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'Significant barriers to entry' at many Philadelphia charters, District report says

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 31, 2012 07:59 PM

by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Updated 10:00 p.m.

A School District review found “significant barriers to entry” at numerous city charter schools, according to a draft report obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks.

In at least one case, an unidentified charter made its enrollment application publicly available on only one day during the year. Another unnamed charter required applicants to complete an 11-page application, write an essay, respond to 20 short-answer questions, provide three recommendations, be interviewed, and provide records related to their disciplinary history, citizenship and disability status.

“The District does not believe this is a fair system, nor does it help build a robust system of school-choice,” wrote District spokesperson Fernando Gallard in response to questions submitted by the Notebook/NewsWorks.

All told, less than one-third of the 63 charters covered in the District’s review made their applications available in languages other than English. Six city charters refused outright to provide District staff with a copy of their application form.

Although Pennsylvania charter schools are independently managed, they are publicly funded and therefore legally forbidden from using discriminatory enrollment policies and practices. 

"Assuming the facts of this report are true, this is a black eye for the charter movement as a whole, and brings down the credibility of all of us," wrote Marc Mannella, CEO of KIPP Philadelphia, which operates four city charters.  

Neither of the two KIPP schools up for renewal this year were deemed to have any barriers to entry. But the District's review showed that overall, roughly 80 percent of the 25 charters that the School Reform Commission considered for renewal this spring had obstacles to enrollment that the District considered “significant.”

Titled “Universal Enrollment: Charter School Applications,” the 19-page slideshow obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks contains “preliminary findings” on those Philadelphia charters for which the District’s Office of Charter Schools was able to obtain “complete and confirmed information.” No charters are mentioned by name.

More than 40,000 children now attend Philadelphia charters, not counting those in District schools that have been converted to charters under the Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative. But the city’s expansive charter sector has been plagued by allegations of corruption and allegations of fraud in recent years, and skeptics have long contended that some charters find informal ways to bar entry to hard-to-serve students.

Told of the District report’s findings, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan expressed outrage.

“Excluding children is just wrong,“ he said.

The District has apparently heard similar concerns for some time. 

Its Office of Charter Schools initiated the study a year ago, wrote Gallard, “because it had anecdotal evidence that charter schools were implementing different application/enrollment processes.”

Information on two charters is still being confirmed and an additional analysis is still being completed, wrote Gallard, but “the District stands by all of the information in the preliminary report.”

The commission has voted in recent months to approve 16 city charters for new five-year terms. The SRC declined to renew three charters, and votes are still pending on six others.

On June 22, six charters came before the SRC for renewal votes. Four, including Boys' Latin in West Philadelphia, were flagged for their application or enrollment practices.

During a public presentation, District Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Thomas Darden showed a slide indicating that Boys' Latin has “significant barriers to entry.” But Darden, who resigned last week after a number of public missteps, did not mention them.

Later, Commissioner Feather Houstoun asked Boys' Latin CEO David Hardy why his school was identified by the District as having a problematic application process.

“I’m stumped,” responded Hardy, who then told the commissioners about requiring face-to-face meetings with parents and signed “notifications of interest” before applicants are offered enrollment.

“Our school, you go ‘til 5 o’clock. We have Saturday school. There’s two to three hours of homework every night. Some people just don’t want to do that,” Hardy said. 

“We want to make sure that the student wants to go to our school. That’s all we ask.”

The SRC voted unanimously to renew Boys' Latin’s charter and approve its planned expansion – with the condition that the school agree to a new admissions process to be approved by the Office of Charter Schools.

“Non-renewal is a very serious decision, and [Pennsylvania] law does not provide for a basis for non-renewal on these grounds alone,” wrote Gallard.

But charters with identified barriers will be required to remove them, he added.

On Tuesday, KIPP's Mannella wrote that charters need to be held to a high standard of accountability when it comes to being truly open-enrollment.

"When the system is working, students and families are choosing the charter school they wish to attend, as opposed to charter schools serving the students and families they wish to serve," he wrote.

A final report detailing the enrollment practices of Philadelphia’s charters is expected to be released this fall.

The District is also in the process of scheduling one of the SRC’s “strategy, policy and priorities” meetings for a community roundtable discussion of the issue, wrote Gallard.

“The Office of Charter Schools still plans to share the findings with, and get feedback from, the public,” he wrote.

“We are particularly interested in feedback from families and students.”

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Comments (127)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 8:13 pm

Yet these are public schools! What a joke. I was at Gratz two years ago and just about every disruptive kid was either thrown out or moved to Camelot which is there school for disruptive kids and isolated for the good kids. If public school teachers could throw out the bottom 20% are scores would soar and we would be genius. The Charter school are not playing by the same rules and they are not showing all their cards to the public, We are creating under the leadership of a minority controlled city and SRC and Educational Apartheid.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:59 pm

Two years ago Gratz was a district school, NOT a charter.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 10:56 pm

Yes that is the point we could not get rid of disruptive kids they were free to destroy the educational experience of all. Yet Mastery has eliminated most of them in one year. I wish we could have done but do not campare Gratz Mastery with Public Gratz because they are playing with different rules.

In two year Mastery Gratz will be a model because they will have moved the real trouble makers back to public schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 22, 2013 12:16 am
The students that get moved to Camelot are still on Mastery'c books and it's worth mentioning that it is a hefty cost to place them in this alternative program. It's also worth noting that their scores on state assessments are attributed to Mastery's Gratz Campus so it's not like they are wiping their hands clean of these students.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 22, 2013 5:44 am
The hefty cost for placing students in Camelot is paid for by the School District and comes out of the money the SD pays to mastery for the students in the first place. If Mastery is paying less to Camelot than what the district pays to Mastery for that student, Mastery is making money off the deal for doing virtually nothing. How much does Camelot charge for that student? Camelot is also a festering issue, too. All of the privately run schools as businesses are making out like bandits while the real public schools and their children do without.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 7:37 am

The beginning of an Educational Apartheid System indeed!

Submitted by Mr. Smith (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:05 pm

Corrections are placed in brackets:

Yet these are public schools! What a joke. I was at Gratz two years ago and just about every disruptive kid was either thrown out or moved to Camelot[,] which is [their] school for disruptive kids[, so that they could] [isolate] the good kids. If public school teachers could throw out the bottom 20% [our] scores would soar and we would be [considered] genius[es]. The Charter school[s] are not playing by the same rules and they are not showing all their cards to the public, [w]e are creating under the leadership of a minority controlled city[,] SRC[,] and Educational Apartheid.

Honestly I really can't the correct the final sentence. I'm assuming we, the public are creating the rules, but the sentence as a whole is remarkably disjointed.

Submitted by Dr. Smith (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:07 pm

pedantry is a stinky cologne

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 12:54 pm

You are correct in your message, but for goodness sake, PROOFREAD or learn grammar. Awful! And you are writing about education?????

Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 31, 2012 8:51 pm

your tax dollars at work. the vaunted performance of charters = 99% smoke and mirrors.

too bad the SRC doesn't give a hoot. they're too busy extolling the amazing results the charter operators tell them they're achieving to care that their comparison with traditional public schools is rigged.

how forthcoming do you think the district would've been with this info without the nudge from the notebook? when's the last time you heard anybody in charge chastise the charters?

keep on them ben! good work!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 8:59 pm

"“Our school, you go ‘til 5 o’clock. We have Saturday school. There’s two to three hours of homework every night. Some people just don’t want to do that,” said Hardy."

