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Details emerge on Great Schools Compact plans

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 14, 2012 05:46 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Hoping to dramatically reduce the number of Philadelphia students in failing schools, a coalition of education leaders representing Philadelphia’s District, charter and Catholic schools last month submitted a $7 million grant proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Their “Philadelphia Great Schools Compact” proposal calls for a coordinated effort to close or turn around failing schools and expand successful schools, as well as the launch of new initiatives ranging from a universal student enrollment system to a low-interest loan program to help charter schools re-use empty District and Archdiocesan school buildings.

“There’s a real focus on talent development,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), the group coordinating the compact’s work.

Some of the proposed work would involve an expansion of successful efforts already under way, such as Mastery Charter Schools’ highly regarded “train-the-trainer” program for improving the quality of teacher coaching.

“The idea is just to scale up,” Gleason said.

“Mastery has already dozens of school operators come through the program.”

The District has signaled its interest in having coaches from District schools participate, he said.

Other parts of the proposed work, such as an overhaul to the region’s system for educating and certifying prospective teachers, are more concept than plan.

“It’s a need that we’ve identified, and now we have to come up with what it looks like,” said Gleason.

A Notebook/NewsWorks request for the full Philadelphia Great Schools Compact grant proposal to the Gates Foundation was denied.

“We felt it was premature to release a draft of the proposal that may change based on back-and-forth with the Gates Foundation,” said Gleason.

But PSP has posted on their website a list of the “12 key collaboration initiatives ” proposed in the grant.

The last initiative, related to the re-use of surplus facilities, is actually part of a separate proposal to the Gates Foundation, Gleason said.

The hope is to entice the foundation to provide low-interest loans that charter school operators could then use to purchase and modernize vacant District and Archdiocesan school buildings.

“The District has a lot of empty buildings, and in the future there are likely to be even more,” Gleason said. “These are taxpayer-owned assets that we should be leveraging to educate kids in the city.”

The compact committee expects to submit a revised proposal sometime this summer, said Gleason.

Final word from the Gates Foundation is expected in early September.

The '12 key collaboration initiatives'

  • Take enrollment in chronically failing schools down to nearly zero by 2016-17, by adding at least 5,000 high quality seats in each of the next five years through a combination of turnarounds, closures, and school expansions.
  • Create an improved school-performance framework by the time 2011-12 student outcomes data are available; aim toward developing a third-generation framework incorporating more college-readiness data within a few years.
  • Develop and launch a multimedia information resource called GreatPhillySchools that will enable parents to use a simple, intuitive interface to research and compare all of the city's nearly 400 K-12 schools. The resource will be free to users and will be accessible in print and online.
  • Develop a common enrollment system for all public schools (and perhaps for parochial schools) to make it easier for parents and students to apply to a range of school options.
  • Create a reimagined Office of Charter Schools, one that sees charter schools as its primary constituents and that brings together outstanding support services and rigorous but transparent authorizing practices.
  • Reinvigorate Intermediate Unit 26 as an educational services agency focused on providing cost-effective, best-in-class services and programs to all K-12 school providers on an opt-in basis.
  • Create a Philadelphia urban school leadership residency program that emphasizes instructional leadership, management skills and mastering the technical elements of school administration (including school law, special education, state education policy, and more).
  • Expand the impact of Mastery Charter Schools' nationally lauded teacher-effectiveness training for instructional leaders & coaches by hiring additional staff and scaling up the program to enable more schools to participate.
  • Develop K-12 benchmark assessments aligned to Common Core curriculum standards, focusing initially on math and reading.
  • Develop and broadly share subject-based instructional strategies that move classroom teaching in the direction of student-centered or student-led lessons from the currently predominant teacher-led approach.
  • Develop a new postsecondary model for educating would-be teachers to expand the pipeline of teacher and leader talent in Philadelphia.
  • Make surplus facilities available to independent school operators at prices that take into account the schools' ability to contribute to the goal of adding 5,000 or more high-quality seats annually, and create a Great Schools Facilities Fund to provide low-cost capital to schools looking to renovate and reimagine aging school buildings.

(Disclosure: The Notebook is a partner in the development of GreatPhillySchools, a resource expected to be made available to the public this fall.)

