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Commentary: Making sense of what's happening in the School District

By the Notebook on Aug 28, 2012 07:55 AM

This week's guest commentary about changes in the Philadelphia school landscape is from James M. "Torch" Lytle, a former Philadelphia administrator and Trenton superintendent, now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. The Notebook invites guest blog posts on current topics in Philadelphia education from its readers. Contact us at to make a submission.


As the School District of Philadelphia deals with a leadership transition, budget cuts,  funding shortfalls, declining enrollment, school closings, charter school waiting lists, and the most turbulent period in its history, it’s easy to get focused on the turmoil and lose sight of the big picture.

I am a longtime District administrator and former superintendent in Trenton who has watched with dismay the development of policies, starting in 2001 in the Bush administration, that have been designed not so much to raise standards and improve student achievement, but to promote privatization.

On the federal level, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), passed by Congress in 2001, stipulated performance standards for all public schools and a set of sanctions for those that did not meet the standards - closing low-performing schools, converting them to charter schools, or turning them over to for-profit or not-for-profit management companies. The Obama administration has supported these market-based approaches to school reform and worked closely with major foundations to push this agenda.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, 2001 was also the year that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took control of the School District of Philadelphia and created the School Reform Commission (SRC). The new SRC was immediately armed through NCLB with the power to take over or close schools and authorize charter schools. At intervals since 2001, the U.S. Department of Education has provided Pennsylvania and Philadelphia substantial funding for intervening in low-performing schools, most recently through Race to the Top grants.

USDOE requires that states adopt basic-skills testing programs and stringent teacher qualification and evaluation systems, support charter schools, adopt the Common Core curriculum standards, redesign tests to relate to the Common Core, and report student performance by race, special needs, and English learner “sub-groups.”

This policy agenda has had very little effect on schools in wealthy suburban communities because students in those schools do well enough on state tests to ensure that their schools meet performance standards (i.e., make Adequate Yearly Progress). But what NCLB and Race to the Top have done, happily pushed along by Harrisburg, is create policies and funding for urban public school takeover by charter management companies.

Charter schools receive most of their funding from the districts in which their students live. When students enroll, an amount equal to their “per pupil cost” in the sending district is transferred to the charter. As an example, if a charter school enrolls 500 students and receives $10,000 per pupil, it gets $5,000,000 per year to cover all personnel, materials, books, equipment, and facility costs (some charters also get grant support from foundations and corporations).

For 2012-13, Philadelphia public schools pay $100,000 per teacher, including benefits, when they develop school budgets. Most charter schools pay teachers less and have lower benefits; assume $60,000/position. If a school has 25 teachers for 500 students, the public school will need $2,500,000 for teacher salaries, the charter $1,500,000. Because the charter needs $40,000 less per position, it has $1,000,000 more to spend on rent or a mortgage, equipment, maintenance, administration, operating expenses, and payment to its charter management organization.

In financial terms, urban school districts are unable to compete with charters because they are struggling with unsustainable costs – debt service, aging and underutilized facilities, expensive employee contracts, special education, children who don’t speak English, and unfunded pensions. State and local revenues aren’t keeping pace with cost increases, enrollment is declining, and payments to charters reduce already strained budgets.

Urban public school systems are hardly blameless in the takeover process. They have had longstanding discipline and safety problems, high dropout and attrition rates, poor achievement records, and have, in many instances, treated students and parents cavalierly. As “good” kids – or those with motivated parents – leave for charters, low-performing schools are left with proportionally more of the “hard to educate” students. The cycle continues: Improving student achievement and avoiding takeover have become increasingly difficult.

In contrast, most charter schools are orderly, have a longer school day and year, maintain regular contact with parents, and may even provide child care before and after school. Even on those simple terms, charter schools have an advantage. The fact that their overall academic performance is neither better nor worse than traditional public schools is not a sufficient concern to put off prospective clients.

A recurring criticism of charter schools is that they require applications and discriminate against special needs and English language learner students, a criticism supported by charter enrollment data. Further, they are often accused of dismissing students who misbehave or don’t do well on state tests. Neighborhood public schools, on the other hand, must enroll all children independent of their previous records or needs.

Another concern about charters is that they intentionally encourage teacher turnover to keep salaries and benefits low. Few charter schools are unionized, and their employees work on “at-will” contracts, meaning that they can be fired without cause at any time. Another criticism, certainly true in Philadelphia, is that a significant number of charter schools have grossly mismanaged funds.

In many charters, curriculum tends to be regimented and standardized, and lessons highly scripted, making it easy to replace teachers. To ensure that students behave appropriately, teachers are often encouraged to use behavior management systems that offer rewards that students can exchange for privileges or items at the school store. The emphasis is on control, not on engaging instruction.

Because charter schools have their own boards of trustees, governance is localized, as compared to a single, central school board. At the school level, this means that parents who are dissatisfied with their children’s charter school have little recourse, other than to withdraw their children and transfer them to other schools. There are limited avenues for complaint; there is little transparency around salaries, budgets, and expenditures, or about management company costs and services. Charter school board meetings tend to be infrequent, and confined to school administration and board members. To oversee the 80-plus charter schools in Philadelphia and the 40,000 students who attend them (15,000 more than the total enrollment of the Pittsburgh Public Schools), the SRC has an office of six employees, which would suggest the pretense of oversight.

