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Back to the drawing board: A Promise Academy struggles to move forward

by Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 25 2011 Posted in Latest news
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Principal Dywonne Davis-Harris (left) receives congratulations from current Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery and former superintendent Arlene Ackerman for helping Potter-Thomas make AYP for the first time ever in 2011.

Christopher Matthews quit his job with the School District of Philadelphia last Wednesday.

But he didn’t want to.

Matthews loved his position teaching special education at Potter-Thomas Elementary School. He was proud of what the school accomplished last year as one of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s signature Promise Academies.

For the first time ever, the predominantly Latino K-8 school at 6th and Indiana in the so-called Badlands met all of its federally mandated achievement targets. Students showed a six-point jump in reading proficiency rates and an eight-point jump in math. Last Thursday, principal Dywonne Davis-Harris was one of those called to the stage at the District’s annual school-year kickoff conference to celebrate the achievement.

But all that is up in the air now. The school’s enthusiastic and successful team of teachers – including Matthews – has been dismantled, a casualty of the District’s $600 million-plus budget gap, the acrimony between the District and the teachers’ union, and the strife over Ackerman and her reforms.

Potter-Thomas is going to have to start all over.

“What really hurts is not so much for myself, but now the school has 20 openings, and nobody to fill them, yet people were laid off,” Matthews said. “The principals are scrambling to fill spots.”

Thursday, less than two weeks before school is scheduled to open, the School District’s website listed 20 vacancies at the school, about half the total number of positions.

“We are not getting as many applicants as we would like at all,” said Davis-Harris last week. “The School District is doing all they can to notify the teachers that the Promise Academies have vacancies. They’re giving out flyers, taking the names of people who are interested.”

It is, she said, “disheartening.”

Conflict, not collaboration

It didn’t have to be this way. Promise Academies, the District’s internal turnaround model for its historically lowest-performing schools, could have become an example of fruitful collaboration between the District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to improve schools.

But despite encouraging initial results in some schools in the 2010-11 school year, Ackerman’s prized initiative has become a source of conflict and instability.

The Promise Academy program directs extra resources and attention to the lowest-achieving schools and the most disadvantaged children. Under the model, teachers have to reapply for their jobs, and no more than half can be rehired, on the theory that these troubled schools needed to clean out dead weight and start with a new, cohesive team. They get an infusion of extra personnel, a longer day and year, enrichment activities, and extensive remediation. (The Notebook estimated the additional investment in the first year at $3,600 per pupil.)

To Ackerman’s diehard supporters, the Promise Academies became emblematic of her commitment to students who have been historically and deliberately underserved. Ackerman herself has gone on record blaming the union for sabotaging the initiative.

Ackerman’s allies have loudly blamed the union, the School Reform Commission, and elected officials for conspiring to dismantle what they saw as, in the words of one, “the most successful program ever” for increasing student achievement in persistently low-achieving schools. They are dismayed that so many eager teachers who wanted to be at these schools will now – maybe – be replaced by some of the same people who taught in those schools when they were failing.

“You’re putting bad teachers back in the school, and they’re filling the positions of those who [had already] bought into the model, who really wanted to be there,” said Pamela Williams, a school police officer, activist, and ardent Ackerman supporter. “It’s a terrible thing.”

Terrible, perhaps. But also complicated.

In its 2010 contract, the PFT had made once-unthinkable concessions that allowed the creation of Promise Academies – the ability to largely reconstitute staff, full site-selection of teachers, some scheduling flexibility, and longer hours. PFT President Jerry Jordan had hoped that, besides creating a more successful school model with significant teacher and union input, this would stave off more charter conversions.

“We thought we’d be getting national attention for this,” he said.

But Ackerman’s administration never brought in the union as a partner in designing the reform template. Jordan felt betrayed.

So when the District moved unilaterally in May to protect 174 Promise Academy teachers from being included in more than 1,200 teacher layoffs – prompted by the District’s gigantic budget gap – the PFT immediately filed a lawsuit to uphold seniority rules.

The District was adamant that laying off the teachers would destabilize the Promise Academies and undermine the reform model. The union argued that the District crossed the line, throwing aside a contract bargained in good faith.

“We negotiated conditions for Promise Academies, but we never discussed what would happen if there were layoffs,” Jordan said.

The legal standoff, which ultimately went to arbitration before the District conceded, lasted most of the summer. The District was proven right that the Promise Academy staffs would be destabilized. Once layoffs proceeded according to seniority, their faculties were fairly well decimated.

"All wiped clear"

Matthews, who has been a teacher for 16 years but had only two years seniority in the District, spent the summer in a state of limbo – would he be laid off or wouldn’t he?

“I got a letter that if the arbitration went one way, I’d be laid off and if it went the other way, I wouldn’t be laid off,” he said.

Like many teachers with families, he couldn’t afford to wait. He accepted a job at Vineland High School in South Jersey just days before he found out his job was safe after all.

“I didn’t have much seniority, but enough to not be laid off in the end. But I was not made aware of that early enough.”

Matthews found working in one of Philadelphia’s most desperately poor schools to be an uplifting, energizing experience. He described Davis-Harris, who herself grew up in the neighborhood and has degrees in both education and law, as a “fantastic” principal. He said Potter-Thomas had a hardworking team of teachers both before and after the Promise Academy makeover.

“The two years I spent here I worked with the greatest teachers anywhere I ever taught. To do what they did with the kids we had by pushing them was incredible,” said Matthews, who has spent most of his career in New Jersey.

“Now that’s all wiped clear, and we’re back to the status quo.”

National issue

Assigning, paying, and laying off teachers largely by seniority, rather than performance, is a huge national issue. Union partisans say it is the fairest approach and is enshrined in longstanding practice. But reformers intent on weakening unions’ clout in education say that it often protects mediocrity, blocks the recruitment and advancement of new blood into the field, and prevents principals from hiring whom they want. Most education researchers have concluded that principals must be able to choose their staffs and build a committed team around a shared vision in order for school reform to work.

“I was sorry that the District settled. … I think exempting the Promise Academies from seniority-based layoffs was the right thing to do,” said former SRC chair Sandra Dungee Glenn, who hired Ackerman and believes firmly in directing more resources to the neediest schools. “You need the right leadership and teacher team to turn them around.”

Matthews doesn’t point fingers at either side for what happened at Potter-Thomas. Instead, he sees the efforts of a dedicated group of people evaporating, and the tenuous, hard-fought progress of an embattled, desperately poor school in jeopardy.

“I don’t fault the union at all; we sign contracts for a reason,” he said. “And I understood the reason the District was fighting, to keep a stable staff.”

He does have a problem with how long it took to settle the issue. “I don’t want to hear that kids come first when it takes more than a month to make the decision,” he said. “I’m angry. We could all still be there. This messed with all our lives.”

The PFT’s Jordan isn’t particularly happy either about how this is playing out. “We’re unfortunately losing a teacher who a) wants to be in Philadelphia and really likes the children, and b) wants to be in the school and seems to have developed a great rapport with his colleagues,” he said, referring to Matthews.

And Jordan knew that something good was happening at Potter-Thomas. When he visited, he saw “a happy energetic group of young [teachers]. You could feel the excitement there.”

But he makes no apologies. For him, the opportunity for collaboration with the District had long passed. He had gone out on a limb in the last contract to convince his members to approve the Promise Academy provision, which allowed for reconstitution and weakened their seniority rights.

“Once we agreed to the [contract] language, she [Ackerman] went on her own with the model and did not include teachers’ voices in the changes,” he said. “I find it unconscionable that a school is told it will be a Promise Academy, yet no one asks people working in that building, 'what is it that you need?'”

A school’s turbulent history

Potter-Thomas has been buffeted for a decade by turnaround attempts – eight difficult years under Edison Schools, which was foisted on the neighborhood with no effort at building buy-in – followed by leadership churn until Davis-Harris took over.

Initially, under Ackerman, it was supposed to become a Renaissance charter school, run by ASPIRA. But the community found its voice and said it wanted to be a Promise Academy instead.

The designation made a huge difference. “This community felt neglected. Just being named a Promise Academy brought about hope and inspired our students to improve, to come daily, to really respect the school,” he said. “The parents got empowered, and the students felt special.”

So she finds the the instability dispiriting. In addition to yet another set of new teacher faces, the children will come back to a school that has lost some of the extra supports it had. No more vocal music or computer technology, for instance.

Still, she said, “We have become a beacon in this community, and we want to continue that.”

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Comments (183)

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 15:59.

 Some truth-telling on Promise Academies is order. According to the Districts own metrics (the School Performance Index) and NCLB metrics (Corrective Action) the lowest performing schools were not designated Promise Academies. If so Fairhill, Jones, and Harding would have been Renaissance-ed. Smith Elementary made AYP and was designated a Promise Academy. Barry Elementary was in School Improvement I when it was designated a Promise Academy. 

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 17:00.

Right. There seems to be a political agenda around which schools were made PAs. And this from the "non-political" Ackerman. All poverty stricken schools need sustainable supports for our students.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 21:16.