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Comments (74)

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on June 14, 2012 7:25 pm

1) No one has ever created a "high-performing" seat by closing a school. It simply can not be done in that manner

2) Schools are not doing a poor job because the performance metrics are lacking. No one ever grew because they bought a fancier ruler

5) By what basis does the Office of Charter Schools not see charter schools as its "primary constituents"? Or are questions about rent-free buildings and continuing education for children with IEPs not serving the right constituents? Is this a fancy way of saying we need less regulation to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of charter schools?

8) Or Mastery could just co-plan with the SDP at zero cost. Why should anyone have to pay for that knowledge. Of all the ways I've become a better teacher, almost all of them were from gatherings that did not cost me a dime. The point was to learn from innovative practices, not pay charters for secret information.

12) I would love to hear what independent school operators means. Again, the assumption here is that SDP can not improve its own schools. Convenient logic for those who want in for cheap

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:45 pm

5) Create a reimagined Office of Charter Schools, one that sees charter schools as its primary constituents and that brings together outstanding support services and rigorous but transparent authorizing practices.

i believe that one's already taken care of except we know it as the school reform commission.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 15, 2012 7:28 am

Yes, heavy on "bureauspeak" and TOTALLY out of touch... worse than the bureaucracy that charters are supposed to address. The Gates foundation is a chump if they fund this.

Submitted by Dan Fitzsimmons (not verified) on June 14, 2012 7:27 pm

So we're going to take the things that work in our good public schools, like Masterman, or Shawmont, or others, and use them in these low performing schools and keep them public schools? Because that is what should be done.
Turning schools over to charter schools does not guarantee it will become a good school. Many of these so called good charter schools have very poor test scores and management. But because they are charters they are overlooked. Bringing in a charter organization should be the last resort for turning around a school, not the first.
Again, let's take what is working in our really good public schools and use it all over. Things will get better.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:17 pm

Isn't it ironic that the really "bad" schools are almost always in the highest poverty areas. Gee, I wonder if there's a connection. Yes, both of the posts above are exactly right. The charters are saviors aren't they? They have secret information that the real Public Schools don't know about. They're also good at loaves and fishes and pretty much everything else.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:43 pm

At the 9-12 level, there are layers and layers of stratification of tracking. Next year, there are more magnet seats thanks to Ms. Nixon. While it might be nice to expand enrollment in magnet schools, this further exasperates the reality of neighborhood schools. Neighborhood high schools will have more "low performing seats" (e.g. students) because they did not have high enough scores to get into a special admit high school. They will have to leave a few neighborhood high schools outside of the northeast to take the students charters will not. Mastery requires students to sign a compact which, among other things, does not allow for any fights. Students get in a fight at Mastery and they are sent to a neighborhood school. Universal also "caps" enrollment at Audenreid - guess where the students end up? Neighborhood schools also get the students site select/magnet schools dump.

The misnomer "low performing seat" needs to be called what it is - a label for a student who does not meet proficient on the PSSA (soon to be Keystone). The "Great School Compact" can try to mislead all they want but, in the end, there will be at least one school per region used as a "holding site" for the "low performing seats"... uh... students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:28 pm

Yes, it's all a con game being foisted on the parents and kids and by extension, the unions and Middle Class. We better to careful.......................and fight this. Jerry, are you listening? Do you care?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2012 2:58 pm

trust me when I say he is listening. He has been in every meeting and protest. He will take it the legal way in which PFT lawyers in the past have won against the District. It will happen again and it is my understanding, contract or no contract that teachers will walk for a couple of days and rattle the SRC's feathers!!! No, they will not fire all 10,000 teachers (would never happen and no one to replace them) and no your certifications won't get taken (scare tactic by the State--each teacher earned those on their own not the State--lawsuits would be all over the place). Just simply say we've had enough and walk in unity. I guarntee the SRC will then see we mean business. This isn't Wisconsin and Corbett needs to realize that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2012 4:32 pm

I hope you are right. These buzzards need to see us united and angry to say the least.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 15, 2012 9:34 am

Funding needs to go with the student, where and when the student goes, so does his/her funding. Title I needs to go to a poor student, not the entire school when there's at least 40% of the population that qualifies. Title I needs to be used for what it was meant for: enrichment for the poor students, not replace what should be State and Local responsibilities for funding, or worse, empty bureaucratic positions. If this were done these, "undesirable" students might as a group actually get the extra funding and supportive curriculum that they need, and become... a "high performing seat".

