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SRC approves charter renewals, expansion

By Anonymous on May 25, 2012 02:06 PM

(Updated, 5:30 p.m.) The School Reform Commission held another special Friday morning session to consider the renewal of three charter schools and a grade expansion at one other. The SRC approved the renewal of Alliance for Progress and Southwest Leadership Academy charters and the expansion of Esperanza Academy - which was not up for renewal - to serve grades 6-12. In all, the District added 866 seats in charters through the SRC votes.

The renewal of Eastern University Academy was withdrawn pending receipt of more information.

Esperanza Academy, which had proposed to add 1,025 students and serve grades K-12, will instead expand by 710 students. Alliance for Progress will grow by 100 students, and Southwest Leadership by 56. All three schools have agreed to cap their enrollments as requested by the District.

A presentation at the meeting by Thomas Darden, who heads the District's charter school office, showed that the District is projecting charter enrollment to grow by more than 32,000 students in all over the next five years, with 13,450 of those resulting from charter modifications such as the three expansions approved.

In 2010, both Alliance for Progress and Southwest Leadership Academy had earned a score of 9, the second-lowest rating, on the District's school performance index (SPI). But both schools showed progress, improving their scores to a 7 in 2011. Eastern University Academy, still awaiting its reauthorization vote, was recommended for renewal by staff despite earning a score of 8 on the SPI.

After the vote, public speakers addressed the SRC about the possiblity that Creighton Elementary might become a Renaissance charter. Last month, the SRC postponed a decision on a staff recommendation turning over Creighton to an outside manager after teachers and parents presented their own turnaround plan. A recommendation on Creighton by Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon is expected next week.

The School District tweeted updates from the meeting, and it was streamed online.

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Comments (75)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 7:47 pm

Oh Please, the farce continues with Nutter playing both sides of every issue and lying on all sides.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 8:04 pm

If Charters with an SPI of 7- 9 are AWARDED with more students ("seats"), then NO SDP school with an SPI of 7-9 should be closed or turned into a charter. What's fair is fair!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 9:30 pm

Unless WE stop it, this farce will continue.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 25, 2012 9:49 pm

The School Performance Index (SPI) scores of Alliance for Progress and Southwest Leadership Academy were both 7 for 2010-2011 ( The Nueva Esperanza Academy's SPI is a 4 ( The SRC should have postponed the renewal or denied the renewal based on the SPI alone. However, test scores make up so much of the SPI that it's a questionable measure because of its reliance of test scores. That said, the SDP uses the same formula for charters and traditional public schools. It seems like there should be higher expectations for the charters. But then again, if the expectations are higher, there may be more incentive to cheat on standardized tests.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 25, 2012 9:56 pm

Since Charters do not have to accept every student in its "catchment," and can dismiss students who violate their admission requirements (e.g. miss more than 10 days/tardy more than 10 days, get in a fight, parent don't do required volunteer time, etc.), the standards should be higher. Nevertheless, Alliance for Progress and Southwest had SPIs of 8 and 9 the previous year. School District schools are being closed - and will be closed - based on SPI. What the Charters have - that too often SDP schools do not - is political backing. Rep. Waters (D-PA) and Wilson Goode Sr. are on the Board of SW Leadership Academy. (Waters was a major backer of Ackerman). Darrell Clark backs Alliance for Progress.

Meanwhile, the SDP is considering giving Universal Co. another school even though it is not paying rent on two schools including a brand new, $50+million Audenreid H.S. Universal is also putting parents on their payroll and then using them to hold closed door meetings and advocated for Universal. Last year, Universal Bluford did not make AYP in any academic category -

If a school is to be judged by the SPI, then all schools should be held accountable. It appears, the SRC is not holding Charters accountable unless they serve very vulnerable student populations (e.g. Arise Academy Charter).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 11:37 pm

I so agree with you. Universal Bluford nor Daroff made AYP last year - School district needs money? Collect the money that Universal owes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 11:42 pm

How does Universal get away with this crap?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 26, 2012 1:58 pm


Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 25, 2012 11:18 pm

I have heard from teachers I know who teach in the District that charters do dismiss students and that these students end up in neighborhood charter schools. I also know, based on experience doing practicum experiences as a grad student that not every charter school counsels out or cherry picks students. I did practicum experiences at the Belmont Charter School, a neighborhood charter school in West Philadelphia. EVERYTHING I saw and EVERYTHING I heard during conversations and interactions with teachers and staff was consistent with this school serving all of the children in the neighborhood, including special education students, including those with intellectual disabilities who need life skills services. Belmont CS takes kids in the middle of the school year. There are a lot of high needs kids at this school. I know that the typical process for serving a child whose needs exceed what Belmont CS can provide is to apply for the child to attend an approved private school. For students with severe disabilities or hearing or visual impairments, these children would likely not ever end up at Belmont CS in the first place because of early intervention services would lead them to attend a different school.

My above description is neither an endorsement or nonendorsement of Belmont CS as a whole. However, it is meant to show that some charter schools, like Belmont CS, do take seriously their obligation to educate all students in their neighborhood.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 12:42 am

Bemont Charter School was, for all intensive purposes, the first Renaissance Charter before there were "Renaissance" Charters under Ackerman. It was a neighborhood school that became a charter. This is from their web site - "Belmont Charter School (BCS) was founded in 2002 by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Formerly a public school with the Philadelphia School District, BCS is unique in the fact that student enrollment is determined by a geographic catchment area, versus the typical lottery style of enrollment associated with charter schools..." Therefore, Belmont has to accept students in its "catchment" like a neighborhood school. The vast majority of Charters do not have a "catchment" - they are city wide admission.

The history of Belmont becoming a charter is also unique because of its connection to the "Say Yes" Foundation. In 1987 Belmont SDP school was targeted by George Weis to support 112 7th graders through college. The experience at Belmont is what led it to become a charter and be free of SDP dictates. (It is a much more complicated story but that is not the focus of my post).

Belmont Charter is atypical because of its history. A number of charters do "counsel" out students. This is especially true for high schools. Look at the enrollment data for Boys Latin, Philadelphia Electrical (PET), Prep Charter, Franklin Town Charter, etc. They are not "counseling" out students who are succeeding at the schools. Once "counseled out" the neighborhood high schools have to accept the students. My experience as a neighborhood high school teacher is that the students "counseled out" have behavioral and academic issues. While I'm sure some Charter schools work with their "more difficult" students, too many do not. (This issue came up with Multicultural Academy Charter School at its SRC hearing. If students don't "get with their program," they are either not admitted or are "counseled out.")

My initial point is if the SRC is renewing charters for schools with SPI of 7-9, then no SDP school with an SPI of 7-9 should be closed for that reason. This is especially true for neighborhood high schools. Because of the SDP, especially 9-12, is extremely stratified or tracked, the work of neighborhood high schools is much more complicated than the magnets/special admits / charters.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 1:14 am

Your understanding of Belmont CS's history is correct. It is the original neighborhood charter school in Philadelphia. I was not aware of it's connection to the Say Yes Foundation, but I was aware of George Weiss and his wife's promise to pay for college for the Belmont's 1987 graduating sixth grade class. There was a series of articles about it from the Inquirer. That's interesting that a connection to the Say Yes Foundation had a connection to turning the school into a charter. One of the teachers at Belmont CS said that the school was in the lowest 7% of schools in the District before it became a charter.