Do these people put there own children in these schools? Does the SRC? This shows a complete contempt for the children of low income families. Deal with unemployment and poverty and then these children can be children. This is child abuse. Don't they remember anything about being a child?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 8:44 pm

What part of, "They don't care," don't you get?? NONE of this is about kids. ALL of it is about making money from the kids and even with the whole system being rigged, charters still suck when their scores are compared with the real schools. How embarrassing is that??? But again, the fix is in so they don't care anyway. Yes, the Notebook, is annoying them which is a great thing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:49 pm

Boys Latin goes to 5 o'clock 3 days a week. Students get out at noon every Wed. and at 3 pm on Fridays. The excuse that all charters, including Mastery and KIPP, use is they need the "right fit" - students/parents have to want their program. These are entrance requirements - just like magnet schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:07 pm

Would you prefer that this school takes students who had no interest in Latin and didn't want to stay until 5? Do you have any evidence that these basic questions has substantly changes the academic ability in pool of perspective students? Why do you choose to work at a school that is set up to fail all its students?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:51 pm

I doubt many students who attend Boys Latin go there to study Latin. Latin is the only language other than English offered at the school. The questions asked by Boys Latin aren't the barrier to entry - it is the process. The parent/student have to attend an orientation. After the orientation, the parent/student have to sign up for a day time interview. (This means the parent might have to take off from work and the student has to miss school.) Then, the parent/student has to sign a lengthy contract which includes guaranteeing either the parent or another adult designated by the parent will attend all conferences/events. Next, there are two sets of uniforms which the parent has to purchase. The list goes on... These are barriers to entry to weed out students.

Boys Latin also kicks out students - especially students with an IEP or who do not "get with their program." So, Boys Latin fails some students.

No Philly high school is set up to fail its students. Under Ackerman, her system for "success" was a failure. Hopefully, with more autonomy, schools will be able to develop programs to meet the needs of the students. Unlike Boys Latin, neighborhood schools accept all students and can't just kick them out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 5:15 pm

You seem to know a lot about that school. Do you work there? I think there would be plenty of students who agree with you negative assessment of their personal motivation. Considering that the school is all males of color, your comments have a racial overtone. Are you saying that boys of color can't embrace the language of academia? That's brutal. It also sounds incorrect. You also imply that it is onerous to ask parents to attend a meeting about their child's future. This is the paternalistic attitude that dooms low income families. Your elitist attitude implies any request of parental participation in their child's schooling is a barrier to enrollment. That is why neighborhood schools don't work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 7:30 pm

No - once again, whoever you are, you are wrong. I'm a parent and my child applied. We went through the process. He was accepted at a few magnet schools so went to another school. You have no idea what you're talking about other than to trash on a "parent of color" who is very involved in my child's education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 8:51 pm

At the Boys Latin orientation, Mr. Hardy said students had 3 years of Latin. They would have to memorize something every year. He said if this would be too difficult, the student should not apply. I took this to mean "no special ed need apply." How many students with an IEP are at Boys Latin? How many stay?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 4:07 pm

How is it unfair that they actually try to enforce standards?

Really this sums up the problem with the ed establishment- this belief that any standard that does not accomodate the lowest common denominator's anti-social behavior is unfair.

I think this general attitude is what drives many parents from SDP schools. It seems more unfair to train bad apples that their behavior has no real consequence.

And I say this as a former bad apple who was held to some standards.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:58 pm

Do most teachers that work in the Philadelphia public schools send their children to those public schools? Not many!!

There are bad schools in every system, unfortunately Philly has tons!

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 1, 2012 9:22 am

My husband is a public school teacher and we live the city, and YES our son is in the 4th grade in a public school. There are alot more children of teachers in public schools than you would think.

Submitted by 98 years in SDP (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:13 am

My husband and I (both SDP teachers) sent all four kids through SDP schools- 98 years of teaching an education and we're not finished yet. Most of my teacher friends sent their kids to public school in the city as well and, surprise, all were successful students.My nieces and nephews went to suburban public schools. Among the 6 of them there are two HS grads, three GEDs and one plain old drop out. My brothers and sisters just didn't push education. It's the families folks, not the schools.

Charters are not doing what they were designed to do- get kids out of failing public schools. They are skimming as surely as the magnets skim. The difference is we KNOW the magnets do it and don't compare them to regular public schools.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:04 pm

YES!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 7:47 pm

Your kids didn't go to this school district.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:22 pm

My kids? My son (and only child) DOES attend a school in the Philadelphia District.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 7:37 pm

This shows a complete contempt for the children of low income families. Deal with unemployment and poverty and then these children can be children. This is child abuse. Don't they remember anything about being a child?
=========================

What are you talking about? I DO remember being a student. I was at school until 6:00 with clubs or sports. I was at competitions on Saturdays. This is what students in the suburbs are doing. They have activities and programs and extracurriculars. I assure you that this was my experience growing up outside of Philadelphia. But then, I guess, expecting parents and students to buy in to the school is dreadful. Instead, the school should open right before the students come in, close right after they leave (when the teachers rush out the door), and never open for anything on weekends. We NEED vibrant, community-connected schools in this city. We do NOT NEED the schools that continue to expect nothing but test prep and Corrective Reading and then herd students out of the buildings that are then patrolled by policemen. How about providing a thorough and equitable education? Or is that what you think the neighborhood schools are doing all before 3:15?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 7:43 pm

"This is what students in the suburbs are doing. They have activities and programs and extracurriculars. I assure you that this was my experience growing up outside of Philadelphia."

There was nothing in the post I was responding to that had "activities and programs and extracurriculars". If this is what they do, great, but the impression in the comments of the schools director is that it is study, study, study.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 8:11 pm

Then, be careful not to speak with too much authority if you don't know. You called it "child abuse." That's disrespectful to children who are actually abused. The students and parents expect that their students will be challenged. Don't you think that's why they sought the school out? Be careful with your language.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:19 am

Sounds like my session at Kipp today my problem is I did my application last year ending school year and not aware of the area they were moving to 26th and Cumberland from 12th and Vine two very different neighborhoods and the hours can be scary 7:40 am to 5:00 pm and I grew up in a similar area.

Submitted by rodney on July 31, 2012 8:51 pm

The SRC is allowing charter schools to increase enrollment in order to encumber future school district dollars so that next year they can claim they don't have any money for the unionized employees. Tell the Corbett puppets to resign now.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:13 pm

Elections matter and we are to blame for Corbett and his assault on all things Phila., especially on the poor and the working folks.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:31 pm

Will Mastery also be checked? The application process is ridiculous and parents/students have to sign a contract. Isn't this a "barrier to entry?"

Also, charters are notorious for "counseling out" students. Will that change?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on July 31, 2012 9:05 pm

Thanks for the article, Ben. This validates what all of us in district run public school have known for years. The next questions and investigations should deal with attrition. How many kids are leaving charters every year, and WHY are they leaving? Of course, those of us in neighborhood schools know the answer to that, but it would be nice if the district did.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:47 pm

Also, what is their teacher turnover. What percentage of charter teachers leave each year?

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:57 pm

How quickly the schools were re-segregated! And Pennsylvanians have agreed to pay handsomely to do this. When morality wakes up, or more likely when human rights laws step in, how will we explain the profound human damage caused?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:02 pm

Yes, George Wallace and Bull Connor would have loved this strategy to segregate the kids. I'm sensing that the "charter lie" is beginning to be exposed more and more. Couldn't happen to a better group of slum lord types !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:14 pm

So, how are Central, Masterman, Rush, CAPA, etc. different then Charters? Aren't they doing the exact same thing, putting up barriers to entry?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:17 pm

Sure - magnets have huge barriers to entry. They will never disappear in Phila. because they benefit those in power. Ramos went to Central and his kids to Masterman; Pricett's daughters go to Masterman; Nutter's daughter goes to Masterman; etc. Philadelphia has an extremely stratified / tracked high school system (just like NYC). Just as Boys Latin has an interview, SLA has an interview (plus grades, attendance, etc.) Then, the neighborhood high schools are penalized and threatened with closure because of test scores. The system is set up for failure of neighborhood schools.