Likewise, AYP should be student centered, rather than school centered. I don't think it would cost that much more to track through the District's Office of Stats, a student's improvement or lack of, giving the appropriate school the appropriate credit. That's something that should've been in this compact: track the student across schools, whether traditional, charter, or private.

Submitted by linda (not verified) on June 16, 2012 2:15 pm

nicley put anonymous

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:37 pm

Comparing Masterman and Penn Alexander with schools in low-income neighborhoods (e.g., Barry, West Philly High) is like comparing apples to oranges. Masterman is a selective magnet school and Penn Alexander is in a rich neighborhood. West Philly High and Barry are neighborhood schools. Most everyone at Masterman wants to be there. At Penn Alexander, many of the children have parents with advanced degrees and/or good jobs. At a school like West Philly High or Barry, the children come from high poverty neighborhoods. Only a small number of the kids at these schools have parents with 4 year degrees. If you look at census data for the appropriate census tracts, you'll see that the percentage of people with college degrees in neighborhoods like Haddington and Mill Creek is pretty low. Of course, there are people with 4 year degrees in every neighborhood, but in some neighborhoods, people with 4 year degrees are the norm and in some they are the minority.

In order to make education better for children in poverty, there would be busing so that schools had a better mix of students who are economically disadvantaged and those who are not. However, our nation tried this following Brown v. Board of Education, and well, that wasn't very successful. People just fled to the suburbs. So, if fewer children lived in poverty, then the schools would be better. But there are many people in this nation who would rather not confront poverty and the thorny issues of race and class that relate to poverty. People would rather believe that poverty is an issue of cultural and personal factors such as hard work (or lack thereof) rather than institutional factors (e.g., racism). If you deny that society has anything to do with poverty, then it's easy to blame the victim. If there are institutional problems and advantages (e.g. white privilege) which are contributing factors, it behooves a person to do something to remedy it (and maybe feel guilty for having unearned privilege).

As long as there are large numbers of children who live in poverty and they come to school, the schools have to deal with poverty-related issues, especially when there is so much income segregation.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 11:55 pm

Last weekend, Masterman raised nearly $10,000 for middle school sports. SLA is raising $40,000 from parents. Central has $40/plate fundraising dinners for parents. Meredith raised thousands of dollars from parents in a few days when the SDP made cuts in February. Penn Alexander doesn't have to raise money since the Univ. of Penn gives $1300/per pupil more plus is paying for an entire kindergarten class (teacher, etc.). The ability of a school to raise money for "extras" matters. And, yes, the systematic and institutional "differences" based on race, class, etc. matter. The demographics of schools like Greenfield, Meredith, SLA, Central, Masterman, etc. are not the demographics of West Philly HS and Berry. It is not about pedagogical strategies. Sure, all students want to learn and be respected (versus spoon fed Ackermaneque scripts) but students who bring social, educational and economic capital have an advantage - and this makes the teachers lives easier.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 15, 2012 12:36 am

I totally, agree. Unfortunately, it's hard for some people to understand that circumstances and money do matter. It's not always possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:51 pm

Why will charters and parochial schools get money to fix buildings yet "traditional" public schools get no money to fix buildings? I work in a building in considerable need of repair, yet, there is no money. So, the SDP will be able to say, "your building is old; we will shut you down" while a charter operator will receive money to fix it? How is that equitable?

The so-called "Great School Compact" is a rouge to expand the number of charter and parochial "seats" at the expense of public school seats. The main beneficiaries are the Archdiocese and charter operators like Mastery and Universal.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:34 pm

And who gets rid of more kids than the Archdiocese and Mastery?? If they get away with it, the real schools will all be a dumping ground for behavioral problems and special ed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:36 pm

What's working at Masterman is that it is a special admit school which is selective about it's enrollment. Neighborhood schools must take and educate all learners. Neighborhood schools must constantly adapt to educate all learners from the lowest performing to the advanced. More easily said then done.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:49 pm

Masterman selects 1/2 of its 8th graders for 9th grade.  Its enrollment is extremely selective.  Nothing done at Masterman is useful in a neighborhood school who takes ALL students.  Most Masterman teachers would not last a week in a neighborhood school.  Ask how many would move to a neighborhood school?