From talking with an administrator at Mastery, she said that their Renaissance charters have to take all of the neighborhood students. I know a couple of other people who work at Mastery and they also say that the school serves all of the neighborhood kids. The situation at Mastery Clymer, with the discontinuing of the life skills program which was present at Clymer when it was a public school, suggests that contracts can contain provisions which go against the school truly taking all eligible neighborhood students.

I know that Belmont CS does not provide services for English language learners. I don't know what exactly they would do if an ELL student did live in the catchment area. As I recall, there are 4 kids at Belmont CS this year who are not Black. The vast majority of Black students at the school are non-immigrant African-American. My understanding from reading the series about the Belmont 112, my own acquaintance with the neighborhood, and conversations with an acquaintance who grew up near to the Belmont School is that the neighborhood has been almost exclusively Black for decades. This means it is highly likely that the public school didn't have services for ELLs either because it is rare for immigrant/refugee families with little English to live in that neighborhood. So with regard to ELLs, Belmont PS and Belmont CS likely operate in very similar ways.

Your point about the stratified nature of high schools in this city is very important. Take for example Overbrook High School. Overbrook is the neighborhood school for almost all areas of West Philadelphia north of Market Street. Thus, it draws from middle class neighborhoods, like Wynnefield and Overbrook Farms, along with working class neighborhoods like Carroll Park, and poorer neighborhoods like Belmont and Mantua ("the Bottom"). My guess is that many students from more affluent families in neighborhoods like Overbrook Farms and Wynnefield attend the more selective high schools in the city, leaving students from lower income families to attend the neighborhood high school. In addition, students with special needs, especially more moderate or severe disabilities, may have limited options apart from the neighborhood high school.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 26, 2012 11:42 am

You are right about the Renaissance Charters such as Mastery having to use the catchment and take kids from the catchment. However, for some reason, they have been allowed to cap class size at 25 students--they can (and do) turn catchment kids away after that. True district schools must fill each class to much higher levels (30 for K-3, 33 for 4-8) before they are considered "full". Again, this gives the Ren. Charters an advantage and a different set of rules than truly public schools. I agree that smaller class sizes are better, but if Mastery is so "high-performing" why not fill all available seats like true public schools are required to do? We simply need the rules to be the same for all of us before we are compared to one another.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on May 26, 2012 11:35 am

 Kristen, that's very important and the SRC needs to explain it.   What's your source for this?


Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 26, 2012 12:16 pm

Our school had a parent call to see if we had room. When we informed them their neighborhood school was a Mastery Renaissance School--they said they were aware of that, but that there was "a waiting list" because their class size was 25. I believe the district (at least the Office of School Placement) is aware, because the parent also told us that they had been given a choice of several other schools that were officially designated to take Mastery's "overflow". Our school was not one of them, but the parent did not like the choices they were given. I believe this was also mentioned in brief once at an SRC meeting. I do not think the SRC got the significance of it. Again, an un-level playing field.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 2:19 pm

Charter schools say they want to promote school choice, but in this case, the parent didn't have much of a choice for alternatives to the neighborhood school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 27, 2012 12:27 pm

Please----Stop stating the obvious, over and over and over and.............Example after example and always implying that "they" don't get it. They GET IT. Everybody gets it. The question is how to stop it !!!!!

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 27, 2012 12:01 pm

I will be at the mass protest at 440 on Wednesday, May 31st (4:00PM)--will you? I also inform my elected officials what I think and WHO and HOW I will vote. I inform parents in my school and community of the situation and let them know what they can do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 27, 2012 3:59 pm

I'll be there on THURSDAY, the 31st. You'll be there a day early. I doubt "mass" will occur but I hope you're right.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 27, 2012 5:05 pm

--Sorry, You are right! Rally at 440 on THURSDAY, MAy 31st.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 26, 2012 12:50 pm

Also, Ron, look at Mastery Smedley's own website:

It says they take kids from the catchment, BUT THEY ONLY HAVE OPENINGS in Kindergarten. A neighborhood school MUST take ALL kids. They also have an "application". There are neighborhood schools in the Northeast that have almost 40 kids crammed in a room (violating the contract), but Mastery is allowed to turn neighborhood kids away.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 12:43 pm

These are very important "un-level" requirements. No neighborhood school can require more than proof of birth date, verification of address, and, if transferring, records. The link has Mastery's application - which is extensive - includes a very long "Whatever it takes Pledge," and a form indicating the students is "not presently suspended or expelled from a public or private school..." This is admission requirements. Mastery should also not be able to turn away any student in the catchment.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 26, 2012 1:43 pm

Yes they are important differences, and they have a definite impact on school climate and academic success. However, many people in power (SRC, Mayor, SDP bosses, politicians) either do not know, or maintain willful ignorance about why these things hurt traditional public schools. ALL we want, and have ever wanted, is a LEVEL playing field with charters.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 27, 2012 11:25 am

Unless the people en masse demand it, it won't happen. Why would it stop otherwise??? Because their collective conscience forces them to play fairly???? Surely, you jest. Force, up close and personal, is the only way to go and has been for 4 years now. Talking ain't goin to git it with these scoundrels. By the way, Obama has also been a huge disappointment.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 2:02 pm

Mastery needs to play by the same rules. If they take kids in the neighborhood catchment, then they need to take as many as the building can take. I can understand turning kids away because of building occupancy limits, since this is a fire code issue. If a class has over 25 students, Mastery should hire an aide to help in the class. Each additional student comes with money, so they should be able to do this. Obviously, we all want smaller class sizes, but the SDP has a budget crisis right now.

If a child was turned away from a District school for class size reasons, the District is much more flexible because students can go to neighboring schools and it's all happening within the same system. I know that this has happened at Penn Alexander, so what's happening is that there is focus on improving Lea Elementary so that students which Penn Alexander can't accommodate can go to a nearby school.

Having smaller class size could give Mastery an advantage in terms of student achievement, especially in grades K through 3. This potentially gives them an unfair advantage versus District schools. This unfair advantage only works to the advantage of CMOs like Mastery which want to expand.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 6:02 pm

Penn Alexander, in my opinion, is not a SDP school since the Univ. of Penn gives the school $1300/per pupil (and this year is paying for the additional kindergarten class) as well as a lot of in-kind funding. Also, the school is in one of the wealthiest sections of Philadelphia. It doesn't play by the same rules.

That said, what is also concerning to me re: Mastery besides is capping its classroom size to limit enrollment from its catchment is the pledge every parent and student has to sign. Can you imagine a neighborhood school being able to require parents/students to sign the following?

Mastery Charter believes that parents, students, and the school must work together to ensure each student’s success. Mastery pledges to do whatever is necessary to support student achievement. In turn, we expect students and their families to commit to whatever effort and time is necessary to succeed. This agreement describes the responsibilities and expectations that families accept when they enroll at Mastery Charter.

• I will do whatever it takes to support my child’s success. I will ensure that s/he works hard, follows the rules and remains focused on his/her academic achievement.
• I agree to support my child’s academic work by communicating regularly with my child’s teachers and attending parent-teacher conferences. I agree to notify Mastery Charter when my address, telephone, or email contact information changes.