 Remember when the Notebook comments used actually had concise, meaningful dialogue? 

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 21:19.

We'll get back there!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 13:34.

No one has bothered to mention the students who were invited to leave Promise Academies in order to ensure their success, i.e. Special Edeucation students, Behavior Problems and the like. If ALL of the schools were permitted to pick the creme-de-la-creme as their students we would ALL BE MAKING AYP. The ability of the Promise Academies to "select" their students continues to be an unfair advantage. Not to mention the limited number of students in their testing population as compared to the vast majority of schools in the district.

Isn't this an interesting situation? How do you suppose other schools would fair if an additional $3,600.00/pupil expenditure was the norm????

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 14:15.

What does 'inivited to leave' mean? I ask as a Promise Academy teacher who taught numerous students with special needs and behavioral problems. Autistic support and emotional support classrooms exist at Dunbar Elementary, not to mention all the children in regular ed. classrooms with IEPs and countless diagnosed disorders.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/30/2011 - 20:44.

I taught there for many years with problem students we couldn't get rid of. Yet when the Promise academy takes over....these studenta magically disapper. Disgusting.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 18:58.

You are so correct. Many children who were special education students with significant behavioral problems were sent to other schools because they didn't have the staff to deal with them or so I have been told. Glad that you brought that out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 10:27.

Where do you get your information? You are completely wrong. I was at a promise academy and if anything we received children that others didn't want in their schools. Please stop speculating. Enough of the bashing and let's please focus on educating children. This is madness. Everyday another thing the promise academies are doing wrong. Stick to the facts and stop putting fellow teachers down.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:05.

I work at a Promise Academy and believe me there were many problem children. I dealt with more abuse at a Promise then I have in my 10 years of teaching. Do not believe what everyone says. Unless you have been there you have no idea.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 19:59.

You are absolutely right. I have first hand knowledge of someone who was so excited to be working in a promise academy. However, in two short years this teacher has had to deal with a bullying administrator, disfunctional students and an administrative staff that has been so bullied by their principal they would push their own mother under a bus to protect themselves. Teachers are begging for help with behavior problems only to find that administrators write them up for ridiculous reasons to squash their calls for assistances. Any teacher who brings up issues is immediately met with scathing "informal" observations. The message is quite clear. "Speak up and we will find a way to get rid of you!" Since school has started there have been numerous calls to the union since the building reps live in fear that they too will be chastized. Personally, I believe it is such a serious situation that someone should videotape this administrator as he attacks teachers in front of their peer and students. Perhaps some courageous members of that staff will decide collectively to go to the authorities. They need to do it for their own sakes but more importantly for the sake of the children. Besides the drastic budget cuts that have hit this school several teachers simply say "I have had enough of this man's antics" and quit. What a sad commentary for a so-called "Promise Academy" What exactly is the "Promise"? Come to work here and we will harass you nonstop because it is more important that we the administrators look good than that your students are learning? Some "promise"!.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/30/2011 - 20:17.

I can not wait to leave!! This is awful... so unorganized telling us now in October when reports cards are almost due how to grade certain materials. Focusing on things like classroom environment when our kids can not read on grade level. Sorry if 90% of my kids can not read on grade level I am more concerned with teaching then putting a stupid poster on the wall that they can not read, nor would they want to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/31/2011 - 10:04.

Where is the administration and the union in this situation? The dire environment that exists at the promise academy middle school I am talking about has been going on for almost two years. Teachers are pulled for coverage then told they will be formally observed by an administrator in their regular rooms without being given adequate time to prepare. However, not to worry, half the time the administrator doesn't even show up. It is disgraceful. Further, threatening emails from administration saying everyone needs to get a "green card" on the next walk through do wonders for teachers who are struggling to teach, control the class, and do testing and write ieps. This is a shameful situation and should be a major embarressment for the district. No one opposes constructive criticism. However, in that building if you complain about being criticized with no help offered, you become the target and 204s are rampant. One person said that "to speak up" is like "being a nail standing up taller than the rest...you are just waiting to be hammered".
The saddest part about all of this is not that the administrator is obnoxious and his comments border on verbal abuse but that the district is doing nothing about it. Also, I have to say it, the union needs to launch an investigation. If in fact what teachers and others are saying is true, the administrator should be removed. Sooner rather than later. Lastly those teachers should have a meeting somewhere outside the building and bring in a union lawyer to discuss their rights. Most importantly they must all work together to demand an administrator that is more concerned with his students and their needs and not his personal reputation. Only then can the true "promise " of a promise academy come true.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:18.

No one is putting anyone down. We are saying what we have experienced first hand. Children were sent from other schools in October, December and as late as April from schools were their behaviors could not be tolerated. Those are the facts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 21:05.

For the love of god, Philadelphia families are incredibly transient. They move all the time. Did you ever think that may be why you are getting students as late as April.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 21:16.

For the Love of you Anonymous! I am very much aware that some Philadelphians move quite a bit for many reasons, however in the cases that I was speaking of, these families had not moved, their children were transferred out due to their behavioral problems. That's the long and the short of the story. I can't speak about situations that I don't know about, but the ones that I do know about, I can speak about them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/01/2011 - 00:26.

Students are laterally transferred all the time in the District. It's a terrible way to deal with discipline, but every school does it -- it's not just Promise Academies. And comparing the two schools I taught at, the Promise Academy actually transferred far fewer students out during the year than the previous school I was at.

Promise Academies had longer days, different staffs, more walk-throughs, and perhaps a little better basic resources (copy paper?), but other than that they were substantially the same as empowerment schools (at least the high school level).

The Promise Academy model is actually questionable for how LITTLE it actually does differently than any other Empowerment school.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/01/2011 - 08:01.

Your last point is well taken - what I noticed different about Promise Academies was what you sited - more resources. There was a far larger staff - especially administrative staff - and supplies. Otherwise, the dictatorial control of empowerment schools by central office was similar. Until the SDP so-called "leadership" gives schools more autonomy based on their students/staff, neighborhood schools will show minimal improvement - even if the be all and end all are test scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 21:44.

April? Our school got two brothers from KIPP two weeks before school let out.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 21:50.

See, so someone else has had the same experience, so, it is happening. Two weeks before the end of school, that is sad. The students had to try to adjust to: a new school, new teacher(s), new classmates, etc., when the school year was for all intents and purposes, over. Sad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 11:44.

The students who were invited to leave the Promise Academies? The Promise Academies "select" their students? I would hope you have empirical evidence to support your claims? The Promise Academies received the same neighborhood kids that would have attended these school regardless whether they were PAs or not. You make ill-informed comments and you have no clue what you are talking about. At the Promise Academy I worked, 25% of the school's students were receiving special education services, 25% of the students were receiving ESOL services and 95% were classified as economically disadvantaged. Not to mention enrollment was up this year. The school is also on the state's most persistently dangerous list (though this year we were able to meet the requirements to have it removed off that list if we continue the current trend for one more year and we did that without 21ing students). The only difference I saw was that we were able to remove the "dead weight" from the teaching staff. I have many years experience, we have all seen teachers who are ineffective and not doing their jobs. All the PAs did is get rid of some of those teachers. Obviously, not all the teachers who were at these schools were bad, probably the majority of them were good teachers...But, it is amazing what can happen when you remove a few ineffective teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 22:04.

So you kicked them out of Clemente and sent them where?

You didn't get rid of bad teachers, you shoved them into other schools. You get more funding at the expense of other schools who need it just as badly. Every year, PAs cause MASSIVE staffing chaos and upheaval.

It just doesn't make sense to continue with a program that costs so much and doesn't make sense anymore.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/29/2011 - 06:59.

This is also true with high schools. I assume the designation of a "promise academy" also had something to do with staff that 440 wanted to overturn. In some schools is was administration - although not all schools got new principals - but also schools where administrators wanted to get rid of teachers. The process was/is very political.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 16:09.

So sad it all played out this way. Everyone loses.

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 16:12.

There is really no way to know what would have happened if the district had brought in a new admin team with all the incredible Promise Academy resources (more money for supplies, technology, materials, and more time in the day, etc.) but had allowed ALL teachers who wanted to work in the newly reconstituted school to stay. Maybe those teachers were gung ho, had wanted the supports all along, but were never given them. How can people claim that it was the former teachers who were the problem, when all the money, admin support, extra time, etc. is given only to new people?

There's no scientific validity to this. You'd have to take two similar schools, give them both the same extra supports, and then rehire all the staff at only ONE of them. In other words, you don't have a control group as it stands. All the current model has done is kick people around the district or in other cases, out the door!

Doesn't make any sense to me!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 13:32.

Yes I agree, all new teachers doesn't necessary mean success. Yes there is no real reseach done here.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 22:09.

What if ALL the schools got the resources they need?!

It shouldn't make sense, because it doesn't make sense. There isn't a teacher in this district who doesn't know that smaller classes, more instructional time, and more resources would fix so many of our problems.

Submitted by teachmyway (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 16:29.

I am glad she is gone!!!! all I can say, piss poor performance

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 16:34.