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:05 pm

Uhh, I don't think teaching at Masterman makes teachers unable to teach at neighborhood schools. That's a silly thing to say.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:41 pm

Virtually, no teacher at Masterman would last a week in a neighborhood school. The kids would be VERY different to deal with--------------very different. Philly Teacher---you are wrong.

Submitted by Dan Fitzsimmons (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:47 pm

I don't know many teachers at Masterman right now, but I know all of the teachers I had would have no problems working in a neighborhood school (a few who are still there).
When you engage students and make them interested they will do just about anything for you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:26 pm

Surely, you jest !!

Submitted by Dan Fitzsimmons (not verified) on June 14, 2012 9:48 pm

Not at all.
Let's remember, many of the teachers at Masterman started in neighborhood schools. They moved up, through good teaching, into teaching at Masterman.
I know a few who have moved from Masterman back into neighborhood schools, and have been very successful.
Again, it's all about engagement, interest, and giving kids a reason to be in school and to learn. That's what the teachers at Masterman are good at.
A lot of what I do in my classroom comes from my experiences in middle school and high school at Masterman.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:16 pm

There are Masterman teacher who have NEVER taught anywhere but Masterman. They would never last in a neighborhood high school. They are used to students with a lot of social and economic capital. Prichett's and Nutter's daughters go to Masterman - they aren't at Ben Franklin.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:06 pm

I know but the guy believes what he says so I didn't want to go there again. In any case, we have bigger fish to fry.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on June 15, 2012 7:07 pm

A good teacher would find a way to teacher at Masterman or a neighborhood school. I watched a fantastic teacher teach in my neighborhood school and none of her students have the social capital of Masterman students. NONE. A lot are from single family or recent immigrant families, some are foster children, or living with grand parents, and all are extrememly poor. But this teacher doesn't care who or what their parents are, she just cares about educating her students, and boy is she a joy to observe in practice. She will become a national standards teacher soon, and I can't see her being scared to go to an even poorer, more economically challenged school and doing equally as well.

This teacher comes from the same type of background I do, upper middle class, lots of post graduate degrees in the family, but she knows that despite where we come from, we are all deserve respect and an equal opportunity as human beings.

I keep reading studies that say teachers who struggle in schools with poor diverse students are because of the biases, low expectations and inappropriate expectations that are exacerbated in distressed environments. ie in a suburban school the fact that you lecture for a full hour in a class of first graders will label you a boring teacher, but the acting out won't be egregious but in an urban school, kids will walk out, act out, get out of their seats etc that full hour of lecture...

I also read that students are a reflection of who you are, so if you are scared or think less of, or get irritated by the needs of kids who are from poor families, they will pick up on that and reflect how you treat them right back at you...

I know I am oversimplifying things, but teachers have a hard job regardless of how rich or poor a students family is. The problems may be different, but teaching in the elite schools can be equally as challenging I would think.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 16, 2012 8:24 am

We agree--you are oversimplifying things-----tremendously.

Submitted by Samuel Reed III on June 15, 2012 5:39 pm

Some Masterman teachers have thrived and taught at neighborhood schools before choosing to teach at Masterman.  I imagine there are lessons that can be learned from both sides.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 12:03 pm

I was an award winning teacher at a low income public school who applied to teach at Masterman. I taught at Masterman for ten years and chose to leave Masterman to improve student achievement at six high poverty schools. An independent research team found that student achievement improved in the first year and continued to improve. Most Masterman teachers have taught in high poverty schools and can teach anywhere. That is why we are demonstration teachers. I left Masterman because I believed that the neediest students should have the best teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 20, 2012 2:38 pm

What award did you win? I have never seen any awards that are not self-nominating.

Submitted by Dan Fitzsimmons (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:32 pm

Being a graduate of Masterman, it is not just about special admits. Teachers there have more control over what they teach, they are not bogged down in constant test prep, and they are free to be very creative, in order to challenge their students.
Believe me, not all the students at Masterman are the cream of the crop.
These are things I learned in college, too, but came to the school district and am forced to do things that I know go against good education pedagogy.
Students don't perform well because they are not allowed to be creative, to think outside the box, or do anything that doesn't relate to their performance on the PSSA. The school district wants them to be robots, able to answer multiple choice questions and TAG a question. Who cares if they can participate in a debate, come up with an argument, write an essay, etc.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:53 pm

Why is "Mastery" mentioned so frequently in the "Great Compact?"