• I will ensure that my child attends school every day, prepared to learn and on time. I understand that attendance, promptness and preparedness significantly impact my child’s success.

• I will ensure my child completes all homework assignments. I will provide a suitable environment, structured time, supervision and support to ensure that homework time is successful.

• I understand that Mastery provides additional academic supports when needed. These supports may be provided during the school day or before or after school or on Saturdays. I will support and ensure that my child actively participates in all mandated academic support programs.

• I agree to learn and review the Code of Conduct and school rules with my child.
• I understand that if my child fails to follow the Code of Conduct and community rules, consequences such as detention, in-school or out of school suspension, restorative consequences, exclusion from school activities and/or expulsion may result.
• I will come to school for a reinstatement meeting if my child is suspended and I understand that my child will not be allowed to return to class until this reinstatement meeting occurs.

• I agree to support and encourage my child in using productive, non-violent strategies to resolve conflicts.

• I will ensure that my child abides by all parts of the dress code daily. I understand that students must be in full uniform to participate in all school events.
I understand that displayed personal electronic devices including phones, iPods, MP3s, etc… may be confiscation. Confiscated items will only be returned to a parent or guardian during scheduled appointments.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on May 26, 2012 6:51 pm

The school district would NEVER allow regular district schools to enforce these rules. They do not even back up Principals on enforcing their own code of conduct! We were once asked by our walkthrough team (from the district) if we really did everything possible to make sure a student got to school on time. They wanted us to CALL THE STUDENT and wake them up! Really?? This child had a mother, but they told us to stop "harassing" the parent about the child being an hour late every day! So, Mastery gets to make parents sign a pledge, and regular district schools get dumped on by craven administrators from 440.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 6:12 pm

The Mastery high school "Whatever it Takes" is even more detailed. For example, the pass rate for a class is 76%. If a student fails one class, they have to go to summer school/after school. In the SDP, students can play a sport while failing a class! I'd love to see what would happen in a neighborhood school if the "Mastery Model" was enforced! We would get no 440 support.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 27, 2012 11:50 am

In November of this year, University City HS stopped confiscating cell phones. There is no class management piece at UCHS. Kids use Twitter (despite formal staff attempts to block it on their phones throughout their classes). If you try to call home for the student, the phone numbers listed 2,3, 4 numbers do not work. Sometimes the new number administrators always seem to have work for a couple of tries but nothing seems to last 3 tries. If you do call the family often you will be told "the administrator will handle this or there's nothing to be done."

The obvious questions that come include "Are the administrator's pragmatists who realize they have no back-up from SDP?" Probably. "Are the administrators feckless because they are feckless or because they have no back-up?" That's hard to say. Another question that arises is "How can parents who cannot stop their student from cutting 89 classes, manage to sustain any pressure on the SDP?" Think about it. The SDP is f'd up. The SRC is not changing anything except moving people away from the SDP in a "we can't save all so we'll save a few" sort of move. So the elites including complainers, not the normal people, run the show and the normal suffer.

But doesn't the SRC have the backing of the governor's office? The mayor? So why don't they simply start over and get rid of the people completely who made this mess? There are places where unions work with institutions with transparency and for the benefit of those they serve. There is no transparency with the SRC or SDP. They just keep trying to outmaneuver the unions and "win," at all costs. Anyone, SRC, can take that attitude. And, as the Chinese regularly prove, you cannot buy enough bullets to kill poor people.

There will always be unions and if you try to get rid of us you will guarantee that the smartest people in the room are not teaching but becoming engineers, doctors, lawyers and such. Kids ,on
the whole, will suffer. Unless they are rich and inheritors of the "classed" society.

Unions exist to help create fair and equitable treatment for those who are not privileged adults and children. If the SRC tries to destroy us, you will someday be very alone in your mansions while we walk through your gates. You are after all, not invincible, just flesh and blood. We love our kids like you do. We love life like you do. We all reap what we sow, even the SRC.

You will destroy yourselves and your society if you try to destroy us.
You had better start working with us. We are Americans and really, truly, unafraid.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 7:26 pm

Good point; Penn Alexander has a completely different environment and more resources than most schools in the SDP. It is the exception instead of the rule.

With regard to Mastery's pledge, I think it's fairly reasonable. However, technically, if it's a neighborhood school, should parents or students have to sign the pledge? Could it be grounds for denying a child admission to the school?

The following provision is unreasonable:
"I will provide a suitable environment, structured time, supervision and support to ensure that homework time is successful."

I went to private school, and when I was middle school age, I went home and did my homework when mom and dad were at work. Both of my parents had cars and good jobs. To expect that a parent who works two jobs, takes SEPTA, works at night and sleeps in the day, or is a single parent could do this consistently is unreasonable in some cases.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 26, 2012 9:09 pm

There's no money doing things the fair way and it's all about money for the politicians and their charter buddies. This is really not a complicated issue. Follow the money.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 11:35 am

The Renaissance model is suppose to maintain a neighborhood school (e.g. "catchment," programs) but by a different provider. While this is probably happening at the Renaissance schools, I know at least Mastery expels students who get in a fight. Obviously, fighting is serious but a student who gets in a fight will not be expelled from a neighborhood school for simply fighting. So, Mastery does operate under different rules. (There are a few things that Mastery does that I respect. For example, Assistant Principals teach a class. Nevertheless, Mastery's "direct instruction" drill model/test prep is not what I'd want my children to be subjected to for four years.)

Re: Overbrook - Lamberton, a K-12 school, provided an "out" for families in Overbrook. It is nestled in a neighborhood surrounded by parks. When it was opened (mid 1970s?), the neighborhood was predominantly Euro-American. Now, it is middle class African American. So, when the neighborhood high schools started losing credibility in Philly, and there was a lot of "white flight," the SDP opened a number of "desegregation" schools (e.g. Carver, Bodine, GAMP, Parkways, etc.) and Lamberton. The stratification of the SDP is not new (Central was opened in 1836 and Girls High about 20 years later). Comprehensive High Schools expanded in the first 20 years of the 20th century. (Before this time, most people didn't go to high school. For many families, like my own, that really didn't change much until after WWII). The stratification increased in the late 1970s/early 1980s. With Vallas, his creation of small, magnet schools and the rapid expansion of charter schools, further stratified the SDP. (I know very little about private or parochial schools but they obviously also influence who goes to schools like Overbrook, Frankford, Southern, Germantown, etc. Overbrook is near the main line - a haven for private schools - and Germantown/Mt. Airy/Chestnut Hill is also a region with plenty of private schools.)

Belmont Charter, by the way, did not make AYP in any academic category last year - Again, if AYP is the be all and end all of determining the viability of a school, Belmont failed in 2011.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 2:03 pm

Direct instruction has it's place. It's very effective for teaching new knowledge and skills. There's a lot of research supporting direct/explicit instruction. However, there should be some variety in the types of instruction in order to consider students with varying learning styles.
(I chose this because the article are good, not because it came from the AFT's American Educator magazine.)

