- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Hey Council! School news you need to know
There’s a lot happening over at the School District that every council member -and state legislator - ought to know. So if you haven't already, pick up the latest issue of the Public School Notebook for more information:
- First up, Renaissance Schools – yet another list of failing schools (this time there are 26 schools:14 identified Renaissance schools, 12 “alert” schools), yet another set of promises to parents and children skeptical about the District’s insistence that this time it will be different. Consider the families at Douglass Elementary which has had 7 principals in 7 years, or Dunbar Elementary which, if chosen a Renaissance school, will be on its third manager in 8 years. Or Stetson, which along with Dunbar, was the first wave of promised change through privatization. Stetson too is listed as a potential Renaissance school.
What’s the problem with Renaissance? My main concern has been that the District is stuck on seeing transformation via management and contracts, rather than defining what substantive changes are going to happen in the life of a child. I’d like to know whether Renaissance schools are going to reduce class size, offer more literary specialists, provide home-school liaisons, improve school food and provide a full library and build science labs? Are they going to revamp discipline, provide real professional development, analyze and publish studies on their improvement, and invest in their teaching force rather than threaten them into compliance? A number of Renaissance Schools have significant English Language Learner populations. Are they going to provide a model bilingual program, diversify their hiring, create a multicultural curricula that engages students? Are they diversifying their curricula overall? Or is it really just a change of names at the top of the masthead, a “trust us, we’ll get some good folks in there with a track record” which is basically what parents have heard for a decade now.
The Notebook has done an excellent job compiling a full summary of information on Renaissance. In addition, look for the latest issue of the Notebook which focuses exclusively on understanding school turnaround. Renaissance School meetings are happening all around the city. We need city and state leaders present to hear the frustration parents and communities are feeling and to bring more accountability to the District.
- School Choice: Research for Action has a new study out on the expansion of choice options in the district, which has cost the district hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade – it’s been the District’s single most decisive change – yet has led to limited choice options for the majority of students seeking a way out of their neighborhood high schools.
70 percent of District eighth graders participated in the application process to begin ninth grade in fall 2007. However when the dust settled, only 45% were enrolled at any District school to which they applied. In other words there are not enough “seats” in schools of choice for the number of students trying to choose. This means that in most cases high schools are selecting students rather than students choosing schools, robbing students and families of the agency that school choice is supposed to provide.
That’s a pretty serious indictment that needs careful review and consideration. Since 2002, the District has nearly tripled the number of high school options, and through charters has created the second largest school district in the state. The investment of resources and personnel has been tremendous. Yet for high school, more than 50% of kids seeking out of their neighborhood school can’t find another seat. It’s also worth noting that as the investment has spread to create options, disinvestment in our neighborhood schools remains a problem. In Imagine 2014 it was hard to determine how much investment there was for the average comprehensive high school. There were counselors to be sure, which was a helpful boost, but how significantly was life going to be different for the average high school kid at say, Gratz or Bartram?
RFA’s report issues a strong call for investment in neighborhood high schools as well as provides recommendations for improving the high school selection process. Worth the short 8-page read.
- Class sizes ain’t happenin’ as promised: The Notebook has a report out on the District falling short of reaching its class size goals in the Empowerment schools. These were the schools that five years ago the District had promised to grant reduced class size. No stats were provided for average District schools – another problem.
The District has touted that it would establish reduced class size across the board Districtwide. However, the Notebook reports that the average class size for kindergarten in the empowerment schools is 20.7 instead of a maximum of 20. The District claims it's only slightly above average, but really what it means is that most kindergartens are not meeting the goal. Interesting as well, was that last summer, Parents United challenged School Budget Officer Mike Masch’s claim that the District would meet its class size goals despite the fact that the District cut the class size resource investment by a third.
- School violence: Well in case it didn’t come across loud and clear in the past month at South Philadelphia High School, school violence is a serious problem and anti-Asian/anti-immigrant violence is equally appalling. In addition, to Dan’s post below, I hope council people read a review of the most recent hearing on school violence by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. The stories coming out of these hearings are appalling. A boy who had his jaw broken and the school failed to call an ambulance and, instead, recommended a transfer. A mother whose 8-year-old son had a rib broken after she had made repeated complaints about his being bullied in school. This pain and anger exists and listening to them is enough to get any parent packing , so the question to the PCHR is now what? What do you do with a district that has exhibited willful, or perhaps learned, neglect on basic matters of safety and community?
In addition, the latest issue of the Notebook has more excellent stories about the long-standing neglect of anti-Asian/anti-immigrant violence. A well done read.
- And some horn tootin’: There’s this really disrespectful group that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Check out the front page Inquirer story here. Any implication that we don't value contributions or political relationships, we do! You can send any checks or notes of endearment a la DiCicco to www.aaunited.org or donate here. PS Councilman: it’s still not too late for us. We won’t hold a grudge if you don’t. : )