Facebook Twitter

Learning loss, mental health needs, staff shortages: Most read Newark education stories of 2022

A classroom displays posters of Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, and others on the wall, along with other instructional materials. Several desks and a small table are also visible.

A list of Chalkbeat Newark’s most-read stories of the year highlight learning loss and mental health, among other top issues across city schools in 2022.

Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat

Newark students and educators called for an improvement to their school environments.

Standardized test scores gave educators a glimpse of the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on learning — and led the teachers union to declare a “war on learning loss.”

And mental health needs reached unprecedented levels, prompting students to protest for more counselors in schools. 

Chalkbeat Newark covered all of this and so much more in 2022. Below is a list of our most-read stories this year.

Members of the Newark Police department speak with a student outside of a large red-brick school front after dismissal, as other students wait outside of the school.

Communities across the city called for improved conditions in schools, including Malcolm X Shabazz High School, pictured here.

José A. Alvarado Jr. for Chalkbeat

Demands escalate for safer, fairer school environments

Students and educators throughout the city’s charter and traditional public schools raised their voices — either in public protests or through the legal system — for better learning and working conditions.

Educators across the country were reporting a rise in behavioral issues as students returned to full-time in-person learning for the first time since remote or hybrid instruction began amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But while those behavioral issues might have intensified after the pandemic, students and teachers also said that in many schools, such as Malcolm X Shabazz High School, they weren’t new. 

In the years before the pandemic, the school community at Shabazz pleaded with school officials to improve the school environment in terms of safety, academic achievement, and stability with enrollment and leadership.

Want to read more? Check out these stories:

Fourth grader Christophe Afenutsu raises his hand and waits to grab the attention of his teacher Christie Kim at Roseville Community Charter School in April 2021. Recently, the Biden administration has proposed new rules on federal program designed to help launch charter schools.

All student groups in New Jersey saw a drop in proficiency rates in math and literacy in this year’s state standardized test, results showed.

Erica Seryhm Lee for Chalkbeat

Test scores show pandemic’s impact on student learning

The switch to remote instruction for 18 months caused a disruption to learning, especially for many Newark students who struggled to keep up with virtual lessons due to a language barrier, lack of laptop or mobile device, or no internet access. Standardized test scores released over the last year show just how much the pandemic had an effect on students’ education, especially in math and reading. 

The first snapshot of a significant drop in grade-level proficiency sparked the Newark Teachers Union to call for a “war on learning loss” and urge city leaders, educators, parents, and residents to unify in an effort to help catch students up academically.

Results from the New Jersey Standard Learning Assessments, which were administered for the first time this spring since the pandemic, showed that 13% of Newark students are proficient in grade-level math compared to 27% in 2019.

Want to read more? Check out these stories:

A woman and a teenage boy stand in front of a white board. On the board is a lesson about gender and sexuality.

Student need for mental health resources in schools rose in 2022.

Stephen Obisanya for Chalkbeat

Children’s mental health needs reach unprecedented levels

The pandemic also took a toll on the mental health of students, teachers, and the entire school community. Newark ramped up mental health services for students by partnering with third-party providers, including universities, nonprofits, and private companies. 

As the need for mental health services reached unprecedented levels, access to those resources became top of mind. A study released over the summer found that Black and Latinx students in New Jersey have less access to school mental health staff than they did a decade ago.

Want to read more? Check out these stories:

Five women pose with a group of school-aged children at a Newark summer camp for autistic children.

Nassan’s Place, a nonprofit helping children with autism and their families, provided affordable summer programming for students in 2022.

Courtesy of Nadine Wright-Arbubakkr

Students with disabilities need more support, parents say

As the 2022-23 school year started, a familiar issue came to light: school bus assignments were delayed or missing. For students with disabilities, a lack of district-provided safe transportation to school can completely derail their routine and impede access to crucial services they can only obtain in school. 

Parents this fall began to raise concerns about the months of missed in-person services, including speech, occupational, and physical therapies, during the pandemic for their students with disabilities. Under a law passed earlier this year, school districts have until Dec. 31 to determine if compensatory education must be provided to students with disabilities as a result of disruptions to consistent services during remote instruction.

Want to read more? Check out these stories:

A teacher works with a student at a table in a classroom. Both are wearing masks.

Newark schools are spending millions in COVID aid on tutoring, buildings, and more.

Erica Seryhm Lee for Chalkbeat

BONUS: COVID spending, staff shortages, and more

How are schools spending the millions of dollars pouring in from federal COVID aid? From tutoring to infrastructure, readers can see how Newark charter schools and the traditional public school district is spending this money using data look-up tools provided in these stories: 

Newark raised salaries for veteran and rookie teachers, and even brought back retired teachers to fill in gaps left by staffing shortages. Read more about those recruitment strategies here:

New Jersey stopped charter schools in Newark from expanding this year, slowing a rapid growth the schools had under the previous administration in 2016. The largest Newark charter school networks made a major decision to shift from the nearly decade-old public and charter school agreement to collaborate under one universal enrollment system, and created their own. Catch up on these stories here:

Catherine Carrera is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Newark, covering the city’s K-12 schools with a focus on English language learners. Contact Catherine at ccarrera@chalkbeat.org.

The Latest
I hear judgment in people’s voices, but I know I can be a force for good.
Achieve Community and People’s Prep charter schools will consolidate for next school year. North Star Academy and LINK Community charter schools can increase enrollment.
Trust for Public Land and Congregation Ahavas Sholom will build a playground at Lincoln Elementary School at no cost to Newark Public Schools.
An attempt by board member Crystal Williams to halt the extension of Roger Leon’s contract to 2028 drew no support from other board members.
During Newark Board of Education’s retreat meeting, Board President Dawn Haynes addressed questions about the Superintendent’s contract.
A new partnership between Newark and the Devils Youth Foundation aims to raise attendance in four high schools.