Submitted by Susan DeJarnatt (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:58 pm

Magnets like Central etc. do not claim to be open to all--and their admission process is quite straightforward. Although I am not so naive to think that political connections never have an impact, the magnets are open to all Philadelphia students whose grades, test scores, and behavior records meet the standards. One can debate whether a school district should rely as much on magnets as Philly does. They definitely leave the neighborhood high schools in worse shape but they also retain families who will not go to the neighborhood high schools no matter what.

But the charters are supposed to be the equivalent of neighborhood open admissions schools, not the magnets. The charters should not be able to impose these kinds of requirements and they claim not to impose barriers. It is easy to manipulate your lottery if you do not tell parents how to enter it or you demand a multi-page application.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:41 pm

So it is okay to leave neighborhood high schools "in worse shape" to appease the middle/upper class? There are thousands of students in neighborhood high schools who do not have basics such as a librarian. Will Central give up a few books? Masterman accept a few more students with an IEP? It is educational apartheid.

Submitted by Susan DeJarnatt (not verified) on July 31, 2012 10:07 pm

No, it is not in any way OK. I wish Philly had not got down that road years ago. But simply eliminating the magnets would be worse at this point. We'd lose the power that does come from that part of the public education community and the rest of the schools would get even fewer resources. I am complicit--my kid goes to Masterman. I have fought for years to get my friends and neighbors to use our neighborhood elementary school, where both my kids went. But I think I hit my limit at Germantown High. The magnets are not rolling in money--their advantage is in family support and having easy kids to teach.

My point though is that the charters are explicitly not allowed to impose barriers. They cannot claim to be magically curing the ills of urban education if they do not take the same kids on the same terms of admission as the neighborhood schools they claim to be equivalent to. I thank The Notebook for uncovering this unfairness.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 11:02 pm

Starting in 2012-2013, teachers' evaluations will be 50% based on test scores. Teachers at magnet schools will be labeled "advanced" (or at least "proficient") while teachers at neighborhood schools will be labeled "basic" or 'below basic" because of test scores. It is NOT the teachers. Magnets only accept students who proved they can score well on standardized tests. Masterman is ridiculous - they only take the top 50% of their highly selected 8th graders. (If you child goes to Masterman, he left his elementary school after 4th grade. Some parents who live in wealthier neighborhoods like Center City, Mount Airy, Univ. City, etc. will send their kids to the neighborhood schools, which is in much better shape than many neighborhood K-8s, but then flee to Masterman... )

Some magnets have more money - SLA, and Masterman raise a lot of money from parents. Central has a flush alumni association. (They built the library.) Some magnets like Bodine aren't flush because they serve a much higher rate of low income students (over 75% low SES at Bodine and less than 40% at Masterman. I assume the percentage is even less at Masterman for 9-12 versus 5 - 8). It is an extremely inequitable system. Students with more needs should have more resources. Teachers should not be judged on test scores when the system is rigged to favor some schoosl at the expense of others.

Submitted by Susan DeJarnatt (not verified) on August 1, 2012 8:41 am

I am totally opposed to basing teacher evals on standardized test scores. It is absurd to label Masterman teachers "better" because they have a student body selected for test prowess. My son has had some great teachers there--and some weak ones. But that basis for evaluation is ridiculous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:31 pm

The Charter House of Cards is showing holes more and more, I agree. Bye, Bye, Shell Game, Hello, Facts !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:31 pm

They should start investing money in making all our public schools better...this whole idea of school choice doesn't really work. Make the public schools great, and people can pay for private school if they don't like the system. If we get rid of all the charters imagine how much more we could invest in making the public schools magnificent!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 9:14 pm

Does anybody past the age of reason--say 7 years old--believe the District didn't already know about all this law breaking???? Not only did they, of course, know it, they condoned it, applauded it, and encouraged it. When they think this storm has passed, they'll CONTINUE IT UNLESS WE demand that it stop. This is about lots of money for lots of crooks so WE need to force it to stop, no more listening to garbage at SRC Meetings, no more 30 people supporting the nurses on Wednesdays. The citizens need to mobilize for justice for our kids etc.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 10:04 pm

very well stated!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 11:13 pm

What a real shock! The SRC figures out what they already knew and teachers have been saying for years. Yet, still, we throw money at Charters at the expense of the kids in the neighborhood schools. While we are at it, could someone please do a report on exactly how many IEP, ELL and chronic disciplinary problems kids the magnet schools have on roll each year.? I am sick of hearing about how great Girls High, Masterman, Bodine, Central etc. are compared to my school, which has never made AYP and consists of over 80% of these three types of kids. .

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:45 am

"These" kids. Sounds like you have a little bit of disdain for the students you serve. How are IEP and ELL students lumped in with "chronic disciplinary problems [sic] kids" in your mind anyway? It is always quite interesting how many teacher complain about charters because their classrooms are "filled with the kids I have to teach." Who really has a problem with serving students with diverse needs? Is it the charters? Or is it you too?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:21 pm

I love ALL my kids. The point was, the magnet and Charter schools weed the ELL, Special Ed. and chronic displinary problems kids out from getting into those schools to begin with, transfer the Special Ed. kids out once the money arrives at the school (the money stays there, kid goes back to neighborhood school), and transfer the chronic displinary truant problem kids out at the slightest infraction, all practices my neighborhood school can not do. Then the magnet and charter schools (and their supporters) go public and crow about their PSSA scores versus the neighborhood schools. We are not playing on a level playing field. The press is always making public the AYP and PSSA scores and what schools are "low achieving", "bad" etc. Let's see a public release comparing the percentage of ELL, Special Ed. and chronic truant/disciplinary students at Mastermann, Central, Girls High or ANY Charter versus an Strawberry Mansion, South Philly. Bartram, Frankford or Edison

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:50 pm

Sure, put the correlating data out there. Then teachers in neighborhood schools won't feel so bad, right? It's the fault/circumstances of the students.

But then why deny kids and parents options just because they didn't have the PSSA scores in 7th grade to get into Central or because their parents didn't have the political clout to get them into Masterman? The problem is NOT that the "playing field" (which is a myopic/cliched way to describe education) needs to be leveled among charters and neighborhood schools. The problem is that there are legitimate parent/student concerns out there about the dysfunction and institutionalized racism that pervades neighborhood schools. Those issues have pervaded schools for generations. And the PFT nor the SDP nor the SRC have done a thing about it.

So, parents--yes, those who are willing to fill out an application and attend an interview session--are going to look for other options. Why must they be denied opportunities to find functioning schools??? Is it so neighborhood schools can just all offer equally awful educational opportunities to all kids? Is it so neighborhood school teachers can feel okay about their low scores because there are some "good" kids still in the school?

All of this complaining about charters really ignores the real problem: parents and students are not content with the status quo. So change it! If skimming and separating students based on race/class/cultural capital is truly a problem (which I agree it might actually be), then make EVERYONE buy in to one system and do away with private schools, magnets schools, and charters. Then you'd truly have a public school system that operates for the public good. Or you'd just make residential segregation that much more potent. But do not scream about charters until you address the fact that neighborhood schools, as they are currently constituted, do NOT serve students or their families.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:23 pm

OK, Arlene.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:20 pm

You must not have been in my classroom. Silly, ad hominem attacks would not stand up in a discussion that requires explication and logical reasoning.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 3:21 pm

I'd like to share something that happened this summer- Two elementary age siblings from my school applied to the same charter. Both children are well-behaved, average students. One has an IEP, and one does not. One got accepted. They didn't have room for the other one. Guess which one got in.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on August 1, 2012 1:02 pm

yes, he should've used the politically correct term - "seats".