Today's news that Ackerman was on the radio calling for parents to take their children out of the public schools strengthens my theory that she came here to advance the privatization of public schools and to aid the right-wing forces that want to break the unions. This has been a stealth campaign she has engaged in for three years to setup the School District for this assault on the public schools.

In theory, the Promise Academies have many good aspects. However, in an era where chronically under funded urban schools are blamed for the consequences of the under funding, they become a wedge issue. The problem is poverty in the areas were low performing schools are located. That they need extra resources makes sense. That these resources should come from the shrinking budgets of already stressed public schools is a whole different issue. Did these Promise Academies lead to increased funding for the District to open them? Of course not! The objective has been to create the conditions for privatizing the schools. Ackerman has now confirmed this.

Looking back over the last few years I do not believe any of what we have seen has been due to incompetence. This is our local version of the shock and awe rightwing campaigns to drive down the living standards of the majority of the population in the interests of the elite few who own the corporations and banks. She has the same mentality as the Tea Party. This is our version of what has been going on in Wisconsin, California, and cities all over the country.

Infused in much of her campaign has been the use of race to create the maximum division, confusion, and disruption.
•The way she handled the racial situation at South Philadelphia High I now believe was deliberate.
•The way she brought in minority contractors in violation of due process and bidding was deliberately done to inflame racial divisions by exploiting past racial injustice in the bidding process.
•The way she undercut Mayor Nutter in using Title I funds to fund full day kindergarten was not the accident she portrayed it to be. The rightwing forces that she is fronting for are out to impose their agenda by whatever means necessary. Under cutting the city's Mayor by exploiting his own political wheeling and dealing is of part of the assault. The silence of Governor Corbett and the Legislature (the people who supposedly are supposed to be running the School District since the state take over) in the past few months is no accident since they agree with the privatization agenda.
•She has been orchestrating the cult that has taken over the SRC meetings with their black nationalist agenda as part of this campaign. The news media has reported she meets with them regularly and they use her talking points to drown out discussion at SRC meetings.

Ackerman has not gone away. The campaign she has been engaged in for the last few years to destroy public schools in Philadelphia has just entered a new phase.

Wake up people!

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 23:07.

Tom-14 has stated th case neatly and to the point....care to run to be on the SRC?

Submitted by tom-104 on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 09:51.

That would never happen. I believe the SRC should be abolished and Philadelphia should have an elected school board (perhaps in each district?) to manage the schools just like every other school district in Pennsylvania.

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 11:11.

First we'd have to get teh pople to pvuh our elected oficals to get rid of Act 46. That is the only way to dissoved the SRC and go back to any kind of School Board, but then the public did not listen and now we are stuck with this "volunteer" organization that has hired and fired AA. I think it is just a matter of refusal to admit that they (the SRC)were "snookered" . A previous post has the link to the AA articles from her leaving San Francisco. It is almost a virtual play by play repeat of what occurred here in Philly with just a few changes here and there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 13:39.

I agree and I am willing support that as a MC Philadephia.

Submitted by ManayunkGirl (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 16:51.

I, too, am a certified special education teacher (with additional certs in secondary Math and secondary physical sciences (Physics, Chemistry). I, too, had too little seniority so I, too, was laid off by the SDP in June. This past week, I, too, received a letter from Estelle Matthews' office informing me that I had been reinstated. Too late. I'll be in a brand new suburban school making 17G's more than I made in Philly - and I'm sure that I'll be in the same boat as a great many other Math/Science/Special Ed/Foreign Languages teachers. I greatly resented being used as a pawn in Queen Arlene's long drawn-out power play, and there's no way in Hell that this girl (or many of us with widely in-demand certifications) will EVER subject herself to that torture again. Let the SDP now reap what it has sown. Good luck finding qualified replacements for hard-to-fill positions. My sincere best wishes to my former teaching colleagues. You folks were the best teachers and the finest human beings I've ever met. I won't miss Philly but I sure will miss the lot of you!

Submitted by gdgman3 on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 17:53.

Can I ask what number you were on the special ed call-back list? Just trying to figure out how far away I might be from a reinstatement letter...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:02.

The call back lists have changed drastically and PFT didn't have an updated version to give me when I asked. More useful might be their hire date. PFT today said 562 laid off teachers have been restored and 771 remain laid off. I'm sure some of those 562 (as mentioned in the story) are turning down jobs because they're off in other districts. I have not heard of any 2010 hires being recalled no matter their certification yet--even with rarer certifications like math, bilingual, sp. ed.

Submitted by gdgman3 on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:08.

2010, that's me. sigh. Thanks for the info!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:37.

2010 folks (K-6) are being called back.

Submitted by Anonymous75 (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:40.

Not yet for me...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:00.

People hired early 2010 are called back! My co-worker is Elem Ed, she was called back today hired I believe March/April 2010

Submitted by LaidOffTeacher (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 09:39.

What? 2010? When did she get a letter? I was hired in 9/2009 and received nothing so far.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 19:00.

I hope you hear something soon too! Keep checking that mail box.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:00.

I hope you hear something soon!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 11:36.

A few laid off teachers and I spoke with professional staffing earlier this week. English, ESOL, and PE are up to Jan. 2010 hires.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:15.

It would be nice if people like you stop bragging about how much extra money you are making in the suburbs. In the whole grand scheme of this situation, there are still teachers that are still unemployed and will not make sufficient money to take care of themselves and families.

By the way as a science teacher, regular ed. I know that their is not a seconday physical sciences cert. so are you certified in physics and chem. Once again great that you have a job, but no one needs to know how much more money you are making.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:35.

I understand that it may upset you that she is making more money, but I think she was trying to prove a point that she was highly qualified yet the district used her as a pawn in its game of layoffs and callbacks. More power to her that she found a job in this environment....a well paying one at that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:04.

It doesn't upset me at all since I'm presently working in the district after 10 years of service and making a decent salary. Notice I left it at descent and not bragging about figures.

I just think that its rude to brag about extra money when I have friends that left schools to go to other schools and were then laid off. We are all glad to have jobs but its no one business your raise increase.

Submitted by Soul Man (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:43.

Chill, baby. The lady was just trying to make the point that there's life outside of SDP. She wasn't bragging, she was encouraging, and you need to take a serious chill pill. Congratulations to her and I hope I'm next in line for a big raise (I'm a 14 year Math teacher). Now just take a deep breath ... now relax ... and everything will be all right.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 15:23.

I see the point the "suburban" teacher made, but I do agree with the "tackiness" of revealing the salary (tmi). I live in the burbs and they are laying off teachers left and right so I hope the $17k increase is being stashed away for a time like that!

As a second year teacher at a PA and being fairly young, I am not complaining about my salary one bit! However, at the end of the day, bills need to be paid and whatever job is paying you and not having you on the street is good enough!

Be grateful for what you have and had. Every experience is valuable in some kind of way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 20:45.

I'm proud of all of the teachers that found jobs elsewhere. This city will regret the day that we allowed these teachers to be lost. The SRC could have saved them. Dr. AA was not popular enough to save them. God speed and good look. Congrats on your large pay increase, you deserve it, all jealous people should drive to Cape May, NJ tonight!

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 00:16.

Good luck to you and best wishes to you in your new assignment.

Submitted by drichardson017 on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 09:12.

Congratulations. I wish you the best of luck.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 17:29.

I agree with the person who says that you cannot claim that the improvements, if they really happened, were because of new teachers replacing the old. The Promise Academies got so much more of everything while other low performing schools got nothing. Maybe when they equalize the resources and staff and support, all the other schools will make the same advances!

I would love to observe a Promise Academy and compare the resources given them, that other schools do not get. It is pretty bad when your school can't even afford to supply paper for the kids.

Submitted by Anonymous83 (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 17:34.

I want to work. I called today to see where I am on the list, and I was told that they are no longer giving out that information.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 17:52.

Call the union.

Submitted by Anonymous75 (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:23.

The union had told me that they didn't have updated recall numbers for the end of the summer so couldn't give me any information. Only thing I got from anyone was the District telling me "we haven't gotten to your place on the recall list yet".

Submitted by Anonymous83 (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:58.

I received the same information when i called the Union. I was hired Sept. 2011. Elem./ECE I doubt that I will hear anything this year. It just sucks that I left a job that I was at for 9 years, so I could work for 9 months and then get laid off. The worst part is not getting any information.

Submitted by Anonymous83 (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:06.

I ment 2010

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:01.

Union is equally worthless during this awful time!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:13.

I AGREE 100%!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:48.

Be thankful for your union.

When you were laid off, the district cut off your medical benefits.

Your union continued your vision, prescription and dental plans for ONE WHOLE YEAR after you were laid off.

Your union gave you a contract that requires the SDP to hire you back before they hire any new employees.

You won't find many contracts like this across the country. The majority of teacher contracts allow districts to lay off employees and then hire new employees when they have openings.

Be grateful, because your job will be restored. In this tough economy, that is the kind of security that few have.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 00:26.

