Superlatives were flying at Lincoln High School Friday as the School District celebrated dramatic gains in the number of schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the defining benchmark under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
According to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, “158 schools or 59 percent made the target, 39 more than last year and including 10 who never made it before.”
An exuberant Ackerman added, “We’re on our way… we made history today. “ Her comments to the gathering were followed by a parade of SRC commissioners, the mayor, and the governor.
The emotional high point of the event was the recognition of schools that made AYP or alternative performance standards. Principals, many joined by members of their leadership teams, whooped, jigged, and threw their fists in the air as they marched on the auditorium stage.
Mayor Nutter, speaking to the gathering from his City Hall office, citing improved test scores, graduation rates, and the AYP numbers, said the city’s school have reached “a critical tipping point.”
Governor Ed Rendell, there in person, called the results “awesome” and “mind-boggling”, and took a piece of the credit for the introduction of full-day kindergarten when he was mayor and for high funding levels as governor.
According to the governor, “no big-city district” has done better than Philadelphia.
Ackerman echoed this theme. “To all the naysayers who say an urban school system can’t be successful: Watch Philadelphia!”
In a somewhat ironic note, Rendell cited data from the federal NAEP test as evidence of the state’s progress. Philadelphia’s results on NAEP indicate fewer than one out of five 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math and that the city tracks below the average for urban school systems.
The celebration also included Powerpoint presentations by principals at three schools that made major gains – McClure, a K-4 vanguard schoolsin the city’s Hunting Park section, Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown, and Mastbaum, a vocational high school in Kensington. Principals at these schools all cited the importance of supports introduced by Ackerman (lower class size, more support staff, planning time) as well as a range of best practices they had implemented over time.
Ackerman and others all acknowledged much work remains. But the message, in Ackerman’s words, was, “We can do this year after year…. Those who say it’s a fluke, we will prove them wrong."