NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Five years after donating $100 million to remake education in Newark, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says he's using lessons learned about the need for community involvement in his next effort in California. He also highlighted some successes in New Jersey's largest city.
In a Facebook post Friday, Zuckerberg acknowledged increased graduation rates in Newark and successful charter schools, but also noted the "challenges, mistakes and honest differences among people with good intentions."
"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."
Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show in September 2010 with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker to announce the $100 million donation to remake education in Newark. The goal was to make a struggling city a national model for turning around urban schools.
Advocates see success in the most visible result so far — many more students in charter schools. But the exodus of students and the public funding that goes with them from Newark Public Schools has deepened a financial crisis in a school district that still educates most of the children in the city.
A big part of Zuckerberg's mission was also to improve the traditional public schools. While there have been major changes there, too, indicators such as student test scores have been mixed.
Zuckerberg notes in his post that graduation rates have increased 13 percentage points — to 69 percent — and said that with the success of charter schools, parents now have "more high quality public school choices than before."
Last year, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced a $120 million donation to improve education in the San Francisco Bay area, particularly for low-income students.
He said the goal going forward is to work with people across the spectrum, including district schools, charter schools, private schools, teachers, parents, unions and others philanthropists.
"Change in education takes time and requires a long term focus. We are committed to working to improve public education for many years to come, and to improving our approach as we go," he wrote.