I agree with you. Any one who was laid off, might want to contact and find out about paying the $104.00 in union dues. I am not sure if that $104.00 continues your dental, prescriptions and vision care. I think that is so wrong that our laid off staff had their medical coverage cut off thirty days after after receiving the lay off notice. And the cost of health insurance through COBRA is ridiculous. Check into obtaining other health insurance on your own, if you don't have any pre-exisiting conditions, it may be much cheaper than the insurance through COBRA. If you have pre-exisiting conditions, you won't get covered, sadly.

Lastly, I really believe that people who were laid off are going to get re-called or restored to service. The question remains, how many will want to return to the District after living through an uncertain summer.

Submitted by Anonymous Laid Off Teacher (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:01.

With all due respect, it's very difficult to convince some of us laid off teachers about the benefits of the union. Many of us have felt unsupported by the union during this difficult time. I check the vacancy list for my former school (a Promise Academy) on a daily basis and there are so many vacancies, no one is really applying, but I am still laid off. When we do call the union no one is able to give out any information about possibly being "reassigned". They say there is no list. There are classrooms with no teachers and teachers with no jobs. I don't understand how this is "fair". I am not angry, (please do not bash me on here I am only speaking from my experience) I am just very weary at this point.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 12:34.

I understand how you feel - I was only recently called back to work.

But you are wrong in blaming the union about this situation. The union can't give out information about reassignment, because the school district handles that.

You are probably aware that there are fewer people to handle this overwhelming situation at 440 due to layoffs.

The union is doing a great job at disseminating information and supporting laid off workers. They can only do the job required of them - 440 has to do the rest.

Submitted by Anonymous Laid Off Teacher (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 20:12.

I appreciate your comment, however, I am going to respectfully disagree. I do not think it is "wrong" to feel the way I do about what has happened and how some of us were treated. Unfortunately my experience with the union has been nothing but negative so far. Maybe in time my view will change.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 21:48.

I agree with you. I was not laid off but do feel that the union dropped the ball on this. knowing that this outcome was likely they should have done damage control with these young teachers to explain the why, the how, the history, and the support they would be offered. to have the only contact be rude staff workers and the notebook, (thanks notebook.org) is just ridiculous. The meetings that they held back in June were for laid off workers. At that time these young people were not laid off. Someone should have set up emergency support funds, and had gatherings for these young people to find support within each other and in their union. At the end of this, they will all be recalled but the union will be weaker as a result.

regardless of where you sit on the promise academy, non promise academy fence, the union dropped the ball in how they treated this part of the union body.

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 17:04.

I think the Promise Academy people are actually interviewing a lot of people, and in some cases were waiting for the window to close Friday before notifying people. I say this because I interviewed at several and only received a response of any kind (yea or nay) from two. I also wonder if some of them are waiting to rehire the people they laid off -- after all, those of us who are forced transfers were told to go in and pick a position, so if the Promise Academies don't hire us we are required to take what we picked, thus leaving those positions open. Interesting strategy!

I'm not complaining -- I've landed a wonderful position at a Promise Academy and I'm very excited to be working with the new admin. (Non-teacher bashers -- wow!) I feel very lucky that things turned out this way and now would under no circumstances opt to return to the school from which I was force transferred (which I never would have left except for this summer of weirdness.)

Submitted by drichardson017 on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 09:17.

Too many folks have been brainwashed about the efficacy of Unions and the impact Unions had on safe working conditions, public education and Civil Rights. It should be a required course to learn the role that Unions played in the growth and successes of this Nation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 18:36.

Is there anything more to this story that Chris Matthews quit his job? Or is the link not working?

Submitted by Erika Owens on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:11.

Yes, there is more to the story. There was some sort of malfunction that deleted most of the story. I've restored a cached version. Sorry about that!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 19:30.

it's a joke that it has taken the notebook this long to publish an article like this when this RIDICULOUS but "fair?" situation has been playing out since late May. Why even bother at this point? Because Ackerman is out?

I feel your pain Mr. Matthews, like my kids at UCity, your kids at Potter-Thomas will suffer.

Jerry Jordan pretending he cares about Promise Academy teachers is a laughable joke. He blamed Ackerman(to me personally) for not including what to do about layoffs in the contract yet he says in the article “WE negotiated conditions for Promise Academies, but WE never discussed what would happen if there were layoffs,” Is he finally laying the blame for some of this on the union? He had no problem agreeing to concessions when it came to our contracts to hire us, but wouldn't agree to them when it came to saving us. Nor will he fight over the fact that we were laid off past June 30 as the contract states.It's a joke that people won't admit that the reason the union fought so hard to dismantle Promise Academies was politics and to stick it to Ackerman. Maybe the contract only matters when senior teachers are involved. Please spare me the whole "it's not fair your school get's more resources than mine" guilt trip. No Promise Academy staff or student or admin thinks that your schools should not have those same resources....anyone who believes in the best interest of children(not district or PFT) agrees to that. But that's a larger scale issue.

Congrats PFT and District- you win
Sorry students- you lose

PS: How do I stop paying union dues on my layoff checks? They don't deserve another cent from me

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 00:31.

I don't believe that you are paying union dues through your unemployment checks.... The only thing that is coming out of your unemployment checks is your federal withholding, if you elected for them to do that. When you are recalled, I would imagine that if you don't want to participate in the union in the future, that you would call payroll, and ask them to send you out a form that would stop the deduction for the Union dues.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 14:19.

You may want to check the fair share laws before giving that advice. You may opt to leave the union and not be a member. Pennsylvania has a fair share law, which basically says, that since you benefit from (work under) a collective bargaining agreement, you must pay, to the bargaining entity a "fair share" that dues paying members pay.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:05.

I actually called the union myself today to find out where I was on the list. I talked to a gentleman by the name of Ed who was very helpful. I teach Social Studies and was hired in January, 2010. I am 11th on the list in Social Studies - not looking so good for me as I know others who were not laid off are still getting placed. I think the worst part of all of this is simply "not knowing' at this point...

I want to wish everyone in my position well - hang in there - it is my hope and my prayer that "this too shall pass" and that we all get called back. I know that's asking a lot but right now I feel HOPE is all that I have. Best of luck everyone.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 00:34.

"This too shall pass" and you will be recalled. You have more than HOPE. I know because I feel it in your post. You know who holds Your Future and you will be back at work soon. Stay strong!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:25.

I taught at Potter-Thomas as well, and was quite frankly baffled to read this rosy depiction of the school and the Promise Academy "turnaround." The Promise Academy model was a horrendous excuse for school reform. Ackerman's idea of turning our schools around was to throw constant mandates, demands, and non-negotiables that had absolutely no impact on the students. Her idea of reform was to provide a list of posters and test-prep strategies that we were mandated to put on our walls, and threatened with insubordination if we dared to suggest that they were irrelevant to our students' ages or to our instruction. We spent so much time and energy on meeting these ridiculous mandates that there was little emphasis on actually improving our instruction or the school culture. Jerry Jordan must have been wearing rose-colored glasses, because Potter Thomas was not a school full of happy, energetic teachers much beyond the first two weeks, when all the happiness and energy had been beaten out of us by the offensive, robotic scripted curriculum (the "extensive remediation" of the Promise Academy model, which really meant Ackerman funneling millions of dollars to private textbook companies in Texas and teacher-proofing the curriculum) and the constant threats of 204s. It is a shame what is happening at Potter and all across the district. Poor children and communities of color are being shafted, as they have been for decades, by claims of "reform" which really are just more ways to funnel them into the prison system. All the Promise Academy Way is is another way to avoid educating our communities--let's just feed them inexperienced new teachers, which most of us were, who are mandated to spend all of their time on inane paperwork, bureaucracy, and pointless mandates, and who are disrespected each day by scripted, culturally irrelevant curricula which in turn disrespects the students. I am so glad to have gotten out, but think every day about the students who I left behind at 6th and Indiana, who will continue to endure their oppressive mess of a school that was only furthered by Ackerman's inane and frankly evil reforms, and by the horrendous effects that had on the already troubled school culture. This disgusting excuse for reform would NEVER happen to affluent white children in the suburbs. Ever. I wonder why people seem to think it's just fine for poor black and brown children?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:46.

Who is this?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 21:00.

That so called scripted, culturally irrelevant "teacher-proofed" curriculum actually works, but you have to buy into it to make it work.

Clearly you didn't, so it's much better for the students that you are no longer working at Potter Thomas.

The children deserve a teacher who wants to be part of the solution, not one whose negativity drags everybody down.

Signed,

A teacher who used that direct instruction curriculum to bring students up to grade level in reading and math, and is proud of it!

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 23:20.

[That so called scripted, culturally irrelevant "teacher-proofed" curriculum actually works, but you have to buy into it to make it work. ]

While I do not teach at a Promise Academy, I have been fat a school that has used direct instruction and step up to writing as a requirement of our formere EMO- Victory.

The Empowerment team at 440 declared the kids needed more math and guess what? I no longer had a full block period to teach art, instead I was made to do direct instruction math.

Well, the kids and I noted the books were 10 years old, and found not one but 3 problems where the answer was incorrect in the teacher manual. To top it off when I asked how long the kids had the text, they said since Oct. Well imagine my dumbfoundedness to see that they had only gotten to less 20 and it was the end of JANUARY!!!!

