Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has revealed some results from his high-profile investment in Newark, New Jersey’s public schools. In a post on the social network, he shared that graduation rates in the city have increased 13 percent to now stand at 69 percent. Additionally, Newark charter schools now rank as the second highest performing educational institutions throughout the United States.
But while Zuckerberg touted the positive, he didn’t steer clear of the controversy that has surrounded his controversial deal. “It’s very important to understand the desires of a community, to listen and learn from families, teachers, elected officials and other experts,” he wrote. “We now better understand why it can take years to build the support to durably cement the changes needed to provide every student with a high quality education.”
In 2010, Zuckerberg made headlines by donating $100 million to help improve the public education system in New Jersey. He partnered with that state’s governor Chris Christie and then-Mayor Cory Booker to try to make things happen. But over the passage of time, criticism grew around the plan, with some questioning whether it was a sound investment. It had been presented as an effort to make one of the unluckiest school systems a national model to improve education in the country.
Now, five years later, results show some improvements. Zuckerberg says that a new contract the school system has with teachers appears to be making a difference: “Last year, 95 [percent] of the best Newark teachers stayed in the district.” The system has also been ranked among the top five urban school districts by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which said that it’s “beating the odds” compared to others with a similar situation.
These findings will certainly motivate Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan to carry this pattern and model to other parts of the world. It’s likely that this thinking could be applied to local public schools in Zuckerberg’s neighborhoods — he recently invested $120 million to support new schools, such as the Summit Public Schools, AltSchool, and others. Earlier this week, the couple explained their goals for the future of education, saying that it’s about “unlocking human potential” and “promoting equality.”