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 3:18 pm

AYP is a flawed system of measurement, but it's the reality right now. Like I said, my post was not an endorsement or nonendorsement of Belmont CS. It was just stating that unlike many charter schools, Belmont CS does indeed take all neighborhood students. If they can't serve a child with special needs, Belmont CS's procedure is to put the child in an approved private school, not back in the District.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 26, 2012 11:55 am

Thank you Education Grad Student and Philly Parent and Teacher for your detailed comments. I am curious since you are both speaking from the perspective of teachers, what your suggestion(s) might be regarding the behavior problem children. I have seen firsthand how they do interfere with the other children's instruction time, and a teacher's ability to teach; and in addition they raise the cost per child for a school, while discouraging caregivers from enrolling their children there.

My own thoughts are that there should be earlier intervention. That Title I money should be routed to organizations like Settlement Music School or the YMCA who can screen for financial eligibility and who can provided the missing enrichment. The District then should provide the mandatory attendance requirement for these children and if possible also the supervision to bring them there. Use what is in place already, rather than create new entities (one major criticism of Ms. Ackerman).

In addition, if there is not enough money to maintain an entire separate school, at least there should be part time separate programs for these children. It is not segregation but much needed intervention, because these kids are not "ready" for the demands of a structured classroom environment. I'm not talking about the children with diagnosed disabilities, but the children who have (undiagnosed) emotional issues. Here, the larger District has the advantage over the individual charters (as in larger pooled resources); it needs to better route the savings that is realized per child in the schools where well behaved children are packed into schools like Central, Masterman, SLA.

The charter vs traditional is a tricky controversy. I agree that charters should not be approved based solely on them being less expensive (to taxpayers) to operate. If they offer nothing truly new, then they shouldn't be approved. Likewise/however then, we need a real solution to removing entrenched bureaucrats who are a significant roadblock (and not much different than for profit entities) to getting resources to the children who need them.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 12:56 pm

Aspira and Mastery, and I assume some other charters, have created "Success Academies" within their schools. (I believe Aspira did this first at Stetson; they have also done it at Olney. Mastery did it this year at Gratz.) A "Success Academy" separates out the students who are "behavior problems," puts them on computers and they have a shorter school day. It is also done at the Ombudsman program. That said, I don't think there is a "simple" solution like a "Success Academy" to students who are very disruptive, disrespectful, have emotional/social issues, etc.

Some students are disengaged because they see no use for school. Some students are social/emotional wrecks. Some have an IEP/504 plan - schools are not designed for students who can't sit still, do repetitive tasks (especially test prep), follow rigid "raise your hand" type rules, etc. There are a few who are very disrespectful - and I'm putting it mildly - to anyone in authority or who they perceive as a threat which might be a peer. Should these students be relegated to a "Success Academy?" It does make is more manageable for students who are, for the most part, willing to participate and try, who are not belligerent and don't see school as a total waste of time. Maybe a "Success Academy" is needed but not as a permanent sentence (e.g. separation from the rest of the school for their entire high school career). I certainly had and have classes that would make much more progress if the 3 - 4 students who consistently disrupt the flow of the class were removed. Maybe this is only fair to the 90% of the students who aren't disengaged/disruptive/disrespectful/etc.

This is anecdotal but I saw a former student at a store last week. The student was sent to the Ombudsman program. The student (I'm avoiding a pronoun) liked the shorter day, quick accumulation of credits and flexibility. The students will now graduate. This student was not disruptive but had very poor attendance and family issues. So, the student may not be typical of those headed for "Success Academies." One concern that should be raised with the "Success Academy" model is what happens after the students graduates. Will this student be ready for college? (I realize that must be asked of any Philadelphia schools.) As a parent of a child who gets in trouble for "not raising his/her hand," I know that there are students who would benefit from a much more engaging curriculum, smaller class size, and the flexibility to do more than sit on a computer.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 26, 2012 1:27 pm

I am also the parent of a child who became disengaged with the "mass production" aspect of school. When they reach high school age, an important part of their education is finding their own footing/meaning, so despite my worries as a parent I have to let him follow the riskier path (dropping out and getting a G.E.D.). In terms of preparedness for college, I believe motivation trumps "rote learning" when they get to young adulthood.

Then perhaps two different programs are needed. One for those who are disengaged, and one for those who are emotionally insecure. The former could be greater interface/cooperation with businesses, developing apprenticeships, internships, community service etc.; and the latter could be greater incorporation of the arts (visual, music, drama, etc. (I definitely don't agree with the sitting in front of a computer)). There is no reason why the District (which has a stated objective of replicating successful strategies (Great Schools Compact)) can't also incorporate the idea of the "Success Academy". Already they are spending extra $ per child for behavior issues. It is not inconceivable that schools can be reorganized to create these. Perhaps more "prep" time $ or teacher time devoted so that the teachers in the classroom would be relieved for at least part of the day?

Here we also reach an issue with the current trend to SBA, School Based Administration. The District right now, can implement a template (even parcel instructors) across many schools whereas individual schools might not be able to find the funding to support such programs. This was very apparent when fighting to keep the central administration of the current Instrumental Music program. Another advantage of the template model, is having the stats to lobby for increased funding from lawmakers, or even private foundations. A real danger of SBA without adequate oversight is the loss of standards, and (as feared in many posts) an unequal distribution of resources (reference paper on the equivalent of Weighted Student Funding (SBA) by League of Women Voters for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District).

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 26, 2012 6:55 pm

Your suggestions should be considered. If schools are given real autonomy, there could be school based alternatives in SDP schools. We have been under the dictates of Ackerman/Nixon/Driver/etc. since 2008 and there were few options. Ideally, by 11th grade students should have a lot of options. The current credit accumulation system, which is over 100 year old, also needs to be revised. Why can't, for example, FLC's model be incorporated in more schools? I also appreciate your suggestion re: prep time. We need time to collaborate on a consistent basis. SLA has early dismissal for all students every Wed. Why not all high schools? The neighborhood high schools could be cutting edge with creating schools around students versus around test prep.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 26, 2012 7:37 pm

I agree the neighborhood schools could be cutting edge. The behavior issue children can actually lead us to improvements for all children. Thanks again for taking the time to post and reply.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 5:04 pm

Regarding kids with behavior problems, a lot of it comes down to classroom management. I've done field experiences at several schools and worked in after-school/summer programs as well. I'll use a teacher I observed during one of my field experiences as an example throughout this post. This teacher taught first graders at a neighborhood school in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood. Half of her students were in response to intervention or had IEPs. Her classroom was quite orderly in spite of having a few children with behavior problems and a number of others with learning disabilities or language delays.

1). This teacher had EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT procedure and routines. She had a stoplight behavior chart. Each day, every child began on blue. The stoplight also had green, yellow, and red, red indicating very poor/disruptive behavior. She would say "Go move your clip down to [a color]" or "Go move your clip up to [a color]." When students were really disruptive, she had them go on a timeout/sit apart from the class. This teacher does a lot of activities on the carpet. Students on timeout would sit in their seat at their table. Timeout isn't ideal, but sometimes it's necessary.
She also REINFORCED GOOD BEHAVIOR by putting stickers on the forehead and then each child could put his/her stickers in a sticker book. Students who were well-behaved might have the opportunity to lead the class; for example, a student would hold a pointer to guide other students in practicing a fluency activity while the teacher was helping another student or passing out papers. The teacher was good about USING PRAISE with her students.
Most of all, she was CONSISTENT. She rarely yelled at her students. She cared about them and treated them fairly. She was extremely well-organized, prepared, and had excellent class routines. She used songs as transitions, like "The more we get together." Transitions between activities are important. Good transitions help keep students on track and focused.
It can be difficult for new teachers to find a system that works for them because there is a huge learning curve for new teachers. Also, every class is different so there is not one-size-fits-all approach. However, POSITIVE BEHAVIOR SUPPORTS have a lot of research supporting their effectiveness. They are also effective when used throughout an entire school, which means that the principal/vice principal needs to have processes in place to make the positive behavior support (PBS) work.