A clear case of the math teaher not buying into the subject and the kids having a party led to my school' math grades plummeting for the 8th grade mark.

Buying in means buying in even if you think it is rididculous. Remember, these are the kids who may be counting out your medication at the old folks home!

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 00:42.

I can't debate whether the scripted programs are good or bad, what I can say is that frequently, students weren't able to transfer what they learned in the scripted program into other areas. For example, they might have learned the word, "doesn't" within the scripted program, but when they came across the same word, "doesn't" outside of the program, they didn't readily recognize the word or they stumbled over the word. That is just an observation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 21:24.

These are really important observations - I'd love to see an op-ed expanding this or a post on youngphillypolitics.com.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 12:51.

THANK YOU. Reading the article I was shocked. While I agree it's disgraceful that the teachers are once again dismissed (and that no one loses more than the students), I do not remember the year I spent at Potter Thomas with such nostalgia.

Your comment hit the nail on the head. Turnaround efforts mostly consisted of posters, redundant documentation for the direct instruction publishers, and tons of scare tactics. Many times this year I felt part of a machine that oppressed this community. The school was not the "beacon" as much as just another empty sales-pitch; another example of true inequality in education.

I am proud to have worked with you and many of our colleagues, including Matthews, but praising these destructive reform efforts is fraudulent. Thank you for writing this.

-a colleague and a fan

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 12:52.

THANK YOU. Reading the article I was shocked. While I agree it's disgraceful that the teachers are once again dismissed (and that no one loses more than the students), I do not remember the year I spent at Potter Thomas with such nostalgia.

Your comment hit the nail on the head. Turnaround efforts mostly consisted of posters, redundant documentation for the direct instruction publishers, and tons of scare tactics. Many times this year I felt part of a machine that oppressed this community. The school was not the "beacon" as much as just another empty sales-pitch; another example of true inequality in education.

I am proud to have worked with you and many of our colleagues, including Matthews, but praising these destructive reform efforts is fraudulent. Thank you for writing this.

-a colleague and a fan

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 19:33.

Everything you said is the TRUTH! I wish more people would see what is going on in our schools and be as outraged as we all should be! I can't stand being part of this.

Submitted by Christina (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 21:43.

I want to jump in on that comment too... "That so called scripted, culturally irrelevant "teacher-proofed" curriculum actually works, but you have to buy into it to make it work." What do you mean, works? When I see "works," I do not see corrective math. I see teachers engaged in dialogue with their work and their students, not toasters (sorry, total BSG fan). I see students getting dirty as they solve equations, measure angles... (thanks to a great conversation with a now retired math colleague today for that image of digging into a problem as math work). When I see "works," I see our youth totally and completely turned on to school, to cooperation, to making Philly shine on. I get that direct instruction is a part of the equation... I remember a beautiful time when I walked into my colleagues' classrooms and saw many different instructional aids on the walls, ballet dancers by Degas, twist tie quilts, beginning sentences from awesome read alouds, word walls, Spanish and English slogans about working hard, mind maps, pictures of students and their accomplishments, snake skins, monarch butterfly maps... The push towards making our walls all look the same, to making our practice look the same, to cookie cutter 7 step lesson plans and do nows is a complete waste of the intellectual power we are holding inside us. I keep trying to believe that the powers that hold us up are stronger than the ones that push us down. There is so little space for us to articulate all the complexity and knowledge we hold as teachers, I just hope The Notebook finds the space in articles like this to question not just teacher agency in terms of hiring practices, but also student, teacher, and parent agency as they relate to instruction and school culture.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 22:13.

I was lucky enough to teach reading and English when we were free to design our own programs, choose our own materials, design our own lessons, teach spontaneously, use project based learning, etc.. We were viewed as the experts which you all are. It was known as "teacher empowerment." What we did was way more effective than what is going on now.

Great teaching can not be scripted. It comes from a knowledgable professional who has a command of her or his pedagogy and subject matter. It involves thinking on one's feet and planning when one has quality time to reflect.

I agree we need a forum for professional discussion and the Notebook has the credibility to fulfill that need. The problem is -- Is anybody listening?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 12:47.

Huh? What you did was way more effective?

Exactly how do you define effective? Are you saying that students of Philadelphia were more successful before the advent of scripted programs?

" Great teaching comes from a knowledgable professional who has a command of her or his pedagogy and subject matter."

Yes, it does, but we all know that great teaching involves much more than that. Not everybody has the ability to present that knowledge in an engaging way.

You state that you were lucky to have taught when you were free to design your own lessons. Perhaps the students weren't so lucky at that time. Perhaps your lessons, or your colleagues' lessons, while being creative and quite interesting to you, did not get the concepts across to your students.

What good are these things that a previous poster wrote about:

ballet dancers by Degas, twist tie quilts, beginning sentences from awesome read alouds, word walls, Spanish and English slogans about working hard, mind maps, pictures of students and their accomplishments, snake skins, monarch butterfly maps

if the students can't even read them?

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 16:01.

Scripted curricula is NOT engaging of students or teachers. If you've ever read any of the Corrective Reading "stories," they are not only boring but often idiotic (e.g. mustard jar?).

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 17:00.

Good teachers know very well how to engage their students. What we did, at the high school level, was diagnose each and every student's reading ability using both formal and informal assessments in a non threatening supportive manner. We then tailored instruction and designed our program to teach each student at his or her optimal instructional level. We assessed whether students were learning the concepts we wished them to understand and we analyzed how well the students comprehended the materials we used. We measured student growth authenitcally.

We used highly interesting authentic materials like books, short stories, magazine articles, poems, fables, etc. etc. I assure you we were much more well versed in the theory behind our instructional practices than the textbook companies who produce those scritped materials. We all had Masters degrees in Psychology of Reading and were well learned in the art of teaching comprehension and higher level thinking. We taught to the needs and interest of our students, did pre and post assessment using valid tests, and did school based research.

We found everything that was published known as "corrective reading" to be very boring and demeaning to students. They certainly did not engage our students.They were of very little worth. The feedback I get from most teachers about corrective reading is that it has little value and prevents them from teaching in the way they were taught in college and graduate school.

I assure you there was high level excitement and energy in our classes. The vast majority of great classes i observed in the last ten years were because of the teachers' command of the Art of Teaching. I do not know of any author on reading instruction who advocates for scripted lessons and for reading to be taught in the manner Corrective Reading dictates. If you do, please refer me to their work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 17:39.

There's a big problem when students get to high school and still need reading instruction.

Using Corrective Reading in the early grades, taught by engaged teachers, could turn that around.

I had no idea it was being used in the high schools. I thought the program was designed for elementary students.

I do know of an author on reading instruction who advocates for scripted reading lessons. His name is Seigfried Engelmann. He wrote a book called "Teach Your Child to Read in One Hundred Easy Lessons." I used his book to teach each of my 3 daughters to read at the tender age of 3. They were reading better at that age than any of the 3rd graders I taught at the time.

Read more about him here:
http://psych.athabascau.ca/html/387/Engelmann/Engelmannbio.html

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 17:52.

Yes. Engelmann was one of the founders and major proponents of direct instruction reading, and one whose theories spawned a whole branch of reading instruction. Several universities, including the University of Oregon where I attended, have whole programs and institutes devoted to it.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 18:13.

Engelmann, Univ. of Oregon, and his colleagues are credited with creating Corrective Reading in the 1960s for SRA. Yes, Philadelphia has it for high school students. Guided Reading is more beneficial for most students K-8 unless they have a severe reading disability.
If a student still can't decode by high school, they most likely have a learning disability.

In Philadelphia, Corrective Reading was original for students with an IEP. In 2009-2010, Ackerman required all "Empowerment" schools to use it - including high schools. Other than students with severe reading disabilities in decoding, I don't see a use for it past 5th grade. The stories are idiotic. It is also very expensive. As of last year, only "below basic" and low "basic" (PSSA scores) were put in corrective reading. I assume they'll do something similar this year. SRA claims gains because we have to report "progress" in the program. That doesn't mean students are learning to comprehensive anything. They are drilled in decoding.

The scripted programs are another of Ackerman's very expensive legacies that will haunt Philadelphia for years.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 19:22.

Now this is getting interesting.... I wasn't planning on getting into this stuff on my Staurday night! But since I once lived this stuff and would like to get off of school governance isues and back into teaching and learning, I just did visit the Engelmann site. It was said that the scripts have been tested and shown to be effective. But no citation to a study or an explanation of how it was shown to be effective.

Are we equating Corrective Reading with Direct Instruction? I have read some things a few years back that were very critical of Direct Instruction and there has been some controversy.

As to the kids who get into high school needing reading instruction, you see, that is impossible to stop. Studies on dyslexia report that somewhere between 3% and 10% of our population are dyslexic. Those students do not process the written word as well as others. There are a whole host of causes of reading disability and just plain lack of reading development. All high school studnet need to develop their reading ability no matter how well they read.