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:12 pm

Bodine is NOT a good school - it has cooperative students. Too much teaching from a textbook, too much lecturing, etc. School feels like 50 years ago instead of today.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2012 11:42 pm

KIPP also requires students to stay until 5 pm, attend on Saturdays and in the summer. How is this not a barrier? KIPP also has a very high rate of students who do not stay with the program. They have double digit turnover rate. KIPP can try to take the "high road" but it is known for burning out teachers and getting rid of students - especially boys. KIPP is part of the privatization agenda that find some students and many teachers expendable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:05 am

KIPP also was renewed despite having a rating of 8 (best is 1). Maranella claimed they "had a bad year." Well, when neighborhood schools are going to be closed based on test scores, will they be able to say "had a bad year." KIPP is part of the problem; not a solution!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 1:28 am

KIPP once kicked out two boys two weeks before the school year ended. Why bother at that point?

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 1, 2012 8:09 am

Why were these charters not named? We pay for these schools. We have the right to know how they operate.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:20 pm

Eastern University Academy Charter School - They have (at least) a 10 page application. The student must get references, one has to be from a community or religious leader. Students who get called in for an interview must also bring in a typewritten book report. The also have to submit standardized test scores, disciplinary records, and IEP if there is one.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 3:59 pm

Russell Byers Charter School - No application on their website at all. The website says you can fill out an Intent to Enroll form, but no such form exists.

Submitted by linda (not verified) on August 1, 2012 9:09 am

Bottom line, we would like to think everyone will read, write and compute arithmatic...the truth is some folks will only learn enough to make do....a problem is that the job market does not accommodate those persons as in past years.

We strategize and theorize but such is the truth...the big question is when we the higher ups learn that the real goal should be to teach all as though there is the possibility for greatness...deny no one the opportunity....show respect to all the kids but recognize that somewhere some children must exist at some school who will may not get into Harvard or Yale....are they less intelligent for atteding Community and transferring to Temple?...NO.

The value of a work ethic and being able to think based upon self, community [school, local and home] is what is needed....but then again how many of the higher ups [many non educators but are EDUCATED] learned about John Dewey?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 9:02 am

Greenwoods Charter......one night to show up and get the application. Four summer days for you to personally hand in medical and other required forms or you are kicked out.

Submitted by 98 years in SDP (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:19 am

And at its location IN THE WOODS, anyone who relies in public transportation was effectively shut out of the application process. And don't get me started about the 100% white faculty...

I'm dying to see how their diversity changes (or if) when they are located in a more accessible location.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParents (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:55 pm

They are moving. The Nature Center where they were located did not renew their lease. They are renting two former catholic school buildings for this year and are trying to get a $20 MILLION bond issued passed to build a new building.

Everything I hear about Green Woods, I am not overly impressed. Have been told by parents and kids that they give NO tests. At all. Does everyone just get all A's? Is that how they keep their numbers up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:22 pm

Where did you hear about the $20 mil. bond they are trying to get? Link? From what I've heard, they are going to build behind Superfresh on Domino Lane. I think they already bought Keenans and that's why it closed.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 2, 2012 3:40 pm

Here is the link for the public notice that has to be made when a bond issue goes before the PICA board. So yes, they are asking the city (who is broke) and the state (also broke) to pay for their brand new building.

http://eznotice.com/notices/3327986

Additionally, they are telling everyone that it will cost $12 - 13 million to build the new facility so why are they asking for $20.

Finally, I wouldn't hold my breath on that Keenen's site just yet. The neighbors are fighting the Zoning approval.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 2, 2012 3:16 pm

Also, the bond issue is by the "Greenwoods Foundation" which is then going to "lease" the building to the school! Yeah, that's not shady!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:55 pm

And not all schools need to have tests for children to learn. Teaching kids to pass a test does not mean they learn and retain anything. A lot of schools have been moving towards that direction. Haverford and Hampshire Colleges are two examples of successful non-traditional education.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParents (not verified) on August 2, 2012 3:16 pm

So, no tests, no homework, no papers, book reports, etc. How do you determine if a child is learning anything?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 3, 2012 8:58 pm

I also went on their website, looked at the pictures of their teachers and administrators, and noticed they were all white.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 8:57 am

Diversity should be a requirement for charter schools. When looking at schools for my kids, that is important to me, and only a handful of charters seem to truly honor diversity in their staff and students. Also, Wissahickon charter asks for letters of recommendation, one of which should be from a preschool teacher... What if a kid didn't go to preschool? It is also particularly difficult for single parents to navigate this system of so called "choice".

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 9:36 am

The bigger question is how did these schools get renewed? The district has the information and chose to ignore it. This hurts everyone, even the charters who are doing the right thing. Will anyone in the Charter Office be fired, prosecuted, or indicted? The same group that is screwing public school teachers doing the right thing is also screwing those charters doing the right thing. In a few years, seven or eight people will be running the school district.

Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:14 am

Do you think it's just coincidence that the district lets out this "draft" just when Darden resigns? I'm not so sure that the district "chose to ignore it", they were probably keeping it under wraps, waiting for perfect timing or scapegoat to take the heat. Look at the slides, many say "Preliminary findings - Do not share or distribute!" - it wasn't ready for public viewing yet. The article doesn't state how this draft was obtained by the Notebook; regardless, in tandem with Darden's resignation this becomes a convenient plan to out this information for the district. You ask, "Will anyone in the Charter Office be fired, prosecuted, or indicted?" Darden's resignation is probably your answer. Darden couldn't play the game well enough to fool the public, so the SRC needs another player to help pull the charter wool over our eyes. Conveniently this all falls into place to advance some other agenda.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 9:46 am

It is completely illegal to ask for proof of citizenship. I would imagine some of the other things they are doing are illegal as well.

Until ALL charters that aren't designated magnet schools must accept anyone with a utility bill proving they are in catchment, and can't kick out anyone who does not have a level 1 infraction and an expulsion trial before the SRC (or a similar, transparent public body) we are not running a portfolio of schools. We are running a segregated school system.

There has been so much focus for so long on abandoning real schools for these cardboard facades that we haven't been given the resources to better the real ones.

At least everyone else is starting to notice. "Whatever they're doing in Pennsylvania, we don't need to replicate it because it's not working." We are a failed experiment in privatization. When I can get out of here (because working for Philadelphia is equivalent to self-flagellation) I hope to find another urban district that has already escaped the clutches of the privateers.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on August 1, 2012 10:22 pm

The proof of citizenship requirement should result in the school's board and leadership having to cut ties to the school for it's charter to continue. A civil rights lawsuit would be a useful message to any other undemocratic operators in the city. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:44 pm

Schools also may not ask for social security cards/numbers. A student does not need official documents to go to a K-12 school.

Submitted by Grayson (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:31 am

I always find these comments interesting if only because of one gaping blindspot shared by the critics of charters -- and note that this has nothing to do with the supposed merits or deficiencies of the charter system.

For many Philadelphia parents who don't happen to live near a Greenfield or a Penn Alexander or a Henry, the local or cachement district school is seen as a school of last resort. As long as charter schools are perceived to be a refuge from the dysfunctional, underfunded and understaffed district school nearby, charter school enrollment will continue to grow.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 1, 2012 10:45 am

And don't you think this is deliberate and by design?

Submitted by Grayson (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:08 am

That's kind of beside the point, although I will say that I think conspiracy theories are overrated. Besides, you can blame Corbett for the current fiscal crisis, but not for the district's endemic problems that reach back decades.

