by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Where do we go from here?
That's the question that Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite put before the packed crowd gathered at District headquarters on Monday night for a School Reform Commission meeting on strategy, policy and priorities.
Like a college professor facilitating a philosophical discussion, Hite broke the crowd up into more than a dozen large, round tables and asked this overarching question of questions:
"What action should we take to get as many students as possible attending schools where at least 50 percent [of students] are reading and doing math at grade level?"
For the sake of the discussion, this was Hite's definition of a "good" school – one where at least half the students scored "proficient" or better on state standardized tests in reading and math.
By this definition, as Hite pointed out in a slideshow presentation, the vast majority of Philadelphia's schools (both traditional public schools and charter schools) aren't "good."
As a starting point for discussion, Hite offered four solutions that he applied to both traditional District and charter models:
- Transform "bad" schools into "good."
- Expand "good" schools.
- Create "good" schools from scratch.
- Close "bad" schools for good.
As Hite laid all four options on the table, he said that "80 to 90 percent of our efforts must go into improving our District schools. Period."