Who identifies "Mastery's" "nationally lauded teacher-effectiveness training for instructional leaders & coaches" laudable?

How will Mastery's coaches teach "subject-based instructional strategies that move classroom teaching in the direction of student-centered or student-led lessons from the currently predominant teacher-led approach" when Mastery's approach is direct instruction drilled to concrete skills on the PSSA? Mastery prepares students to scores on a standardized test. It is NOT student centered instruction. It is 7 step direct instruction.

Submitted by Brody (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:05 pm

The mention of student-centered or student-led lessons struck me as odd, too.

Submitted by linda (not verified) on June 16, 2012 2:46 pm

that's code for data collected by the teacher who is acutally in the room with the kdis vs. the standardized tests made by the powers that be with data from the paper and eraserure count committee

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 10:47 am

Ohhhh, is that what the new RTII that is replacing CSAP next year will be used for? A data system for evaluating teacher success at elevating student performance? I was feeling a little queazy about the new system when I learned that principals will be able to see on their "dashboards" whether their teachers are tracking their student data (called progress monitoring), and now the light bulb has gone off. I see. It sounds like a really good improvement over standardized tests to evaluate student progress, but the problem is folks, you have to give teachers time to properly do the new RTII system, and so far, there is no new time created, nor will there ever be I am sure of that!

Submitted by Dan Fitzsimmons (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:19 pm

Being a teacher, and knowing what goes on at Masterman, I know that you are wrong. I teach in West Kensington, in the Badlands.
And I know that the things they do at Masterman would work elsewhere.
When I have more freedom to be creative with my teaching, instead of following the test prep/Imagine It! curriculum, my students are more interested, more engaged, and perform better. They like what they are doing, and therefore more willing to learn. And that is the key. I taught the Hunger Games and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory during the last two months of school this year, rather than Imagine It!, and the kids ate it up. It was exciting, engaging, and full of new learning experiences.
Problem kids, poor kids, all kinds in my class. They want to know that they matter and they want to be engaged.
It works, everywhere.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:43 pm

I agree, Dan. Creative strategies, project and inquiry based learning work with all kinds of students. In fact, these sorts of teaching and learning methods can work wonders to engage the students who are not 'achieving' well or at level. We read 'Taste Of Salt' in grade 8, and my students really loved it. We also studied several letters from former slaves to their former 'masters'--and the students' insights and comments were amazing. If the powers-that-be would give us the freedom to do what we know we can do all the students would grow in their ability to analyze, question, and learn.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 14, 2012 11:40 pm

K. R.,

PBL and IBL have their place, but when students are learning new concepts, direct instruction is the way to go. Here are two great articles from the AFT's American Educator regarding the importance of guided instruction: See the source page at Teaching should involve using a variety of techniques and approaches in order to make learning interesting and engaging for all students. The format of instruction should not be the same every day. It's all about striking a balance in the classroom and catering instruction for the learners in your class.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on June 15, 2012 7:57 am

Of course instruction should be varied. I think Dan and I were both commenting on the un-varying, engagement-killing, scripted DI programs such as Corrective Reading and Math. These DI programs were meant for students in LS and LSS classes, but were inflicted on whole school populations by an incompetent, unimaginative regime in the SDP. Even when I used corrective reading with a mostly LS group it killed curiosity and engagement until we went "off-script" and were able to discuss things and answer questions during the readings.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 15, 2012 8:53 pm

I totally agree! Overuse of direct instruction makes school boring!

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:23 pm

This plan has a couple of really good initiatives. The first is to reuse vacant District buildings. The second is to have IU 26 provide services to all public and charter schools. This is how the IU is supposed to operate. In Delaware and other counties, the IU provides services for students with low-incidence disabilities in all of the county's school districts. Since Philadelphia has multiple "districts" with all of the charter schools, there needs to be a realignment of IU services.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:18 pm

they're not talking about using a bunch of empty buildings they have lying around. first they're going to want to make them "vacant".