Many parent's care about these things, but not at the expense of their children. They just want a safe place for their kids to go to school. Many Philadelphia public schools are not that place.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 10:36 am

i am not surprised. as a former employee at a "high performing" charter school in the philadelphia area, many practices that, in my opinion, were unethical and unfair. yet they were demanding so much of the students without extra supports. what bothered me the most, however, was the glaring gap in minority academic teachers versus minorities used to handle discipline issues. sure they have a couple of minorites on their board but its all such a class system that minorites are "charistmatic and can be good at organizing parents to advocate for this or that school" not really valuing the work or strategy that minorities can provide. furthermore, minorites rarely were promoted to the next level and after a few years, often forced out of their jobs. they keep one or two on who play the part, however. looks good on the outside but a real corruption on the inside. if it doesnt feel right, it isnt right.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2012 11:13 am

What is interesting is that Ben did not interview a single parent. Here's an article about charters and "barriers," but where are the parent voices? Why exclude these voices? Might it be that actual parents of students who go to charters can describe to you why they made the effort on behalf of their children to look after their educational needs? Might it be that actual parents might not see a meeting and an application as a barrier but as a relief and welcome change from the disconnected neighborhood school that herds children and parents through a mismanaged and misguided school experience? Might it be that actual parents can explain that they want the best for their children and that the current system of schools that have been robbed IN PLAIN SIGHT by Ackerman, those before her, and the lackeys in 440 does not provide that? Really, Ben, what would parents and students who are happy with charters say? Or does that not really matter here?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 1, 2012 12:53 pm

Yes, parent and students who chose charters do matter and they have valid reasons for pursuing admission to those schools. But, if charters are truly public schools, there should not be a need to pursue admission--it should be open to all with a transparent process. There should not be different rules for admission or retention for charters that purport to be open to all. If some charters want to admit in their applications that they are really magnet or special selection schools then that would be different. However, the
district and state would not be approving so many charters if they admitted to being selective. Remember, many charters contend they are doing better that SDP schools with the same population. That simply is not true for most of them. This issue came up because the School Reform Commission started questioning charter operators about their processes during the renewal process. They heard plenty of testimony from parents and students who were pleased. The SRC wanted to know about the barriers to enrollment.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:12 pm

But those voices are silent in this piece. What, then, is the agenda of the author? I think that's a fair question to raise here.

Your concern over some kind of bifurcation of the public school system seems a little narrowly focused. If parents--who simply are willing to fill out an application and attend a meeting--should not have this option because they are somehow less deserving of a functioning school environment for their children, then do away with ALL schools that are not public/neighborhood. No private schools. No magnet schools.

You see, the problem is that plenty of people are quite content to force parents of students who don't have money for private school, political clout for Masterman, or test scores for Central are not deserving of a chance for a meaningful education.

It seems that the concern is over public perception and hurt feelings: that charters aren't equal to public schools because they have a self-selected population. Okay, let's just be explicit about the difference, allow parents/students opportunities that aren't limited by circumstance and class, and move on. (And while we're at it, direct the anger at charters into some real work to transform neighborhood schools.)

Submitted by Zaw (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:58 am

Ok. I’m new here but I’ll bite. I’d like to try and “lay bare” some of the problems with your argument.

“…If parents--who simply are willing to fill out an application and attend a meeting--should not have this option because they are somehow less deserving of a functioning school environment for their children…”

Who ever said they are “less deserving”? It’s not about those parents/students being less deserving, it’s about the students who don’t have parents who are willing/able being JUST AS deserving. What about serving those students?

“You see, the problem is that plenty of people are quite content to force parents of students who don't have money for private school, political clout for Masterman, or test scores for Central are not deserving of a chance for a meaningful education.”

No, the problem is that students without parental involvement are being left out of a chance for a meaningful education. You seem more concerned about the parents of students than the students themselves.

“It seems that the concern is over public perception and hurt feelings”

It’s about way more than that. When the public is being sold a bill of goods that unfairly says this group of teachers is bad at their chosen profession, and the deck is stacked against that group, that makes it about more than hurt feelings. It makes it about being unfairly criticized, the loss your own self-respect and about the possibility of losing your job. All the while your job is becoming more difficult because more and more students of the most at-risk students are being left on your doorstep thereby fulfilling the self-fulfilling prophecy that Phila. public schools are “bad”. Oh and look how good charter schools are!

“let's just be explicit about the difference, allow parents/students opportunities that aren't limited by circumstance and class, and move on.”

Yeah “let’s just”. It sounds seems so simple when you put it that way. Why didn’t anyone think of that before? Problem solved!

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 2, 2012 8:45 am

Thanks, Zaw. You articulated very well what I was thinking. The barriers to entry hurt the very children who need help the most. (The kids without organized or motivated parents). They also hurt the system as a whole. Anyone who thinks this sort of self-selection for motivated families does not make a difference in student achievement is kidding him/herself. If these charters are true public schools, let's have them operate as such and be equally open to all students. Let's also make the discipline process the same across the board so students are not being kicked out for "offenses" that regular public schools are not allowed to use as a reason to get rid of the "problems". Safety and the needs of disenfranchised students should be important in ALL schools, not just in schools that can select for the most involved families.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 2, 2012 6:22 pm

I don't deny that the system is hurt. I just don't think the line should be drawn where it is. The line, where you suggest it should be drawn, is that middle/low income families cannot choose schools outside of the neighborhood--but that rich/connected families can continue to enroll students in magnets or private schools. Why draw the line there?

Also, I agree that neighborhood schools should invest the resources and time and people into following through with interventions and discipline and safety. My experience in an Empowerment school is that little is done to hold a student accountable or to create a space where the student felt safe enough in the first place and did not need to act out. I'm interested in a comparison between charter structures/supports for students and neighborhood school and their structures/supports for students. Are they similar? Are they informed from one another? Is there any conversation across schools about this? Yes, safety is important in every single school. I just don't think that forcing some kids to stay in an unsafe environment is a solution for creating a supportive environment that been missing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 4:07 pm

This idea that the options of involved parents need to be limited to acheive this mythical "fairness" is a real perversity. The districts primary goal should be to provide education not fix every social ill.

It's not fair that some kids are born poor or into broken homes. Never has been. But it's also not fair that the SDP chooses not to enforce behavior standards and lets disruptive students harm those that want to learn.

Is the primary goal delivering education or enforcing a notion of social equality? Very few people want to sacrifice their kids education to some ed PHD's notions of social equality. The results of the last 40 years of trying speak for themselves.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 2, 2012 6:22 pm

Thanks for engaging my points. I'll try to respond:

"...Who ever said they are 'less deserving'? It’s not about those parents/students being less deserving, it’s about the students who don’t have parents who are willing/able being JUST AS deserving. What about serving those students?..."

I agree. They are JUST AS deserving. And that was my point. The students who get left out because magnets/private schools exist are JUST AS deserving as the students who don't have the (1) test scores, (2) parent political clout, or (3) money to get into a school that functions. I'm curious as to why the line has to be drawn with middle/low income families. I don't think the system--before charters--ever served students. I won't suggest that it does now. But it does provide opportunities not before available to middle/low income families and their children. (And I don't suggest that charters are innately superior. There is much evidence to suggest otherwise. But at least there are some bright spots and distinctive examples.

"...No, the problem is that students without parental involvement are being left out of a chance for a meaningful education. You seem more concerned about the parents of students than the students themselves..."

I'm not quite sure where this is going. There are parents who need options that are better than those that currently exist. Many of these are parents who have tried to work for change within the existing system but have been rebuffed. I don't think I've shown that parents matter more than students. Instead, I'd been interested in opportunities for students--which are fought for by parents. Furthermore, I have not suggested that neighborhood schools be abandoned. I have suggested that, though, that it's wrong to insist only certain students attend neighborhood schools while students from families with clout/money can make other choices.

"...It’s about way more than that. When the public is being sold a bill of goods that unfairly says this group of teachers is bad at their chosen profession, and the deck is stacked against that group, that makes it about more than hurt feelings. It makes it about being unfairly criticized, the loss your own self-respect and about the possibility of losing your job. All the while your job is becoming more difficult because more and more students of the most at-risk students are being left on your doorstep thereby fulfilling the self-fulfilling prophecy that Phila. public schools are “bad”. Oh and look how good charter schools are!..."