The large and looming question behind the drive for charters in Philadelphia and nationally is, “Who will profit from this shift in the provision of education in inner cities?” Why is it that Gates/Microsoft and Walton/Walmart are proponents of charters, portfolio management, and market-based approaches?

Why is it that rich White folks are leading the conversation about what poor Black and Latino kids need? Why is so much campaign money being used to support charter and voucher proponents? Where is the evidence that charter schools do a better job than traditional public schools? And what does Boston Consulting Group know about urban schooling that School District teachers and principals don’t?

These are all big questions, and there are no clear answers. But a reasonable notion would be to follow the money. The federal government is subsidizing charter expansion, as are major foundations. Charter schools offer the potential for low-risk, high-gain returns. And a number of national charter school management companies are working to meet demand - think McDonald's or Walmart as models for national systems of schools with predictable products and quality, low cost, and standardized educational programs.

In another respect, the democratizing function of public schools is being superseded by consumer-driven choice and market approaches that favor those who know how markets work. That means it’s up to parents to choose the right schools, and to their children to take advantage of the education they get.

Now what’s happening in Philadelphia makes sense. And those who are uncomfortable with the hijacking of public schools are going to have to organize quickly, find voice, and propose realistic options.

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Comments (96)

Submitted by Brian Cohen (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:36 pm

Thank you for a succinct summary of what is going on. The questions you ask are important ones. As a teacher, I would also ask why it is that we are seen as "the enemy" in all this instead of a partner with expertise to spare? The new movie "Won't Back Down" again portrays teachers as the enemy - without care or insight - instead of a powerful group that could support positive change for everyone. I hope more teachers are brought into the conversations with the likes of the SRC and the Boston Consulting Group.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:43 pm

Why would the SRC do that and even if they did, why would they listen?? They don't have to change anything apparently.

ALL UNIONS need to wake up and fight this corruption and so far, that isn't happening.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:09 pm

Because you don't support positive change for everyone. Charter school parents know the truth and vote with their feet. I'm sorry to say that most people here can't say one kind word about charters. That's why you have zero credibility.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 10:04 pm

This is the problem Torch is pointing out -- "voting with your feet." I'd rather PARTICIPATE in making the public school a better one. That's what suburban parents do. They don't vote with their feet, they exercise their rights as citizens of the municipality that pays for the schools by voicing their concerns to the board, the principals, to teachers. One advantage suburban parents have is that schools, boards tend to listen because these parents are generally more educated and confident in their belief that they are entitled to voice their views.

One big mistake that urban public schools (and unfortunately many urban teachers, though not all) have made is to keep parents and community members at arm's length and squander the resource.

But the idea of "voting with your feet" -- means moving your kid around every time you don't like the way things are going because you have given up your citizen rights in a charter school/contract school or private school.

Torch's call to action should mean that Philadelphia parents and others who care about public education have to participate both at the system level and at the school level -- rather than "vote with your feet" put your whole body in -- if the schools will let you.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 29, 2012 9:04 pm

First, the situations of low-performing schools in Philadelphia and the suburbs are often quite different. The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) is much larger than any suburban district in the area, even a large suburban district. There are many more voices in the SDP than in a suburban district because there are more students, parents, teachers, administrators, etc. in the District. This means that there are fewer representatives (school board members or SRC members) per parent, student, teacher, and administrator in the District versus a suburban district. Thus, it is much harder to effect change in a larger district. In addition, with the force transfer policy for teachers and the nepotism and shuffling of principals, it can also be very hard to effect change at the school level. Parents can't just say, "Year after year, this principal or teacher is terrible. He or she needs to be removed." This is not to say that parents should be in charge because many of them have little knowledge about what it takes to run a high-quality school.

Also, when a school in a neighborhood has been really poor performing for so long, parents and community members may give up hope of improving the school. Often times, in these schools and neighborhoods, there are a number of families in which parents do not reinforce academics and school-appropriate behavior at home. I have seen it in my own eyes. When parents cuss frequently at their children, it's only a matter of time until cuss words will be coming from the child's mouth at school.

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Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:08 pm

Thanks Torch Lytle for your observations. You have reiterated many of the comments which I read daily over the past year in the notebook. We members of the school district who agree with you need you and the educators in our local university schools of education to speak on the disaster in the making known as school "reform".

Submitted by Helen Gym on August 28, 2012 5:09 pm

I'm curious about the notion of "reasonable options" in the current climate of Corbett, BCG, heavy lobbying and mass disinvestment of public schools. I think there are reasonable options that balance choice alternatives that supplement the existing school system. But clearly that's not what's at play nor is that being listened to.