Any good teacher or good program uses a variety of instructional processes. Over the years I have read so many people who swore they had "The Answer." What I have learned is that there are no easy answers. I also learned to have a strong belief in "caveat emptor."

I also have a Great respect for the International Reading Association's Annual Summaries of Investigations Related to Reading.

But most importantly -- I believe in teachers....

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 17:43.

http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERIC...

Rich,

I understand that you were (are?) a good teacher who used many varied methods in your classes. However, there is a huge body of research on direct instruction reading (you can Google it) of which Corrective Reading and Corrective Math are examples. I have my master's from one of the universities that is a major center of research in that area. I also was a reading specialist for many years in the same state. Having said all that, I believe that direct instruction is most effective when teachers understand the theory behind it and are using it as a method within their own teaching. We used to call it the difference between "little di" and "Big DI", the latter being published, scripted programs.

I also believe direct instruction is a dynamite intervention for elementary students who are falling behind, but I don't believe it is very useful for older kids. Older students have developed critical faculties and other traits that make social and interest-based approaches more effective and enticing. The fact that the district chose to implement CR and CM across the board in the high schools is, imho, a huge mistake and a big waste of time, effort, and money.

I do think teachers of all types should at least be familiar with ways to incorporate direct instruction into their teaching. Sadly, many teachers are not very familiar with the theory and related practices.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 19:28.

I don't disagree with you at all. The key is in the teacher understanding the theory and believing in the methodology. If I were still teaching I would implement it and measure the results myself.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Sun, 08/28/2011 - 09:38.

I think, to discuss "direct instruction" we should define what we mean by direct instruction. Are we talking about "direct instruction" as an instructional mehod, as a school of thought, a philosophy, or are we discussing direct instruction as a published program? (Corrective reading, too).

I thought all evening about what I read yesterday about Engelman and the description of the instruction. To be honest, I don't see what he proposes as being much different than what others profess. As to the scripted stuff, it sounds like sales hype to sell a program and his materials.

If his work is behind the SRA materials, we did not choose to reorder many SRA materials because we did not think they were very good and the SRA kits certainly did not engage our students at all. They turned our students off to reading. Only interesting authentic stories and such did engage our students.

It is my view that we should first be investing in qualified reading specialists and teachers who have well studied the issues and methods of reading development. Every student who falls behind should receive specialized small group instruction.

No matter what philosophy or program is used, Great teaching still depends on a knowledgable teacher who can inspire students, build chemistry and spark his or her students interest and curiosity to learn.

The abstract you cite gives a good picture of the issues that have been studied by thousands of researchers and we need to be well read about them. I will read more about it because I do plan to do some writng about reading instruction and the turning of our schools into "test preparation factories."

May I quote one of the best reading teachers I have ever had the good fortune to work with, Joe DiRaddo. He said after listening to a non reading specialist give professional development on reading instruction, "What you do in your classroom is really good, but what I do in my classroom is pretty good, too."

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 10:48.

I appreciate the comments from other teachers and am well aware of the problems with the corrective reading/corrective math curriculum, which the Notebook has written about extensively. This story was meant largely to highlight the instability of constantly changing teacher staffs and the impact of the administration's failure to engage either the union or teachers.

Submitted by Christina (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:43.

There is no way to separate talking about curriculum from talking about school reform. It is no accident that the Promise Academies did not embrace curriculum that both celebrated teacher made knowledge while supporting new and returning teachers to think about their practice and their students as makers of knowledge. Curriculum (if you even want to call it that) that is deficit based and continues to highlight what the child scored basic or below basic on in the PSSAs and "remediate" that, does not work for Philadelphia... does not work for ANYONE's child in Philadelphia, nor does it "engage" teachers or our union in real reform that lasts.

On your other point, the point about instability in Promise Academies as the year opens... what heartbreak for children who return in September and find many of their beloved teachers gone. This is true in empowerment schools, in schools with high retirement rates this past year, and in schools that were adversely affected in other ways by mismanagement of stimulus money.

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:58.

Understood. Deficit-based curriculum vs. true teacher and student engagement is central to the reform debate, including charter models. We will continue to try to cover that complex issue.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 21:52.

Do we have a moral obligation as educators to speak up about those instructional and governance issues? Even if we are likely to feel the sting of repercussions?

The problem is that there is what is known as a "closed climate" in our district. As opposed to an "open climate" for professional discussion and debate of what really are the best practices for our children.

There is a national movement against high stakes testing and the test and punish mentality that prevails across our nation and has turned many of our schools into test preparation factories.

Submitted by tom-104 on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 19:23.

The issue of high stakes testing and their punitive use to penalize schools and individual teachers is directly connected with the drive by right-wing forces to privatize schools. The tests are being used in a utopian, unachievable scheme to advance this agenda.

There is an excellent interview with Diane Ravitch and Brian Jones, two organizers of last month's grassroots march Save Our Schools in Washington D.C., on Friday's Democracy Now. It can be seen at:

http://tinyurl.com/3ubszlk

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 19:41.

Thanks Tom. What is needed most is an "open climate" for discussion and debate of what really are "the best practices." Isn't that what Democracy is about?

Fun conversation everyone!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/29/2011 - 22:25.

I must still be an idealist. I was so hopeful that with the resignation of AA, all would be well again. But no. I come to find that we are still implementing her vision...correctives. We will continue to use this junk, even though we know better, to the detriment of our students. Not only does it suck every ounce of enthusiasm from the kids, it makes me feel like I suck as a teacher. I feel like a sell out every time i have to snap my fingers.

What would "happen" to us if we used our 45 minutes allotted for corrective reading and read something else with our students? Something engaging, challenging, and interesting? Still using the same format - prefix/suffix review, some vocabulary and word practice, read aloud, timed reading, and a few questions to follow.
Still record the data - number of words per minute and errors in fluency, etc. Everything the SRA program says we must do.
Could we officially get in any kind of trouble for not reading out of those pieces of garbage about mustard jars and read, oh, I don't know, BOOKS?

Same goes for corrective math. Instead of the drill and kill, what would happen if we utilized this time to work in small groups with these kids on the skill they're placed in the group for? I have come to find that it's in small groups where my below basic kids really start to "get it". And isn't that who we are doing this mandatory direct instruction period for?

Could we be written up, reprimanded, banished to the basement?
What have they convinced us we should be afraid of?

Submitted by tom-104 on Mon, 08/29/2011 - 22:51.

It depends on the administrator. Do you have a Principal who allows you to be creative and express your passion for learning to the kids, or do you have an administrator who is terrified of not making AYP and requires you to follow a script. If you have the first, you may be able to do it.

This post from the Baltimore Sun shows that opposition to NCLB is growing:

http://tinyurl.com/3mq4yud

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/29/2011 - 22:53.

Don't neglect the utterly useless and seneless "Achieve 3000" program. What a joke, and complete waste of valuable instructional time TWICE a week in TWO Subject areas (Social Studies and Science). I flat out refuse to use it, more than 1/2 class period per week.

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 10:06.

The way it was assigned, I agree. I taught a full year Achieve class, allowed the students to pick articles that interested them, kept careful track that they were doing x # of articles a week, tracked their progress. They also had two or three other computer-based programs they could work on (AD101, Carnegie Math, and another I forget the name of) in the class, and they also could just surf the net, read email, etc. so that the boredom factor was minimized. As a group they made tremendous gains in reading levels (pre-post), including all the kids on IEPs (program put them at their own levels, same articles).

The problem with this district (fundamentally too big, imho) is that they take promising interventions that could be used expertly by highly qualified teachers and then just apply them to everybody, scattershot. But it's not programs, buildings, whatever, that increase student learning -- it's teachers! DUH!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 10:20.

Yep. Good instruction starts and ends with the teacher! Everything else is just a tool in the hands of an artist. Instructional decisions can not be made from afar.

If I may ask, what assessment did you use as a pre and post?

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 11:54.

The kids took built-in online reading tests, both pre- and post. Level of progress was based on increases in Lexile scores, many of which were significant by year's end.

Of course, one or two kids just clicked "anything" -- the funny thing being they got reassigned the test ("it" knows when the score is just too far off to be valid. For example, kid starting at level 8.2, midyear 9/10, end of year PRE-K! Lol!)

Grading for the class itself was not based on increase in reading level, btw. It was based on a variety of factors, including ones built into the system as well as by using the extensive data provided by the program. For example, though I hand-graded one written response per week (without letting them know which one it would be), I also factored in multiple choice response percentages (remember, the program is provided to them at their own reading level -- I had kids reading from 2.1 all the way to adult), number of items completed, time on program, etc. I created a balanced overall assessment which they both understood and could decide how to buy in to. Some kids who wanted A's did extra items, extra writing, etc. -- there are many interesting writing and grammar/punctuation assignments hidden in Achieve. I was surprised how many of the kids WANTED to complete the grammar assignments, which were all EC for my class -- assignments on parts of speech, word usage, punctuation, etc. The in-program email allowed me to tell them whether an item I sent them was required (rarely) or optional (EC). By the end of the year, some of the kids were actively looking through the program to find writing assignments and punctuation and grammar activities (lay and lie, anybody?) of their own choosing.