As a teacher in an (dis)Empowerment school, I know that feeling. However, the frustration still comes down to feelings that the public just isn't aware of the context in which teachers operate. I think the frustration is valid in many ways (although I didn't recognize that fairly by originally only writing about "hurt feelings.") So, where does that shifted public understanding lead us? To fair comparisons? Sure. And I've written here that the comparisons between test scores and student profiles at each school be included in the conversation. Does it lead us anywhere else? I'm not sure honestly. Maybe it might encourage collective action to address poverty, income inequality, and racism. Maybe not. I tend to be optimistic and expect that it just might. I wonder, though, based on my experience in a school labeled "failing" if the statistics don't further entrench the feelings--amongst the staff--that students are deficient. Yes, I think that's a real feeling that comes across in staff meetings and pd with colleagues. It frustrates me more than any outsider who might suggest I've failed as a teacher because my test scores aren't high enough. You know, maybe that experience has led me to focus less on how teachers feel. That can't be a productive perspective, though. I'll work on that.

On a small side note, I find it unfortunate that traditional public schools aren't creating partnerships with charters to share strategies and ideas. I think that collaboration and using charters as laboratories for discovering strategies that work was one of the initial justifications for creating the schools in the first place. Believe it or not, some charters ARE working. And not just because they have a self-selected population. There are a lot of assumptions thrown about in this comments section about IEPs. I'm not so sure the people throwing around the vitriol have ever been in a charter school. No, we just stop the conversation at "you don't have the bad kids/problems that I have." Forgive me, again, if you feel I am mischaracterizing the general attitude that pervades teachers lounges and even this comment section.

Finally, I don't mean to suggest any of this is easy when I say "let's just." However, I am interested in where the conversation goes if we acknowledge that there are choices that some parents make that others do not--and that the schools we provide makes that the case. I do think allowing for parents to choose charters results in different student bodies, just as parents can decide to send their children to Masterman if they have the right resources/connections. What happens when we acknowledge it and then focus resources on schools with the greatest needs? An alternative is to get rid of choice for everyone. I'm not convinced that a third way, which seems to be the popular choice in the comment section, is to limit opportunities only for middle/low income families while keeping intact the choices for the connected/rich. I'm not convinced that the line being drawn is a fair one.

A few other thoughts:
1. I'm still not sure why parent and student voices have been excluded from the initial post by Ben. Heck, I don't even hear teacher voices in the piece. I just wonder what this does to the conversation and if this comes from some agenda.
2. I hope I didn't read the "I'll bite" the wrong way. I initially thought it was snarky and unnecessary. However, I was pretty sure that I kept my comments respectful when I posted initially. So, I figured such a thoughtful response from you was snark free. I hope I'm right.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 4, 2012 12:31 pm

Public School Teacher,

I want to comment on a part of your post regarding test scores and collaboration with test scores.

You wrote the following:

---
And I've written here that the comparisons between test scores and student profiles at each school be included in the conversation. Does it lead us anywhere else? I'm not sure honestly. Maybe it might encourage collective action to address poverty, income inequality, and racism. Maybe not. I tend to be optimistic and expect that it just might. I wonder, though, based on my experience in a school labeled "failing" if the statistics don't further entrench the feelings--amongst the staff--that students are deficient. Yes, I think that's a real feeling that comes across in staff meetings and pd with colleagues. It frustrates me more than any outsider who might suggest I've failed as a teacher because my test scores aren't high enough. You know, maybe that experience has led me to focus less on how teachers feel. That can't be a productive perspective, though. I'll work on that.
On a small side note, I find it unfortunate that traditional public schools aren't creating partnerships with charters to share strategies and ideas. I think that collaboration and using charters as laboratories for discovering strategies that work was one of the initial justifications for creating the schools in the first place. Believe it or not, some charters ARE working. And not just because they have a self-selected population. There are a lot of assumptions thrown about in this comments section about IEPs. I'm not so sure the people throwing around the vitriol have ever been in a charter school. No, we just stop the conversation at "you don't have the bad kids/problems that I have." Forgive me, again, if you feel I am mischaracterizing the general attitude that pervades teachers lounges and even this comment section.
---

You mention test scores. I think that there needs to be a serious conversation about test scores. How VALID of a measure of student performance are test scores? So many of the people who are pushing higher test scores--such as Arne Duncan, Eli Broad, and Bill Gates--have never been teachers or principals. However, Eli Broad and Bill Gates have been able to influence the shape of public education because they have MONEY.

Why are we so focused on test scores? Test scores are useless unless there is proper context to understand them, such as the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students, what kind of teacher they have, and what percentage of the students are ELLs or special education students. Even with value added measures, my understanding is that VAM have limited utility in parsing out which student growth is attributable to teachers, after school programs, and the home environment. If there isn't a way to parse out these different variables, how would it make sense to evaluate teachers based on test scores?

In order to truly evaluate student performance, there needs to be evaluation of the day to day instruction, assignments, and assessments in which students are taking part. In other words, a truly representative evaluation system would involve looking assessing samples of student in-class work, performance on formative assessments, as well as looking at a teacher's lesson plans, tapes of lessons, and detailed classroom observations. However, a comprehensive evaluation system like this would be enormously EXPENSIVE. Also, evaluation should be looking at how well a teacher improves in response to feedback from principals, colleagues, and master teachers. So much of the research on what makes an effective teacher is based on test scores. I think that people need to be thinking about and questioning how useful test scores actually are for measuring student and teacher performance.

Regarding collaboration with charters, I think it's important to ask the question of how willing charters would be to collaborate with traditional public schools. If this collaboration would help improve TPSs, would charters be willing to collaborate? So many of the charter school operators, especially the operators of Renaissance schools, are operating their schools because the TPSs they took over "failed." Operators of other charter schools have so much demand for their schools because the TPSs have "failed." In the environment of competing for students and money, how collaborative are schools willing to be? I think that it's a fair question. Are schools willing to share their strategies for free, or do they consider these strategies and practices to be proprietary? One problem with the infusion of private money from organizations such as the William Penn Foundation and the Gates Foundation is that schools which develop practices using private money may not have to share these practices with others. In other words, these schools may be able to make these practices proprietary.

EGS

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 4, 2012 4:42 pm

There should be collaboration between and among all schools. If we are operating on the best intersts of our students standard, we would freely share what works with each other.

I am talking about teachers sharing with each other and collaborating with teachers from other schools. A well functioning professional community creates a climate for open dialogue about what really are the best practices and what really does work in schools.

We also should have open and honest dialogue with principals and higher level administrators. That includes SRC members.

One of things I believe we have to do most is build a professional community. That can done through collegial and collaborative professional development.

We need to learn to be more inclusive of parents and community members. I have realized that there are a whole lot of community members and former teachers and schoool leaders who would very much like to lend a hand and have a whole lot of expertise and experience to offer.

So do a whole lot of parents but many feel marginalized.

And by the way, let's not forget Charter schools are supposed to be public schools operating for the best interests of their students and our community, not themselves. If these private interests are giving to these "public schools," Whose money is it?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 8, 2012 10:08 pm

Rich,

My understanding is that much of the professional development today is online or virtual. It is possible to build a community this way, but I personally think that they do not take the place of face-to-face meetings and collaboration. What is your opinion of how technology is affecting the state of professional development and the professional community of teachers?

EGS

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 8, 2012 10:57 pm

I believe you cannot lead from afar and that is true with technology based instructional leadership. I also believe you cannot build community within an organization without living within that community. By living in, I mean working within that community on a regular basis. But we do more than just work in our school communities. We dedicate our selves to that community.

As I told you before, My favorite book on leadership is "Encouraging the Heart" by Kouzes and Posner. They studied more effective leaders in the private sector than anyone else.

To them, leadership is creating "vitality and enthusiasm" in the hearts and minds of those we lead. It is a "chemistry" based on "affection, caring and even love." It is a relationship between people, and they urge their readers to keep in mind their basic message. "At the heart of effective leadership is genuinely caring for people."