2.) This same teacher had a co-teacher, which made things easier. However, she didn't have the co-teacher for the whole year. Her classroom was orderly with or without the co-teacher (she had between 17 and 20 first graders in her class). However, having a co-teacher allowed for better individualized instruction for students with IEPs or students who were below grade level. Having a co-teacher or teacher's assistant can be helpful, but it isn't essential.

3.) VOICE and CHOICE are key. Kids need to feel that they have some power, that they have some influence and input. One way to do this is to have kids help shape class rules/CLASS VALUES. If the school has set rules/expectations, then have the kids brainstorm specifics for each rule. For example, if a rule is "Wear the proper uniform," the teacher needs to help children operationalize this definition, that is, define the proper uniform in terms of behavior. For example, the proper uniform might mean:
- navy blue pants for boys and girls
- navy blue jumpers for k-5th girls and navy blue skirts for
6th-8th girls.
- white polo shirt tucked in for boys and girls
- black shoes
You get the picture. After kids brainstorm rules/values for the contract, have them vote. This makes the process democratic. Then make sure each child willingly signs the CONTRACT. This gives kids buy-in and ownership of the rules. They feel that they had a voice in the process.
In terms of choice, there are many things to do. One example pertains to the Everyday Mathematics curriculum which is the curriculum in many elementary classrooms in Philadelphia's public schools. There are multiple ways of teaching the operations. For example, for multiplication, there is lattice multiplication, partial products multiplication, and the standard algorithm of multiplying from right to left. ALLOW THE CHILD TO CHOOSE THE METHOD WHICH MAKES THE MOST SENSE to her or him. What's important is not the particular algorithm, but whether the child can use an algorithm to find the correct answer consistently. Also, some algorithms are faster than others. Eventually, many children who begin by using an "alternative" algorithm will end up using the most efficient algorithm. However, the fact that a child can choose when to make the transition is important because it puts the child in charge of his or her own learning.

4.) Don't send misbehaving kids to the office for little things. LEARN TO HANDLE THE BEHAVIOR ISSUES OF YOUR STUDENTS IN YOUR CLASSROOM. The principal appreciates not having a constant flow of students from your classroom. In addition, your students see that you, the teacher, are in charge and that you can handle the class. By sending kids to the principal's office frequently, it can make kids more likely to take advantage of the teacher.

5.) Be sensitive to how different cultures practice discipline, e.g., are parents from a culture more authoritative, permissive, authoritarian? Work with parents as much as possible. Call parents when kids do well, not just when they misbehave.

6.) Have engaging instruction! This is a big one. The teacher I mentioned in points 1 and 2 was very engaging. She did great read-alouds using real children's books. As much as possible, students should be ACTIVE learners! They should not just be sitting in a seat, expected to listen to a teacher lecture all day.


Here are some good resources:
Reeve, Johnmarshall. (2009). Why Teachers Adopt a Controlling Motivating Style Toward Students and How They Can Become More Autonomy Supportive. Educational Psychologist, vol. 44 no. 3, pp. 159–175. [article]

Curwin, Richard L. & Mendler, Allen N. Discipline with Dignity. [book]

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 26, 2012 7:47 pm

Thank you again for taking the time to be so specific. You cite examples for younger children, and I have seen the same general approach (that is a combination of no nonsense taking charge and genuine caring) work for older kids (8th grade) also. In the case of the older kids, the class size was approx 22 to 25. There were two side by side classes (20s class size each) and two teachers who worked together. In the case of the older kids, having two teachers "cover each others back" was crucial. The kids could be really vicious. One of our new teachers simply left without giving notice.

So internally to a school, with teamwork and the right schedule adaptations (having a time slot set aside for the difficult kids) conceivably this handicap could be dealt with or lessened? Which then puts the burden of organization upon the principal.

Things that worked for our 8th grade were lunch time detentions during which teachers actively supervised the doing of homework. (They (the teachers) were paid with EC funds to do this.) Perhaps the allowance also of a more arts integrated side by side test prep/literacy class where the restless kids (even mixing grades,run as a "master class") could be routed in the afternoons/when they tend to act up more? (Then if they act up in the morning, they would have to sit at their desk...) The question (for the budget) then is, with School Based Administration, will this kind of innovation be more possible; or would it be more possible using a central system of resource allocation? In the latter case, the behavior segregation now existing (as in Central, Masterman, SLA, etc) and the low per student expenditure in these schools could mean higher per student expenditure possible in schools where behavior issues present a significant challenge, that is the neighborhood schools.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on May 26, 2012 11:04 pm

OMG!!! Please, please, please teach in the SDP!! We need more teachers like you!! And thank you for the resources, I am going to order them tonight. I have also observed the things you so eloquently described.

Thanks so much. I sound like a broken record, but our kids here aren't inherently 'bad'..they are just kids, and as adults, parents and educators, we must work together and as educators have studied more about child development, we as parents look to them for guidance, so that we can help our children learn.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on May 26, 2012 11:31 pm

I visited a school in the Downingtown school district and had a lengthy conversation with a teacher about how they handled emotional behaviorial issues in a classroom because it's not a problem that only happens in urban schools but every where. That school district has significantly more resources available for early intervention, with classroom aides, wrap arounds, and most importantly, invited the parent(s) to help them work out a solution. Also, the teachers were very very structured, had a great handle on transitions and the class room set up was very different than city schools, there were more activity based learning circles, differientated activities with small groups, and teacher's aids and parent volunteers helped out a lot.

I hate to say this but, it seems that these things won't work in this city because parents, teachers and admins seem to have a belief that parents don't care...if we all as a community do not work together to help kids be successful, the kids with emotional or pyschological issues that manifest as behavior problems, will continue. Also, healthy children are not born with poor behavior, they are created by abuse and neglect. You need to work on changing the environment that cause young children to act out in school.

I have been reading a lot on indivual schools in urban cities that are able to successfully engage the students and parents and the driving force behind their success appears to be the teachers and principal invested in the community they teach in. Going to rec league activities or local church activities, etc having parents come to an open house (yes with food) before kindergarten and sit with other parents, the teacher in the classroom to begin the process of parental engagement.

I am always saddened as I look for schools for my child, non SDP schools, the private, charter or religious schools never talk about the 'bad' kids they have or are they surprised to find out I have a master's degree, nor do they quiz me on whether I read to my kid each and every night, but SDP admins are shocked often to find out I own my own home, I work, and have been to college. I suspect there is a stereotype in Philly that assumes we are negligent, lazy, uninterested in our childs education and are more inclined to have poorly behaved kids. And what you think is the majority, is what you can probably only see....I look at students as a reflection of who I am, and they respond the only way that they know how...if I think they are prone to violence, poor behavior, have lazy neglectful parents, some kids will work hard to try to prove me wrong, and some kids will get that I have stereotyped them and will act out because kids know when you don't like them.