My sense after the year (which was actually rather boring for me, since the kids stayed pretty busy on their own) was that it would be great if all schools provided the kids with a computer lab period in which they could self-manage, with guidance/encouragement, their use of programs in several different subject areas. I think though that the teacher would have to be highly conversant with the programs and willing to push the kids by providing mostly carrots and the occasional stick. In terms of the math program they used (most were at Geometry or Algebra 2 levels) they could call up to their teacher if they got stuck, which was also very helpful. If she didn't answer the phone she was busy and they could either plug on by themselves, get help from a classmate (which turned out to be a fantastic option as the year went on) or switch to one of the other available program options.

Why are we as a culture so adverse to letting kids, especially high school kids, manage their own learning?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 13:36.

That is a good question. But I do say you certainly enticed me right into this conversation and I'm supposed to be retired.

May I suggest that this year you give a random half of your students the post test first and the pretest as the post test. Give the other half the pre and post tests the same as you did last year. Equivalency of measures is an important element of accurate measurement of reading ability. It is easy to show improvement if the post test is actually easier.

Also, I would use an independent pencil and paper pre and post test in addition to the computer pre and post test. See if their results correlate and are consistent. Be sure to use a credible reading assessment that starts as low as possible and moves upward through your students' frustration levels.

Sometimes when students are not familiar with the computer program it discombobulates their reading processes at first and gives an inaccurate low pre test score. I remember taking a pre test myself on one of those programs and I was completely paying attention to how to work the program and not my comprehension of the test selection.

Then, at the end of the year, I expect a written report of your findings!! (Just Joking)

But I already know your students have a GOOD teacher!!

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 16:39.

(Sorry -- forced transfer, so won't be handling that class this year!)

About the online test -- one benefit is that it keeps on adjusting itself, even as they are taking it. Some kids get a reading pretty quickly, while others have to take much longer (I think the program recognized inconsistent results and keeps going until it feels the result is accurate. This is actually better than paper and pencil, imho.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 21:08.

That is probably true in that sense. However, we always used multiple assessments and sometimes we even did some full individual reading inventories, (IRI's). We always compared and debated the meaning of the results. The issues of reading assessment are complex and we really can't have a full dialogue and discussion here. I once lived this stuff and I can see you kinda do, too. Hope you have a Great year.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 00:02.

What would happen is your students would appreciate you for doing something interesting and inspirational. It would create positive energy in your classroom and the kids would think you are a really good teacher. Learning would become fun. Their comprehension increases as interest increases. So does their ability to attend and concentrate. It is about intellectual stimulation.

Then you could use Socratic questioning to get them to think and lead them to making appropriate inferences and generalizations. You could use probing questions to get them to learn to analyze what they read and think deeply and abstractly.

Then you might use some spontaneous teaching and get them to read or write something related on their own. You could even create a project for them individually or in groups. There would be no limit to what you could think up to meet the needs and interests of the students you actually teach.

Then when you have your kids involved in instruction, you can gradually increase their level of challenge and teach to their needs. Their smiles and appreciation would touch your heart. Then you would go home enthused that you really are a good teacher and know what you are doing.

And you would come back the next morning all eager to teach!

Now as far as the principal goes, some are more enlightened than others. But I do not like the tone and climate that has been passed down from above.

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:02.

I am interested in talking to other teachers at P-T; this story was meant to highlight the effect of the legal stalemate over layoffs and how it has ruined any chance of staff stability and has promoted chaos. You can contact me as dalem@thenotebook.org. There is also clearly a political as well as an educational debate over whether the reforms "work," whether the Ackerman approach promotes true education or, as this commenter says, is largely a charade that over the long haul will not help the children in these schools. This is something the Notebook has paid attention to in the past and we hope to continue covering. To be clear, Jerry Jordan also spoke out against the scripted curriculum and how teachers hate it, but the quote wasn't used in this story.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:43.

Why wasn't the quote from Jerry Jordan used? It would have made for a more balanced story.

My friend worked at Potter Thomas and was written up for using colored chalk

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2011 - 21:53.

i can verify that this is true. we had a little pool going as to who would get the most write ups for the year...davis-harris is a terrible leader!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 13:05.

I disagree...

Submitted by A Potter Thomas Teacher (not verified) on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 18:13.

I disagree also. She is the best administrator I have worked under in the SDP. I have worked for a total of 7 different principals, so I do not say that lightly.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Mon, 08/29/2011 - 20:39.

Amen.

Submitted by drichardson017 on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 09:22.

Well put. Our students are experiments for non-proven "turnaround"progams. It saddens me. I remember when teaching was about relationship building, and curricula was relevant to students' lives. Follow the $ trail in the Promise Academies. You won't be surprised to see that it's similar to the Voyager $ trail.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:35.

Folks, I know that all our nerves are on edge, wondering if and when we'll be called back to work, but the general opinion expressed by the veterans among us is this: hold tight and keep the faith. Do you remember the big stink last year when hundreds of teachers hired by the District failed to show up for work in September? (Arlene wanted to prosecute them, for God's sake.) Well, this sort of thing has happened every year since I've been here - and then there's a mad scramble to fill a ton of slots. My guess - based on comments like that of ManayunkGirl above - is that this will be the case more than ever this year. A lot of folks just couldn't take the crazy SDP politics anymore and moved on -- creating opportunities for the rest of us. I also have a girlfriend who has a girlfriend who works in hiring, and she tells me that the place is a madhouse - that an understaffed division is laboring awesomely to keep a half-step ahead of the chaos Arlene created for them. These folks are taking it on the chin for a crime they never committed - and THEY want the teachers back, too! NOBODY knows how this will all play out, but considering that 2010 hires are already being called back, the situation is definitely looking rosier. I strongly suspect that in the coming 2 or 3 weeks, there will be a huge sigh of relief emanating from our schoolhouses. In the interim, let's try to keep sane and civil towards each other. It will go a long way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:47.

I know that the staff at 440 is going crazy - I too know a few people who work down there, and believe me I feel for them. It's nice seeing posts that are encouraging and supportive - thanks so much and good luck to you as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 20:48.

Agreed. Hysteria makes it worst!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 21:03.

I am reading 8 hours a day. Sleeping 8 hours a day. My final 8 hours are used for hysteria, unfortunately.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 00:48.

I agree with you, if they are already at 2010 hires, they are moving pretty quickly. And yes, I believe it was something like 270 teachers that did not show up and there was talk that these individuals would never again be permitted to work in the State of PA as teachers. I don't believe anything happened to those who did not show up.

Going back many years ago, the lay offs and being called back to service is something that went on alot in previous years and everyone who was laid off back then was called back to service.

Hang in there everyone!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 22:11.

I'm K-6 hired Jan 2010, and I haven't been called back...calling about this tomorrow!

Submitted by LaidOffTeacher (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 09:46.

Let us know what you find out. I was a 2009 hire and haven't been called back. You can call and confirm that they have your latest information for phone/email on file, that is with Professional Staffing office. I couldn't get much else out of both the SDP and PFT. Good luck!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 10:17.

I'm confused by the latest PFT blog. http://www.pft.org/blog.aspx?id=69

"As of Thursday, 562 laid-off teachers have been restored to the district and picked new assignments for the 2011-2012 school year."

This doesn't seem right? They all selected already. I have a friend who received a letter dated 8/16 inviting her in to select 8/29. I assumed she was one of the first 300 or so recalled but she hasn't even selected yet. That doesn't jive with the info above.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 10:18.

I'm confused by the latest PFT blog. http://www.pft.org/blog.aspx?id=69

"As of Thursday, 562 laid-off teachers have been restored to the district and picked new assignments for the 2011-2012 school year."

This doesn't seem right? They all selected already. I have a friend who received a letter dated 8/16 inviting her in to select 8/29. I assumed she was one of the first 300 or so recalled but she hasn't even selected yet. That doesn't jive with the info above.

Submitted by Old timer (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 14:07.

I'm going to make a few assumptions here. Although date-of-hire has a lot to do with who gets called back when, so does the area of teaching certification.The sad truth is that ECE/Elementary Ed certifications (like mine) are pretty thick on the ground, with a lot of folks thus certified looking for work. (Across the nation, schools of Education graduate by far the greatest number of future teachers in these disciplines.) Secondary teachers are rather harder to come by, so they're more in demand. Especially teachers of secondary Math, Science, Special Ed, Foreign Languages, etc. Speech pathologists are always in demand by school districts. Try going onto the REAP website and counting how many openings there are available nationwide in each teaching area - it's an education in itself.

This said, let me state (again) what so many other old timers have written here. I go back to the days of Connie Clayton and we have ALWAYS gone through this last minute nail biting (albeit to a lesser degree). It's only terrifying the first few times; it's a lot less scary the 38th time through. To you young teachers - buck up. Things WILL work out. I say this for two reasons. One- I've been here and done this all before. Two-no matter what you may think of his politics, Leroy Nunery is not stupid. If he can resolve this issue to the satisfaction of laid-off instructors, he'll be something of a hero to his teaching force - and I'm sure he knows it. I'm equally sure that strings are being pulled behind the scenes to clear this mess of Arlene Ackerman's up as quickly and effectively as possible. I'm not being a cockeyed optimist here, young 'un's - just another voice of experience.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 00:54.

