. I’m pleased to participate in this forum because I believe parents are our partners in creating an educational system that truly serves each child.”
Indeed, a study issued this past June by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that Camden students show “significant improvements in math proficiency… as well as other gains relative to the state average for certain demographics.” Those improvements are present in charter, renaissance, and district schools. (The researchers did note that Camden Black and Hispanic students who attend charter schools “post significantly stronger growth in reading and similar gains in math compared to district students of the same race.” Also, “Camden black and Hispanic students in renaissance schools outperform district peers of the same race in both subjects.” Nonetheless, all Camden public school students — charter, traditional, renaissance — are demonstrating year-to-year academic growth. For a deeper dive, see here.)
“Camden schools have absolutely improved over the past few years, but we still have a long way to go,” said Morton. “Progress can only be sustained if there is consistent pressure from the voices of the people most impacted by the system. These families already care deeply about their schools, but now they will have the skills and the confidence to lead a movement to ensure all students have access to a high quality education.”
Enjoy the photos!