I also notice the great teachers that I have observed in SDP, usually never refer to kids as'bad'. They may say some are more challenging than other, but they run a really tight, activity based with desks set up for group work, are a good balance between teacher directed instruction and student centered, they are CONSISTENT with classroom rules that ARE EXTREMELY clear and they really know their kids and parents. They tend to not have as many issues, because the kids get that they are with someone who doesn't stereotype them (and I have seen blacks stereotype other blacks who live in Philly) but cares and is focused on getting the kids to love learning.

I love love love watching those teachers teach. : )

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Universal is a completely incompetent organization that has destroyed every school it has been given to operate. The SRC has no business giving any school to them. Universal is operated by Kenny Gamble for Kenny Gamble. I am sure Robert Archie, our most corrupt SRC member ever, is still operating behind the scenes to cash in on Universal's under the table dealings.

What amazes me is the arrogance with which the corruption is allowed to take place. It is the SRC that has the responsibility to put an end to it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 26, 2012 3:38 pm

Could have, should have----------how many more times are we going to wax philosophical about the immorality of closing the real schools willy nilly while propping up the jokes like the above charters??? STOP ALREADY and lets fight this !!!! Where are the unions really??

Submitted by Ken Derstine on May 25, 2012 11:30 pm

Check out this talk by Glen Ford "Corporate Assault on Public Education" and the comment by Diane Ravitch:

Submitted by Ken Derstine on May 26, 2012 9:09 am

The Philadelphia City Paper's Daniel Denvir has some important reporting on the Philadelphia school crisis. Denvir wrote the in depth historical survey of the Philadelphia schools crisis for the City Paper on May 3rd "Who is Killing Philly Public Schools" at:

On Friday Denvir appeared on Democracy Now. "Who's Killing Philly Public Schools?: Daniel Denvir on Plan for School Closing, Privatization"
on Democracy Now at:

Denvir also currently has an article on Alternet: "How "No Child Left Behind" Unleashed a Nationwide Epidemic of Cheating"
from Alternet

Submitted by S. Alford (not verified) on May 26, 2012 9:40 am

One aspect of this situation is about people's jobs...But another broader view is what this means for the children. There are all different types of people..people that make good cops, doctors, or workers that work with our elderly. The same is true for people that work around kids. I know all types of workers that give to the kids they work with everyday. Whether it is bringing clothes for kids that don't have, feeding hungrey kids, taking them to college's for interviews, or having a class to teach or future young men and women how to be the best person they can be. You can't buy that. A private firm is not going to have people employed that truly want to give back to kids...that's not why they chose their job..They just happen to be workers in a company that was the lowest bidder in a politics game. God bless the children...They are ripping the heart out of the district for money.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on May 26, 2012 10:30 am

Can we get a running talley of how many charter seats are added throughout this year's renewal process?

Submitted by Marcus.T on May 26, 2012 12:18 pm

It sounds like charter schools are becoming more and more popular as time goes on and even though there are those who don't like it, it doesn't seem like they are going to stop any time soon.


    People love charter schools with some code a lot more than public schools because of the smaller class sizes but as these schools grown that ratios will go in the other direction.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on May 26, 2012 12:59 pm

Where is this sound coming from?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 26, 2012 9:23 pm

let's talk about classroom management practices when you have 38 first graders in a aide!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 27, 2012 12:40 am

From what I understand, Mastery @ Gratz changes teachers' grades so that kids are passed in classes where they are failing. The teachers don't have the opportunity to stand up for their assessment; the administration is making lots of grade changes!

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 27, 2012 1:11 am

How do you know this? What's your source?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 27, 2012 1:25 am

I have read a peer-reviewed research case study about what happened in New Orleans with the proliferation of charter schools after Hurricane Katrina by Nikki L. Wolf, a professor at the University of Kansas. The article, published in 2011, focuses specifically on how charters and public schools in post-Katrina New Orleans serve special education students. If you want to access the article, you may have to do it through a university library. I couldn’t find any place, including Google Scholar, where it’s available without charge, but if you can get your hands on it, it’s a MUST READ!

This article contains writings on the wall for what may happen in Philadelphia if the District implements the Boston Consulting Group's plans for achievement networks and more charters. It is even more interesting that the Boston Consulting Group also created a plan in 2007 called The State of Public Education in New Orleans, which Wolf's article cites. All of the content below is from the article, verbatim. The only changes I made were to capitalize the major headings. I’ve also included the references for citations in the article.


In post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana, there is a growing concentration of charter schools. The Recovery School District (RSD) has oversight of the majority of these schools. To explore charges from community advocates that RSD charter schools restricted admission and provided inadequate services for students with disabilities, the following questions were asked: Were students with disabilities admitted equally to charter and traditional schools in New Orleans? and How were the services for students with disabilities the same or different in charter and traditional schools? A case study research design that included both traditional and charter RSD schools was used. Data were gathered through examination of relevant reports from school entities and popular media. Additional data were gathered through interviews with district personnel and traditional school, charter school, and community disabilities advocates. Analysis of resultant themes indicated evidence of selective practices as well as differences in education provision for students with disabilities.

p. 382
Prior to the hurricane in 2005, the Recovery School District (RSD) was created by the Louisiana Legislature in response to the low academic performance of New Orleans’s public schools. This enabled state takeover of all schools performing below the state average (United Teachers of New Orleans, 2007).
Currently, no city in the United States has a higher percentage of students enrolled in charter schools than New Orleans (Boston Consulting Group, 2007).
p. 384
Current Status of RSD
In the New Orleans public schools, there has been financial scandal at the school board level, incredibly low test scores, physical structures in need of major repair, racial segregation, and violence (Tuzzolo & Hewitt, 2006). It is in this context that Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees subsequently failed, leading to disastrous and sustained flooding.
At the writing of this article, RSD was under the guidance of its second superintendent, Paul Vallas, who was appointed by the state superintendent of education in the summer of 2007. Mr. Vallas has a history of urban school reform efforts, the most notable being in Philadelphia and Chicago. In both of these cities, privatization and school choice were keystones of reform, experiences that made him a natural choice for the challenges in New Orleans.
p. 386
Data collected and considered for this research consisted of more than 50 documents including the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting minutes, Louisiana charter law, community reports, charter school advocacy materials, teacher union reports, and newspaper articles. In addition, interviews with three district personnel, four charter and traditional school personnel (including special and general education teachers), four family members of students with disabilities, four community activists, and staff from a charter support organization were conducted, resulting in a total of 16 interviews, all conducted individually.
Research Question 1
1. Were students with disabilities admitted equally to charter and traditional schools in New Orleans?
A major theme emerged from the RSD document and interview data related to admission: It appeared that students with disabilities were denied admission to charter schools, whereas traditional schools openly accepted all students. RSD documents and state charter law specifically stated that students were not to be denied admission to charters based on disability. However, reports of students with disabilities being denied admission appeared in the interviews with district personnel, parents, parent advocates, and community activists as well as the document reviews.
p. 387
However, when current enrollment data as of October 2007 were considered, charter and traditional schools reflected inequity. The traditional RSD school had, on average, about 10% special education students, with some schools as high as 22%. In charter schools, special education students made up an average of only 6% of the students.
In addition to issues of admission of students in charters, there were reports of “dumping” (forced student transfer) students who were not able to perform academically or had behavioral challenges. Many of these students transferred to the RSD traditional schools as a last resort, resulting in a disproportionate number of students with disabilities and behavioral challenges in these RSD schools.