Although I have been reassured by a colleague that this sort of thing happens all the time, the thing I haven't seen people talk about is the fact that new teachers now generally have more student loan debt from one year than people with 20 years of experience had with their whole undergrad degree. I am exaggerating a bit to make my point, but when private loans only have 2 years of deferment, any time off in the beginning can be extra scary because if you get stuck later on, you wasted deferment time on a stupid political move by people who really don't care about your individual hardships at all.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 19:19.

I did just want you suggested, I looked at the PFT website and the numbers are off, at least to my logic. 562 have been recalled, but I don't believe that all of these people have picked yet because those who are picking are going to pick on 8/29 and 8/30. 771 additional teachers have not been recalled as of 8/25 according to the website. So, 562 + 771= 1333 teachers were laid off. Does that include the people who were laid off after June 30th or the Promise Academy staff as well? This is all too much.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 10:29.

I thought there wasn't enough money. Nobody is saying where the money to call people back is coming from. Was it really that big of a sham?

Submitted by BWilson on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 21:47.

awesome pondering.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 09:19.

There was enough money for the district to finance Arlene's departing music video, so I guess there's enough money for teachers. Yes, it was all that big of a sham.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 19:29.

A couple questions for those more knowledgable than myself:

1. Has anyone who has been recalled had trouble rsvp-ing for the selection sessions?

I tried calling the number on the letter around 50 times. I finally listened to the voicemail, which said to email someone named Chloe. Chloe has yet to reply or confirm my spot.

2. Does anyone know if the selection session on Monday morning is even still on? The website says the PD at 440 is postponed, but nothing about this.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 21:33.

You have to RSVP by email to cfullard@philasd.org.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:32.

I did email her. Twice.

Should I just assume she received them? I didn't get a confirmation reply

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:53.

If you emailed her and no reply, I would make a copy of the emails that you sent to her, and bring them with you on the day that you are supposed to go to make your selection. She might respond on Monday morning, but just take a copy of it with you because that proves you did RSVP twice. Good luck when you go down.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 12:29.

Thanks for the advice. You've certainly lived up to your name :)

Submitted by Potter-Thomas Teacher (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 22:38.

I too taught at Potter Thomas and could not have been more surprised by reading this article. You want the real story of the environment inside that so-called "beacon"? It's not pretty. It's about teachers being assaulted by students, then being threatened by the administration if they say they want to press charges. It's about the principal forging teachers' grades when she disagrees with them, without even consulting the teacher first. It's about violations of the contract, like schedule changes with literally 10 minutes notice (the CBA says 10 days!), being forced to teach out of our area of certification (not legal for more than 1 class per day!), and of course the aforementioned intimidation by certain "commendable" administrators. That's the REAL Potter-Thomas. And yet, somehow there is a whole team of teachers who care so much about their students that they would be willing to deal with that mess all over again. But they can't, or maybe the can, but they won't find out until it's really too late. What did you expect us to do, SDP? Sit around all summer waiting to find out whether or not we would be spending this school year collecting unemployment instead of working? Teachers are people too, outside their profession. We have bills and families and real lives that require us to have a steady job. It's a shame that Philly will be losing so many good ones simply due to their disorganization and last-minute shenanigans. Just one more question that for some reason no one seems to be asking: the district is so worried about replacing "bad" teachers in these Promise Academies, making them re-interview for their positions and only re-hiring up to 50%. Why are administrators exempt from this? Where is their accountability for these failing schools? Shouldn't they be held to equal or higher standards than the teachers they supervise?

Submitted by Potter-Thomas Teacher (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 22:40.

I too taught at Potter Thomas and could not have been more surprised by reading this article. You want the real story of the environment inside that so-called "beacon"? It's not pretty. It's about teachers being assaulted by students, then being threatened by the administration if they say they want to press charges. It's about the principal forging teachers' grades when she disagrees with them, without even consulting the teacher first. It's about violations of the contract, like schedule changes with literally 10 minutes notice (the CBA says 10 days!), being forced to teach out of our area of certification (not legal for more than 1 class per day!), and of course the aforementioned intimidation by certain "commendable" administrators. That's the REAL Potter-Thomas. And yet, somehow there is a whole team of teachers who care so much about their students that they would be willing to deal with that mess all over again. But they can't, or maybe the can, but they won't find out until it's really too late. What did you expect us to do, SDP? Sit around all summer waiting to find out whether or not we would be spending this school year collecting unemployment instead of working? Teachers are people too, outside their profession. We have bills and families and real lives that require us to have a steady job. It's a shame that Philly will be losing so many good ones simply due to their disorganization and last-minute shenanigans. Just one more question that for some reason no one seems to be asking: the district is so worried about replacing "bad" teachers in these Promise Academies, making them re-interview for their positions and only re-hiring up to 50%. Why are administrators exempt from this? Where is their accountability for these failing schools? Shouldn't they be held to equal or higher standards than the teachers they supervise?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 22:22.

Thankfully the complainers and teachers whoe are not team players are gone. Potter-Thomas will continue to improve. Looking forward to kids who are here for all the kids the best and the worst.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 23:50.

very well said! everyone wants to sugarcoat what's really going on. Teachers are picking on August 30th, and I'm sure they are expected to have everything ready by the first day of school!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 09:04.

I'd like to share something with everyone still seeking a job. When my former teaching colleague was called back and told to report on the 30th for classroom selection, she took one look at the updated vacancy list and said, "Hell, no! All that's left are the worst schools with the worst thugs. I value my life more than my job!" Yesterday, she got a job as a clerk in a hospital. Which means THERE IS ONE MORE TEACHING JOB AVAILABLE FOR THE REST OF US! I bet that a lot of teachers will feel like her, which will be a WINDFALL for those of us who are still looking. So keep the faith. There ARE silver linings!!!

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 09:38.

You are right on both accounts, what is left is not the cream of the crop, however if we are interested in making a difference in the lives of children, then we who are called to teach will do exactly that, teach. We will do the best that we can do and be happy doing it. No, we probably won't be at the best schools and yes, we will go into our pockets and spend money for our classrooms so that we can teach our students. Yes, we will be asked to submit receipts for $100 come April or May for things we have purchased. Yes, we will write off $250 on our taxes, but that doesn't really account for much when many of us will spend $1000, $2000, $3000 on our classrooms because that is what we do. Because teaching for many of us is more than a job. Good luck to those who are picking on the 29th and the 30th.

Submitted by Master Teacher (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 10:42.

I am a former teacher at Potter-Thomas Elementary and was a colleague of Mr. Matthews. There were positive things changing at Potter-Thomas before the Promise Academy movement, One of them being Mr. Matthews, but because the union did not pay attention to the new contract good teachers were forced to leave. I am not trying to disrespect any new teachers that went to Potter teach, but was it for the extra money, teach for america push, or the real love for our children. Promise academy teachers were paid more money to deal with less problem then I dealt with when I worked there as a former teacher. Students were put out of promise academies for their behavior something I was use to dealing with for years with no extra pay or support. Did anyone ask teachers or parents at Potter how they felt about Promise academies in there neighborhood. Did anybody check with the data to see how many students were transferred and sent to disciplinary schools? I believe the idea of the Promise Academies was good, but the outcome was an unorganized mess. Now teachers who were becoming good teachers must learn to start all over with a new system . Lets also not forget about the students who are being bounced from one system to the next with no real attachments to a school or life. The students at Potter -Thomas are wonderful students who are smart. What they need is stability and love and a strong person to deliver these gifts. I do believe administration "business minded adults who run a school need to listen to teachers who are steer the ship.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:09.

For all veteran teachers that would have taken ANY position instead of being laid off, why were you not breaking down the doors at 440 on Thursday and Friday for the
Promise Academy staffing job fair? In June, many veteran teachers voiced they would take any school. I know almost every single one of my former University City colleagues would have been there 15 minutes early and gladly taken their jobs back without question. They epitomize what real teachers are. Now, University City students will be forced to have force transfer teachers. Hopefully the new teachers with guidance from the returning staff will continue the momentum and keep pushing our amazing students forward!

Submitted by LaidOffTeacher (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:23.

I think many veteran laid off teachers would have, but we are not able to. I am beginning to dislike the constant battering from newer teachers against veteran teachers. One day you rookies will be veterans, and those new rookies may see you as outdated, lazy, or ineffective just because you do things differently or perhaps because you use methods that have shown results in the past, and the rookies are learning things differently. Instead, why not try to learn from a veteran, listen, and combine the efforts and methods of both. There are bad new and veteran teachers. There are lazy new and veteran teachers. Working together is the best way to do things. We, the teachers, are in this together for the good of our students. Period.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 11:24.

Amen!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/27/2011 - 13:40.

Ok!! Truth is told!! I fall in the middle what am I??

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