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:11 pm

I'm not pollyanna, thank you very much. I have a mix of idealism and realism. There are already surplus buildings that the District owns. Also, there are some neighborhood schools which are very close together, such as Alain Locke and Martha Washington and Anna Pratt and Frederick Douglass (now a Young Scholars Renaissance school). There are some schools which are surplus due to changes in grade configurations. This is particularly true for middle schools since many elementary schools are now K-8. This is what happened with Mayer Sulzburger School at 48th & Fairmount. Schools like McMichael, M. Washington, and Rhoads became K-8, draining enrollment from Sulzburger. The Sulzburger building now houses other programs such as Parkway West HS. FitzSimons is another example. It's a huge building and with the decline in North Philly's population, the building is no longer useful. Even without charter schools, there are too many school buildings. This city was built for 2.5 million people but currently has 1.5 million. Strawberry Mansion can accommodate the high schoolers in the area and Rhodes can accommodate the middle schoolers, so there is no need for FitzSimons.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 20, 2012 2:11 pm

How about they fix up and equalize all the buildings they are already using? Our school has NOTHING and then the charters come in and get brand new EVERYTHING. How can they compare?! Not rocket science.

Submitted by SOS 60 on June 14, 2012 10:16 pm

@ Tim Boyle, as usual, thoughtful, incisive, constructive, hard hitting comments from a classroom teacher. Keep talking.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:29 pm

gates sure does have a way of getting people to jump through hoops for his loose pocket change.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 16, 2012 10:54 pm

yes...he reinvents the idea of a "living will" a schoolyard bully.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 15, 2012 5:10 am

Mark, there is nothing in that plan that speaks to improving the public schools which are so called failing. It is all about privatizing our schools which is clearly Your Agenda.

The way you guys are rolling out "your plans" from behind closed doors shows a definite lack of understanding of both the "leadership process" of effective leadership and the "legal process" required in Pennsylvania.

You see Mark, we have something called a "Public School Code " in Pennsylvania and it is illegal for you and your group of privatizers to circumvent its provisions in public schools. It is also illegal for you to violate the Sunshine Act.

We would like our public servants to devise our public school plan with the best interests of us in mind and not in the best interests of privatizers who seek personal gain from all of this.

There is also nothing in this plan which is a new idea and it includes no idea which will improve education of our children.

Your plan and the way it is being rolled out by people who do not stand in a representative capacity of the public is an example of everything that is wrong with the privatization of the American school system.

I'll tell you what Mark, I"ll send you a free copy of my book, "Whose School Is It? the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools." It will school you on the best practices in leadership and the law on school governance. It will present to you a very exhaustive overview of the "actual research" on what good leadership is. It will provide citations to the work of leading researchers on leadership and actual case law and statutes on school governance law.

It is obvious you need some schooling on leadership, consensus building and the law of school governance.

Your plan is clearly nothing more than a Privatization Agenda.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 6:33 pm

Of course, you're right but it doesn't seem to matter. These cretins--with political support--are running over the laws and/or ignoring them so..................................

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on June 15, 2012 7:20 am

Again, Who is Mark Gleason to be directing school district policy? Why is he on this compact committee? Why are they operating in the back rooms?

Mark Gleason never taught in an urban school. He never led an urban school. He is not a Philadelphian. He is one of "the outsiders" who came here for his own personal profit.

Has he ever written a credible article on organizational governance, leadership or pedagogy?

He does nothing but spew the psychobabble of privatization and has zero credibility.

We need real educators to lead our schools and school systems.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2012 7:08 am

Yes, he would last less than a minute in a class before he jumped out a window or run out crying. He's a punk to put it mildly and yes, he's here for the shake down to line his pockets.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 15, 2012 7:19 am

Mark, What is the plan to have small class sizes in every elementary school in Philadelphia and provide reading specialists for every student who falls behind in reading in every elementary school?

What is the plan to turn every school in Philadelphia into a "true professional learning community?"

What is the plan to empower teachers and parents in the decision-making processes of schools?

What is the plan to make all charter schools function as true public schools?

What is the plan to create transparency in all public schools including transparency in public school budgets?

What is the plan for "inclusion" of special needs students and speakers of other languages in all schools?

What is the plan for equitable school funding?

What is the plan for drawing talented people into teaching and learning and keeping them through treating them as professionals?

What is the plan for choosing our school leaders? Are they going to be imposed on them after going to one of your 'training" programs? Or, is every school community going to be included in the process of choosing its leaders?