You cannot do that from afar. You must get close to people.

That is why Andy Reid is such a Great coach. His players love him because he cares about them. They want to perform for him.

To them what explains the leaders who are high performers is that "leadership is an emotional connection" between leader and follower.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 6, 2012 10:05 pm

I don't believe test scores should go unquestioned at all. I was merely responding to the suggestions in the comment sections on here that comparing scores among neighborhood and charter schools isn't "fair." I figure in the short term, publish student body statistics. Standardized tests shouldn't drive the learning that happens in my classroom. And they don't.

I don't think charters are unwilling. Based on the comments on this page, it seems plenty of teachers here are unwilling to learn a little bit about what works/how staffs collaborate in charter schools. Furthermore, my experience with principals in Empowerment Schools is that there is little interest in building best practices and strengthening staff's professional development. Instead, walkthroughs and checklists rule the day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 10:22 pm

The "empowerment" school model brought by Ackerman had nothing to do with building teacher/staff capacity - it was about micromanagement and disciplining anyone who questioned the program. (This was enforced by Assistant Superintendents such as Wayman, Penny Nixon, etc.)

I'm sure there is PD that has been created in some charter schools which is worth sharing with SDP schools. There are stand alone, independent charters which do not follow the Mastery and KIPP test prep model. We certainly could use something other than the so-called PD brought by book publishers. At this point, I don't know if the SDP has anything to offer teachers. We haven't received any communication even regarding Sept. 2 - 4. While I don't want any more directives from 440, it would be nice to then give us the green light to plan PD appropriate for our schools / students /communities. This is a "privileged" charter schools have - freedom.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 8, 2012 10:36 pm

The District does publish demographic statistics for District schools. These include the percentages by race/ethnicity, economically disadvantaged students, ELLs, and special education students. Typically, from looking at these statistics, the lowest test scores are typically at schools with large numbers of economically disadvantaged students and schools which are majority Latino/a or 90% or more Black. This reflects economic and racial/ethnic segregation in the city as well as historic disparities and institutional discrimination and racism versus children of color, Black children in particular.

Submitted by Philly Parent adn Teacher (not verified) on August 9, 2012 5:32 am

Yes, the demographic data is on the SDP web site. That said, the percentage of students who are free/reduced lunch ("economically disadvantaged") is misleading for some schools. Unlike ALL other school districts in the U.S., the SDP for many neighborhood schools estimates the percentage of free/reduced lunch as part of a "universal feeding program." Most neighborhood schools, other than in the northeast, do not collect the free/reduced lunch forms. This is from an agreement in the early 1990s with the USDA. (See http://www.trfund.com/resource/downloads/policypubs/SchoolLunch_Summary.pdf and http://www.hungercoalition.org/summary-universal-feeding-and-CNR-goals) Charters, special admit/magnet schools and Northeast Philly schools have to collect the forms. (Northeast Philly schools had to do this in the early 2000s - I assume it is the same today.)

So, some schools "economically disadvantaged" may be inaccurate. The last time the SDP updated the estimates was in 2007. (See http://www.trfund.com/resource/downloads/policypubs/SchoolLunchEligible_...) For example, Furness HS is listed as 75% free/reduced lunch because its catchment includes Old City, Queens Village, etc. Very few students from the wealthy sections of South Philly attend the school. The percentage of free/reduced lunch is probably at least 90% based on the percentage listed as "economically disadvantaged'" who take the PSSA. South Philly High School is listed as 85% "economically disadvantaged". I assume this is because it reflects the feeder schools percentages. (South Philly HS includes Greenfield - one of the lowest percentage of "economically disadvantaged" in the SDP - with other schools having a much higher percentage of "economically disadvantaged." Furness has McCall and Meredith which have wealthier students populations. ) The neighborhood South of South where Stanton is located is quickly gentrifying. Will the SDP make revisions? Does it matter? Shall see...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2012 7:53 am

Yes, anyone who has dared suggest that Penn Alexander's "greatness" may be in large part due to having a MUCH "less poor" population than neighboring schools - usually one would use the term "wealthy" but the screeching from the PAS community in response is tiresome - has had the USDA area estimate of 50% "economically-disadvantaged" at PAS thrown back at them. However, as you pointed out, this is not a real count.

Fortunately, the state of Pennsylvania's Department of Education does do an actual count and reports that the "economically disadvantaged" rate at PAS is 24%. Yes, many of the families in the other 76% don't feel wealthy because they have mortgaged themselves out the wazoo and are quick to climb on the cross about how much they've sacrificed to live in the catchment but even they will admit that it's not the same as trying to support a family of four on $42,000 or less.

It's poverty and underfunding, stupid.

Submitted by Philly Parent adn Teacher (not verified) on August 9, 2012 8:36 am

Yes, the sacred Penn Alexander. It will be held up as a "model" school while not mentioning they get $1300/year more PER STUDENT plus PD from Penn, law maintenance from Penn and many other perks. It is a blatant example of the grave inequity in the School District of Philadelphia.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2012 9:10 am

And the $1,330 per student comes out to something like $730,000 more a year - mind you that we, the taxpayers NOT Penn, spent $17 million building PAS its building which surely requires less in maintenance than ancient buildings and the lawncare as you pointed out is donated by UCD.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on August 4, 2012 9:54 pm

Public School Teacher,

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary and questions.  Sorry for being so slow to join the party.

I very much agree with you that this conversation about the application and enrollment practices of charter schools is incomplete without the voices of parents, students and teachers (not to mention the names and practices of individual charters.)

The only agenda behind the lack of those voices and details in this piece was my desire to report on the district document in a timely way.  I suspect/hope that this article will not be the last we hear on this issue.  

In that vein, I would love if parents with direct experience applying to charters can email me with your stories at bherold@thenotebook.org.

Thanks,

Ben

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:39 pm

If you are REALLY a public school teacher please give up your job and go to work for a Charter School. We can find a REAL teacher to take your place.

Submitted by Public School Teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2012 1:00 pm

Honestly, I pray you are not teaching our children. Silly, ad hominem attacks would not stand up in my classroom in a discussion that requires explication and logical reasoning. Why not lay bare some of the problems with my argument?? Instead, you attempt to attack me. This only further distract us from creating schools that work for our children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:13 pm

Once every charter school is closed, are we expecting the district to magically transform into an educational haven? Charters have been in existence for about 10 or 12 years. Before that, the district was failing miserably, had financial issues, and fraud. Charters are not the silver bullet, but closing all charters is no solution either. The problem is and always has been the district leadership. Now that they're involved in charters (Renaissance) wait until the real corruption starts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 8:50 pm

It has already started--pay attention. I agree that corruption is alive and kicking everywhere so what you seem to be saying is that adding more scum bags--charters--makes no difference. Huh!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 12:33 pm

It seems PSP et. al. finally realized how much its agenda was getting revealed and rightfully beat up in The Notebook comments (Nowak has already shamefully tried to pressure the reporting side). Welcome to discussion everyone - we're more than ready for you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 2:36 pm

When parents organize and start filing class-action law suits, their voice will be heard.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:23 pm

Enrollment of students into a high school with no idea whether they have any interest in that school's mission and culture is lunacy. It is the single reason why no neighborhood high school works and why they should all be closed. The district spent over $300 million on Lincoln, fels, Kensington, and future. Combined they average 20.5% proficiency in math and 33% in reading. Assuming there's about 4,000 students in the four schools, you could have given every student $7,500 a year for ten years and spent less than it cost to build those schools. Every school can't educate every kid. Particularly in high school. Do they admit students into Kensington CAPA if they have no interest in performing arts? Can you go to Kensington Culinary Arts if you have no interest in food? I'm sure some of you posters say yes. That is why these schools will never work. One more thing: the district has a poor record with sped students. In the report released by the US Dept of Ed, which criticized charters for having low special needs populations, they specially pointed out that this was not the case in Pennsylvania. All charters in Philly serve special needs students. What the troublesome sped students you all loath have come to understand is that there are academic expectations in a charter. Many of them opt to attend a neighborhood high school and just be passed along or ignored until they fail. Stop finding someone to blame for your predicament and do something about it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:34 pm