Research Question 2
2. How were the services for students with disabilities the same or different in charter and traditional schools?
Two major themes arose from the data: lack of IDEA awareness in the charters and little existing special education support for students attending charters.
The lack of existing support required charters to hire additional staff if a child with significant needs enrolled, resulting in a financial disincentive to support such a child. Both of these issues seemed to have contributed to the lack of appropriate educational supports for students in charter schools.
A charter school teacher suggested that instead of lack of knowledge, the problem was actually how resources were used: “A lot of charter schools know they have to provide services, but because these are based on need, they don’t hire the personnel until the student comes.” There were also those charters that chose not to hire additional personnel even when the need was clearly indicated, as reflected in a special educator’s experience at one charter: “We had no one to do evaluations, no nurse or psych or anyone else. I was really hindered from doing my job because the school wouldn’t put out the money to hire support people.”
In addition, there seemed to be a lack of existing special education infrastructure. The lack of existing support required charters to hire additional staff if a child with significant needs enrolled, resulting in a financial disincentive to support such a child. Both of these issues seemed to have contributed to the lack of appropriate educational supports for students in charter schools.
p. 388
In addition to the requirement of positive academic outcomes, charter schools were also motivated to provide education economically. As noted by Carr in January 2008,
Part of the issue comes down to money. Providing strong special education services is not always financially advantageous—or even feasible—for charter schools. While a typical urban school system might have a special education administrator who oversees services for 6,000 students, for instance, a typical charter school might have 60 special education students, but would still need an administrator who knows the technicalities of complicated special education laws. Schools that are individually run can’t take advantage of the economies of scale present in larger school systems. (p. 1)
Functionally, the charter system has been disincentivized to include difficult and costly students. These schools are driven by market forces to reduce overhead (Berger, 2007; Simon, 2007). Understandably, charters were not anxious to hire special education staff who were not yet needed. However, a condition of their chartering agreement was the commitment to provide appropriate services to any child accepted and enrolled. Once again, the issue of IDEA knowledge was visible. When schools consider students
with special education needs financial liabilities, a moral as well as legal issue arises. An administrator from RSD commented, “For a small charter, two kids with significant disabilities could sink them financially. . . . It would be the perfect storm.”
Considering the academic and financial contingencies charter schools faced, it was understandable that they would be apprehensive to welcome students who were not achieving academically who might require costly support services. Of course, these contingencies are in direct conflict with the legal rights of students. Where does this leave charter schools? They seem to be caught on a precarious point of economic constraints and legal requirements. These complex issues needed to have been considered prior to the wholesale spread of charters in New Orleans.
p. 389
As of June 2007, individual charter schools in New Orleans secured from $10,000 to $250,000 in additional funding through private donations and foundation grants (Boston Consulting Group, 2007). In addition, the Bush administration offered $24 million for the charters (Berger, 2007). Some community members noted that many in New Orleans believed the push for chartering of schools was the privatization and resultant profit off of education (Adamo, 2007):
At the center of the charter school movement, many here believe, is the profit motive, especially for national vendors providing construction, food services, security guards, and insurance to individual charter schools, consortiums of charters, and to the RSD. In replacing the system they despised, the advocates of limited government have created fields of profit for the private sector, while frequently delivering shoddy services and unfit products. Now, instead of centralized bad judgment, we have diversified bad judgment, with occasionally common results. (p. 2)
The implications for students with disabilities in this community were significant. Risk factors of being African American and poor add to the challenges of having a disability (Lutzker & Bigelow, 2002; McLoyd, 1990; Peterson, Wall, & Raikes, 2004; Qi & Kaiser, 2004; Rush, 1999). Students with disabilities were not typically welcome in the higher performing charter schools (Boston Consulting Group, 2007). “Hundreds of kids with disabilities (who are often turned away from charter schools) are being placed in the under-resourced and overburdened state-run Recovery School District. It’s their only choice” (Quigley, 2007).

Wolf, N. L. (2011). A Case Study Comparison of Charter and Traditional Schools in New Orleans Recovery School District: Selection Criteria and Service Provision for Students With Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education 32(5), 382–392.

Adamo, R. (2007, June). Squeezing public education: History and ideology gang up in New Orleans. Dissent, 10.

Berger, J. (2007, October 17). A post-Katrina charter school in New Orleans gets a second chance. New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from

Boston Consulting Group. (2007). The state of public education
in New Orleans. Retrieved December 29, 2007 from http://
Education_New_Orleans_Jun2007.pdf. [This address no longer works. Use the address below:

Carr, S. (2008, January 5). Charter schools struggle to meet special education needs. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from charter_schools_struggle_to_me.html.

Quigley, B. (2007). New Orleans’s children fighting for the right to learn. Truthout/Report Editorial. Retrieved August 15, 2007, from hppt://

Simon, D. (2007, December 6). BESE panel backs 8 new charters number in N.O. could rise to 49. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from

Tuzzolo, E., & Hewitt, D. (2006). Rebuilding inequity: The re-emergence of the school-to-prison pipeline in New Orleans. High School Journal, 90(2), 59-68.

United Teachers of New Orleans, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, and American Federation of Teachers. (2007, October). Reading, writing and reality check: An early assessment of student achievement in post-Katrina New Orleans. Retrieved March 2, 2008, from


A few interesting points are here:
1. Paul Vallas’ name appears.
2. The Boston Consulting Group studied schools in New Orleans in 2007.
3. There are many striking similarities between Philadelphia and New Orleans, e.g. high poverty, large African American population, and major financial issues.

The issues in this article should raise alarm about how the growth of charter schools in Philadelphia affects special education students. This is particularly true in light of the William Penn Foundation’s additional funding of the BCG’s reorganization plan for the District.

Thoughts? Comments?

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 27, 2012 7:55 am

Thank you for posting excerpts from the article. Vallas is key. He is a symbol of privatization - and personal profit - at the expense of public, urban schools.

This also sounds like Mastery which is arguing they can't offer services to students with multiple disabilities because it will take funding from their "turn around" process:

"In addition, there seemed to be a lack of existing special education infrastructure. The lack of existing support required charters to hire additional staff if a child with significant needs enrolled, resulting in a financial disincentive to support such a child. Both of these issues seemed to have contributed to the lack of appropriate educational supports for students in charter schools."

Mastery, unlike individual charter schools, is a charter operator. It lists 11 schools on its web site. It also gets millions in additional funding from foundations including the Lenfests. Mastery should accept ADDITIONAL students - not limit enrollment at schools like Smedley and Clymer.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 27, 2012 9:52 am

I worked under Pula Vallas and he was devoid of personal credibility and ethics. He destroyed many schools in our district and many dedicated educators, for example Southern (which is now on its way back). He removed a few principals for what he called "shock value" and fired some really good dedicated Philly educators because they had the courage to argue with him. He brought management by intimidation to Philadelphia.

Paul Valls began our district's descension into toxicity which still persists today. He was out only for himself and tried to use Philadelphia to make a political name for himself.

I have no respect for the man at all. He represents and symbolizes everything that is wrong with reform controlled by politicians.