By the way Mark, How come there is so much secrecy all of a sudden about the search for our new superintendent?

Don't you think a new superintendent should be leading this stuff?

When is the "Philadelphia school community" going to be presented with the candidates under consideration for the superintendent?

Why do people on the superintendent search committee tell me they do not know what is going on?

What is going on Mark? Maybe you could shed some sunlight on that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2012 8:39 am

"Develop K-12 benchmark assessments aligned to Common Core curriculum standards, focusing initially on math and reading."

A survey of nyc parents had some interesting, although not surprising, results:

91% were opposed to standardized tests for K-2

Would the numbers be any different for Philadelphia parents? It seem unlikely. I doubt it would be any different for teachers, either. But the authors and funders of this "compact" know better. At least we'll hear more about it after they get feedback from the Gates Foundation.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParents (not verified) on June 15, 2012 10:21 am

K-2 don't take PSSA's or any other standardized tests.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 15, 2012 8:52 pm

K-2 students take Terra Nova tests.

Submitted by Teachy (not verified) on June 18, 2012 3:29 pm

That stopped a few years ago in Philadelphia. No money...and kind of useless.

Submitted by Seth Kulick on June 21, 2012 4:56 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the benchmark tests were stopped this past year because of money. At least I know that my daughter in 4th grade had no benchmark tests this past year, while in 3rd grade there were a lot of them, enough so that the teacher was complaining that it was hard to teach when she had to give so many tests. Who asked for benchmark tests to come back? Is this something that parents and teachers are asking for?

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 21, 2012 5:10 pm

In high schools, we had 3 benchmark and 3 "predictive" tests each year. This year we had two predictive - the 3rd test (May) was cut.
Benchmark tests are suppose to be a test of skills while predictive tests are suppose to "predict" how a student will do on the PSSA.

At the high school level, we had to look at the "data" and plan "reteaching." I never found it very helpful because I found my informal and formal assessments more "telling" of what students understood. The SDP liked the benchmark / predictive because it gave them "data" to compare schools. We had to use predictive scores, for example, with School Improvement Plans (SIP).

I believe benchmark/predictive were used the same at the elementary level. Some principals made teachers create "data" walls with test results. Not very helpful other than labeling a student "proficient," "below basic," etc. SDP also use the predictive to "predict" PSSA results.

The predictive and benchmark tests did not change from year to year. It was also very easy for a teacher to "prepare" students for the test - yes, get the test results s/he wanted to get. As far as I'm concerned, they were a waste of money. Why not provide tutoring for students who need extra support with particular skills in preparation for the PSSA?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on June 21, 2012 5:37 pm

Benchmark tests were stopped in K-8 this year. I am not sure what "benchmarks" the third grade was taking. We did have two "predictive" tests--and the third one was cancelled. I thought benchmarks were given too often, and I always found at least two questions that were seriously flawed--and when there are only 20 questions, two flawed ones is a lot. The district did like the data because it was all easily accessible on Schoolnet and they could compares classes, schools, and regions. I found the data mildly helpful, but it was nothing I did not know from my own formative and summative assessments.

Submitted by Dina (not verified) on June 15, 2012 9:37 am

This is a goal?
"Develop and broadly share subject-based instructional strategies that move classroom teaching in the direction of student-centered or student-led lessons from the currently predominant teacher-led approach."
That's the exact opposite of the Mastery approach.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 15, 2012 8:01 pm


Unfortunately, student centered approaches like project-based learning and inquiry-based learning don't work for everything. PBL and IBL have their place, but when students are learning new concepts, guided instruction is the way to go. Here are two great articles from the AFT's American Educator regarding the importance of guided instruction: See the source page at Teaching should involve using a variety of techniques and approaches in order to make learning interesting and engaging for all students. The format of instruction should not be the same every day. It's all about striking a balance in the classroom and catering instruction for the learners in your class.

And regarding Mastery, their standard approach for every lesson is direct instruction, guided practice, independent practice. It's possible to make direct instruction fairly engaging and more student centered--e.g., through the use of hands on techniques and manipulatives--but there needs to be variation in instructional practice in order to engage and cater to all learners.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 16, 2012 8:37 am

It's certainly refreshing to see a good discussion on pedagogy. I read the article you cited and it is an excellent article. I agree with both of you. It is a question of balance. There is a place for guided instruction and a place for project based instruction.