Where will you put all the students in neighborhood high schools once you close them? Only the "high performing seats" will be accepted into charters and magnets. Students have a right to a K-12 education. Granted, the programs in high schools do not usually match students' interests. That is not a reason to close a school. That is a reason to change the curriculum/ pedagogy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:27 pm

If you close them, other schools that are better suited to serve this population can be created. This has gone on long enough. It's time to give different people a chance to address the problem. This goes far beyond curriculum and pedagogy. The structural deficits at the high school level are beyond tweaking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:23 pm

Enrollment of students into a high school with no idea whether they have any interest in that school's mission and culture is lunacy. It is the single reason why no neighborhood high school works and why they should all be closed. The district spent over $300 million on Lincoln, fels, Kensington, and future. Combined they average 20.5% proficiency in math and 33% in reading. Assuming there's about 4,000 students in the four schools, you could have given every student $7,500 a year for ten years and spent less than it cost to build those schools. Every school can't educate every kid. Particularly in high school. Do they admit students into Kensington CAPA if they have no interest in performing arts? Can you go to Kensington Culinary Arts if you have no interest in food? I'm sure some of you posters say yes. That is why these schools will never work. One more thing: the district has a poor record with sped students. In the report released by the US Dept of Ed, which criticized charters for having low special needs populations, they specially pointed out that this was not the case in Pennsylvania. All charters in Philly serve special needs students. What the troublesome sped students you all loath have come to understand is that there are academic expectations in a charter. Many of them opt to attend a neighborhood high school and just be passed along or ignored until they fail. Stop finding someone to blame for your predicament and do something about it.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:42 pm

Very few dispute the fact that charters as a sector don't carry their weight when it comes to special education students. Even Pedro Ramos pointed out this fact. The students with the most severe disabilities -- including those who receive instruction in life skills -- are very likely overwhelmingly concentrated at the neighborhood high schools. Why? These students are expensive to educate. Many require one on one aides or TSS workers. Also, many students with severe disabilities require community based instruction. They do not fit in well with the mold of many charters because students with severe disabilities often require very specialized instruction. And they are expensive so charters will no want to take students with severe special needs unless they have to do so.

If you read the Charter Renewal Reports (http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/c/charter_schools/charter-renewal-...), SchoolWorks conducted site renewal visits and found serious issues in special education at the following schools:
Arise Academy, Boys' Latin, Green Woods, KIPP West Philadelphia, Multicultural Academy, Southwest Leadership Academy, and Truebright Science Academy. And six of the charters didn't even have their reports available:
First Philadelphia - Reports Not Available
Laboratory Charter - Reports Not Available
Planet Abacus - Reports Not Available
Tacony Academy - Reports Not Available
West Oak Lane - Reports Not Available
World Communications - Reports Not Available

Submitted by And...? (not verified) on August 6, 2012 10:31 pm

Any reports out there on ALL public schools? Just curious. I can't imagine any school in this city serves the needs of students with IEPs. That doesn't mean charters shouldn't serve all students. Just not providing any comparison here.

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on August 7, 2012 6:50 am

I do not know of any reports on all public schools, however, many regular public schools serve children with IEPs very well. My particular school has many Special Ed classes: multiple disabilities, Life skills, Autistic support, hearing support, and many kids who need some Learning support. All our teachers strive to give our students a good education--we are a K-8, so when they leave us we help them choose and get into a high school that suits their needs. I do not believe our school is unusual in that--there are many, many public schools in Philadelphia who do well educating our IEP students every day.

Submitted by And...? (not verified) on August 7, 2012 10:44 am

I appreciate the anecdotal description. I can offer counter examples. That doesn't mean much without similar reporting and evaluation structures from the district. However, I doubt the district is interested in publishing similar reports on its schools that aren't charters.

Submitted by Harry Bailey (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:27 pm

Ahah! The private gateway that created default, "failing" schools in order to play the phony test score game, is at last revealed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2012 4:43 pm

The way the state testing is set up, only failing means something. Passing is the meaningless status. Would you be happy with those scores for your children?

Submitted by rodney on August 1, 2012 5:50 pm

Evidently there aren't enough barriers for charter school management. They are alot of crooks.

Submitted by Yvonne Haskins (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:03 am

HOORAY for all the comments...it's about time we have sunlight on the so-called CharterSchool Movement" . But it was Disheartening and Disconcerting that most comments came from anonymous people. HEY PEOPLE...IT's also time that we all stand up and agree to be heard, counted and committed on improving education. It was truly disheartening to read Chaka Fattah's comments about education in Philadelphia. He said we don't need to talk about change, just focus on what works. CAN ANYONE TELL ME (like I'm a 6year old) "WHAT WORKS"?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:59 pm

Look at all of the administrators who work at one charter school - Clymer Elementary, a Mastery Charter School :

School Management Team

Meredith Cronk Principal
Sara Calabrese Assistant Principal of Instruction (API)
Abeku Hayes Assistant Principal of School Culture (APSC)
Michael Farrell Assistant Principal of Specialized Services
Ben Kohler Assistant Principal of Operation (AP Ops)
Erika McDowell Apprentice School Leader of School Culture (ASL- SC)
David Corvi Dean

The public elementary school where I teach has a principal. That's it. Hmmm. Something inequitable there.

This is where our tax dollars are going - to pay for 7 administrators at one elementary school. Those tax dollars are not going to the children of Philadelphia.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:56 pm

Where did you find this information? Also, how many of these administrators are going to retain their positions in the face of budget cuts this upcoming year. Mastery tends to pay its teachers better than other charters. This is apparent from looking at http://www.openpagov.org/school_payroll/sdefault.asp. So...do they fundraise more? Do they cut corners on their curriculum and supplies? Do they use less technology? Do they cut corners on special ed? Do they manage their money really well? Anyone know the answers?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 8:12 am

I found the information on Mastery's website. Take a look at the number of administrators for each elementary school. Smedley has seven. Harrity has TEN.

I think you will agree that the amount of administrators Mastery employs for each school is excessive, no matter how they manage it. Something is taking a hit. As you say, it is not the teachers, since they are making decent salaries.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:36 pm

Of course it's the teachers. They might pay on the salary scale, but if you only hire people with 0, 1, 2, maybe 3 years of experience, your average costs are nothing like SDP's.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 10:32 am

They have big donors / grants. Nowak was the head of Mastery's Board of Directors until he moved to the William Penn Foundation. Mastery's Board is well connected. Their downtown building is named for Lenfest (another source of big bucks.) Just like the Sustainability Workshop (whose every blog post is promoted by the Notebook). They are rolling in money while SDP schools are being starved.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:54 pm

In order to ensure that charter schools accept all students, there has to be enforcement and oversight. Laws do not mean much unless there is enforcement behind them. With so many political leaders being friendly with charter operators, and the governor and people in Harrisburg seeming to push for charters regardless of the consequences financially or for disadvantaged students (special ed, ELL), someone is going to have to file a lawsuit.

Brown vs. Board of Education was a test case from the NAACP to challenge educational discrimination. Some organization or class action group is going to have to sue regarding discriminatory admission. Some family or group of families is going to have to document that they were discriminated against during the admissions process.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:47 am

One of theses comments sounds like my day at KIPP surprised the change known to me a few days earlier that KIPP that was located at 12th and Vine will now be @ 26th and Cumberland streets and that the hours are 7:40am to 5:00pm I grew up in a similar environment and was not pleased now after my child being picked out of a lottery as lucky I'm feeling a little concerned.

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