And this comes from a commenter who has a reputation for positivity. I can find and highlight the good in anything and almost anyone -- but not for Paul Vallas.

Now to end on a note of positivity. I enjoy and respect the way that you, Ed Grad Student, cite actual research. What ever happended to "research-based" governnace, leadership and decision-making?

I suppose research based decsion-making does fit the political and profit-making agendas of many.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on May 27, 2012 10:08 am

I want to thank you for your comments Rich, as they are inciteful and make me think!! I am learning a lot, and your positive notes keep me motivated as sometimes I get overly emotional when it comes to the well being and educational opportunities for children. The Education Grad student is really awesome, and I wish I could write as well as he/she the way he/she argues the point!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 27, 2012 11:39 am

I think it's great that despite all our personal tendencies with communication, ideologies, etc. we find common ground when we speak of what we wish for for our kids. Keep posting!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 27, 2012 12:09 pm

I apologize but I meant above that the actual research and what it means "does not" fit the agendas of many politicians and those who want to capitalize on the agenda of privatization.

You do not have to apologize for being over emotional. The reason why I have so much hope is because of people like you, Ms Cheng, Grad student, and all the people, as reflected in the Notebook community, who still care about public education and have the courage to speak up.

I would like this to be an open forum for collegial discussion of all the issues before us and I believe that research-based discourse and decision-making grounded in our experiences will eventually lead to the best practices for our schools and schoolchildren.

I learn from everyone and know that there are no easy answers. I also know that no matter how big anyone's ego or position is, they really do not know very much more than the rest of us. That is why I foresee that what the Boston Consulting Group proposes, is really just their biased OPINION and it is driven by their Agenda to profit from us.

Our strength and our children's Hope lies in Our Community of citizens and educators.

With that said, I am going fishing now..... Have a Great Memorial day weekend!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 27, 2012 12:48 pm

Google Substance News, Vallas and George Schmidt if you want to find out about Vallas. He's always been a self-promoting bully who thinks he's accountable to no one.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 27, 2012 2:13 pm

Rich, my understanding from reading various articles is that you were once a teacher and a principal in the SDP. Is that correct?

As for Vallas, reading up about his background, he is a Chicago native and it appears that he always retained some sort of residency in Illinois because on a couple of occasions, he either contemplated, was encouraged to run, or ran for governor in Ilinois ( I bring this up because it shows that he was an outsider in both Philadelphia and New Orleans. One problem with bringing in a superintendent from another place who lacks ties to Philadelphia is that he/she may lack a personal investment or personal stake in the school district and the city, apart from being the superintendent. One would think, and certainly hope, that someone who has personal or family ties to Philadelphia may act with a bit more concern for the long-term future of the school district and city. On the other hand, being an outsider may be positive in the sense that there may be fewer deep ties with local power brokers and politicians. Some politicians, especially in Philadelphia, demonstrate that they often act more in self-interest than out of civic-mindedness, the DROP program being a prime example.

Rich, regarding your points about research, it's a curious phenomenon that all of the school choice measures are taking place, even though the research is mixed or inconclusive as to the efficacy of charter schools. I don't know what kind of research about achievement networks is available. Of course, innovation has to start somewhere, so there will not always be research to support new practices initially. That said, in my graduate classes, especially special education courses, there is a great deal of emphasis on using evidence-based strategies and practices for justifying certain accommodations and services for special education students (e.g., how to include a child with an intellectual disability in general education courses such as language arts or mathematics). Also, District curriculum like Everyday Math and Trophies have research-based components to them.

But as you said, Rich, people can often be selective in using research. They use it when it supports their agenda and disregard it when it doesn't support their agenda.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on May 27, 2012 4:24 pm

The issue of the next Superintendent being an educator and from Philadelphia was the number one concern of the almost 3000 people who attended the community meeting at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church on May 8th.

The organizers have an excellent writeup about the meeting summarizing findings like this at:
(The document is a 36 page pdf and takes a minute to load.)

Concerning your statement about school choice measures taking place even though research is mixed on results, I think it is very telling that transparency of charter schools is resisted. Just the way the Boston Consulting Group and its promoters is proceeding shows that the concern is treating the School District as a business and secrecy is necessary. Education is secondary if considered at all.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on May 27, 2012 9:47 pm

As always, thanks Ken, for keeping us up to date on information vital to informing Notebook readers on this issue. I just read the entire document of the Enon community meeting held on May 8th. I attended the meeting and the information in the report is very accurate. The report is laid out in an easily digestible manner. Notebook readers should take a few minutes and read it.
I hope the Enon community is mobilizing their members to come to the SRC meeting on the 31st. We need the presence of the entire Philadelphia community to indicate that opposition to the SRC plan is widespread and includes citizens from neighborhoods across the city, not simply SDP employees.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 27, 2012 5:12 pm

You are right about people being selective about the research they want to point to and accept. That is those who actually read research. From "the psychological perspective," one of the most important psycholgical theories I see at play every day is Festinger's "cognitive dissonance theory." Simply put that theory puts forth the concept that a person has a "cognitive set" in their minds and anything which conflicts with that cognitvie set, the mind tends to reject because it is "dissonant" to what they believe.

The issue I have with those who want to privatize our schools, is that they totally ignore the research if they read any at all. The Boston Consulting Group has put forth no research that shows what they propose works anywhere to improve achievement or to improve instruction. Even their term "achievement networks" is Orwellian Newspeak.

As a result of two leadership training programs within the district, (one pre-takeover and one while Vallas was here) and my experience of seeing our district taken over by the state and run by outsiders who claimed to be the saviors of our schools, I have developed a strong desire to read every research study and book I can about effective leadership and the best practices in school governnace.

I spent seven years of my life on my vacations, weekends and summers studying the research and law on school governance and leadership. I wrote a research based book and published it - Whose School is it? the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools. It sites many of the leading studies and researchers on effective leadership.

When I handed my book to Arlene Ackerman and began advocating for democratic and collegial practices within our district, it signaled the end of my career in the district. She, Bob Archie and those of their mentality did not appreciate my advocacy. Prior to that I held many leadership positions within our district including PFT Building Rep, Reading Department chair, Governance council chairman, apprentice principal at CAPA, assistant principal for ten years and summer school principal in several schools.

Over the years I have met many outstanding leaders and teachers who I have come to respect and even love. I have also met many BS artists that rang hollow. So I developed a sense about people from my experience.

I have met and worked under many of the outsiders who have came here with "the answer." None of them have earned my respect as to their knowledge of pedagogy and leadership -- and character.

All of the outsiders came here to promote themselves and their own self interests. Our best and most effective leaders came from within. They had dedicated their lives to Our School Community.

The superintendent I respect and admire the most was and is Deidre Farmbry. She was our superintendent when the state took us over and she held us together in the face of the lunacy that ensued. She handled herself with dignity and class at all times knowing that she would be replaced at the end of that year.

If she were still the superintendent, our district would have a collaborative sense about us as opposed to a dictatorial, toxic sense about us. I believe that because of Vallas and Ackerman and the state takeover and their "I'll do anything I want" mentality, our district has become what I define as an "unhealthy organization."

I appreciate you, and many of our young educators, because you are an emerging leader with the right mind set to become an effective school leader. You obviously care.

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