A good teacher designs instruction based on the subject matter, the grade level, the background knowledge of the students, and the needs and abilities of the students. The article you cite above discusses that a teacher, during guided instruction, saw that students were not grasping the concepts so she taught the concepts another way the next day. That is why so many teachers protested over the mandatory and rigid pacing timelines and scripted lessons. They were constrictive of best practices.

Dina, if my memory serves me well, was a high school English and Language Arts teacher and teacher coach. (A pretty good one at that!) A major aspect of high school pegagogy is the development of skills and abilities through application of learned concepts including research, extended reading and writing. Project based and student centered techniques should be a large piece of that rubric. So should direct instruction. As you say, direct instruction can be designed to be student centered, engaging and concept oriented.

Thanks for the article.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 6:32 pm

Monkey see, monkey do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2012 2:55 pm

No, it's called the goal will be to "walk" because enough is enough. Teachers are being blamed for everything. This isn't suburbia with the big money for teacher supplies and bonuses. Philly teachers are significantly underpaid compared to their suburban counterparts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 16, 2012 7:14 am

Mark Gleason appears to be the de facto superintendent in this town. He is everywhere, it seems, making deals and speaking at press conferences. Why bother with a search for a new one?

The PSP represents the 1%. No one else.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 16, 2012 8:32 am

Yes, and he has an Agenda of privatization. From the things he goes around saying, he knows little about education.

We need real educators driving educational policy in our city.

He is not even for the true charter schools. He is all about "charter operators" who want to build their empires.

As you notice, there is no talk of starting any more true charter schools. Just turning schools over to charter operators.

That is the new privatization game. Keep your eyes open and watch ....

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 18, 2012 9:37 am

fascinating and frightening expose article in today's ny times on private for profit new jersey halfway houses, run by a company with strong political connections to christie (corbett's idol). recommended reading. is this where education is heading? connect the dots.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 12:50 am

Imagine earning $20K in 1982 and not using your sick and personal days (despite getting paid summer vacation, winter vacation, spring vacation, and various holidays). Now, imagine that thirty years later, you have accumulate over 120 sick and personal days, but now your salary is over $90,000. You leave your job and get paid for all of your days at the highest pay rate. That has led to a fiscally broken system and seems much more like 1% behavior than any fake "power to the people" crusade. Everyone has a part to play in this debacle and the only ones getting screwed on a daily basis are the kids and families.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 7:31 am

We don't get paid for any of those holidays. We have a forced savings system called pay smoothing. Money is deducted from our checks during the 10 months we get a salary, and we are given it back during pay periods that we do not get paid during (ie, summer and holidays). You only get 50% pay for sick days.

I am not sure why you are gunning for the destruction of the middle class. Our salary cap, for someone who is a Senior Career Teacher (which has several requirements which must be met, including multiple certifications and a Master's degree plus other things) is less than six figures after decades of hard work. We need that sick and personal pay to pay for our health insurance in our retirement, which we pay for 100%.

You act like this is completely extravagant. The people who bankrupted this country make more in a month than we do in a year. They make more in a year than we do in a lifetime. And they get out of paying most of their taxes on it, which we do not.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 18, 2012 9:23 am

i believe we only receive 25% for sick days, so someone who squirrels their sick days away is actually doing the district a favor.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 12:57 pm

Senior Career need a Masters plus 60 graduate credits (or 2 or 3 Masters) plus multiple certifications and 10 plus years.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 18, 2012 9:17 am

yeah and mickey mantle & willie mays made $100,000 each in their heyday, which by the way was considered a huge amount. of course they could buy 29 cent gas, 15 cent slices of pizza & nickel candy bars. that's called inflation. you can't compare $ from two different eras without adjusting for it. government receipts (taxes) are also up correspondingly since the early 80's. i'll bet you don't mind inflation where the value of your home is concerned.

Submitted by Pat (not verified) on June 18, 2012 7:11 pm

Anon--you seem to react too much to the trolls who are only here to bust your................... Of course, you are right and the privateers are here to be part of the shake down and make as much money as they can, any way they can. They simply don't care about damage they're inflicting etc. and the pols support them for obvious financial reasons.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 18, 2012 8:44 pm

gotta love those trolls...there is 1 in every bunch. Misery loves company

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