What kind of reasonable options would you prioritize?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:34 pm

Do you think the Renaissance Initiative is reasonable? Low performing district schools being taken over by high performing charter organizations.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 6:27 pm

Universal and Apira have no track record of "high performing" schools. String Theory runs a charter school with very different demographics from the SDP. These are not "high performing."

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:28 pm

No, there are no high performing charter schools or high performing charter organizations which has ever turned a school around. What is reasonable is that schools who serve a needy population of students who have difficulty achieving, be given adequate resources and supports along with good leadership and small class size.

It is not rocket science on what makes a good school. Just look to our most successful regular public schools in Philadelphia and our suburbs to discover what Great schools do. Then replicate that.

If we define the quality of a school solely on the basis of standardized test scores, I submit, we are terribly myopic.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 8:48 pm

Wow, you must really hate children. Maybe you should go talk to the SAC members of the Renaissance schools. You know, the parents whose children actually attend.

I doubt you are honest enough to do that. When you go to war against kids, you don't win any favor. I really hope you are never in a position to deny a child the opportunity to attend a great charter school.

Was this guy ever a teacher?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2012 10:50 pm

I would love to visit with the SAC members of Renaissance schools! That is right up my alley. Perhaps you haven't read my book, Whose School Is It? the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools?

There is a chapter in it discussing school councils, the problems we have encountered in their implementation, and practical and legal advice on how to make them work. Perhaps I could do a research paper on the efficacy of our present SACs as advisory councils.

I was the governance Council Chairman back at University City H.S. in the early 1990's. That was one of our Nation's first efforts to implement school councils. The Pew Charitable Trusts facilitated the endeavor, provided resources and Great consultants. They even paid for two whole school retreats, which included parents, to Eagle Lodge. Pew never asked for anything in return.

We developed the first ever instructional plan created by teachers and parents in a collaborative manner. We created Small Learning Communities designed to "meet the needs of our students."

We had, parents, students and teachers on our school council and we had actual decision-making authority. The Governance Council Members voted me in as their leader.

As to my dedication and love of children, perhaps you should visit Furness H.S. and ask some teachers there who have actually witnessed my dedication to the children of Philadelphia while I was there as their assistant principal. I was selected by their local school community through the site selection process for principals. The teachers, parents and students chose me as their AP. They called their friends at UNI to find out all about my history of dedication to the schoolchildren and their school community.

I have dedicated myself to the schoolchildren of Philadelphia for 37 years, and my family has sacrificed for them, too. I spent six years of my life giving up my weekends and vacations to research and write my book. It is about how to govern and lead schools for "the best interests of children" and give everyone a "true voice" in the governance and leadership of their public schools.

My problem is that I not only love children, but I love their parents and the teachers who I have had the wonderful experience and good fortune to work with and lead over the years. Perhaps you should talk to some of my former students, too.

To show my good nature toward you, I will give you a free copy of my book. My e-mail address is

I presently work as an advocate for children, parents and teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 9:10 pm

Would you seriously look a parent from Mastery-Smedley in the eye and say screw you, go back to the way Smedley was before it was a Renaissance school?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2012 9:02 pm

No. I visited Mastery Smedley and found it to be an excellent school. I wrote an unbiased article for the Notebook reporting about what I had observed.

I am of the opinion that all public elementary schools should have small class sizes, all of the resources anyone could ask, completely refurbished classrooms, and support services like nurses and reading specialists for every child who falls behind.

My point is that any school, if given the resources, effective leadership and competent management can go through renewal the very same way. I wrote a whole section in my book about the "need for renewal" in the governance and leadership of Our schools.

The reason Smedley became that way is purely because of the mismanagement and negative leadership of the past decade.

My question is, Why don't all of our elementary schools have those resources?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 30, 2012 11:50 pm


I think that the question here is, what is Mastery and other Renaissance charters doing differently from the District that is making the schools safer and more effective? (And on the flip side, what are they doing that is less effective?) Why was mismanagement allowed to continue at Smedley? Why are some of the charters not serving as many special education students and ELLs as traditional public schools (TPSs)? How are Mastery and other charter organizations obtaining the additional funds to implement these effective programs and strategies? Are they maintaining parent involvement or are decisions made from the top? Even those who are defenders of traditional public schools, as I am, acknowledge that the District has failed woefully in the area of schools. Also, certain policies--such as forced transferring of teachers--are outdated and detrimental to the children attending the least desirable schools. In addition, it's important to ask if the commitment requisite of teachers at KIPP, Mastery, and other charters sustainable in the long term? And finally, what about the state being the primary funder of education instead of the districts. This way, there could be more equitable distribution of resources and narrow the gap between rich and poor districts.


Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2012 6:47 am

Great question! Although I am an "more seasoned" SDP teacher, I agree that the teacher placement/transfer policy is dated. The problem with allowing more control by 440 is nepotism. That goes on already but would increase without negotiated policies. I also don't want to see the SDP be able to do what charters do with "seasoned employees" which is often dump us because we are more expensive.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 31, 2012 8:44 am

Good morning EGS: As usual you ask some great questions. First, I do not know how many Renaissance charters have actually made schools safer and more effective. The data we use is not reliable and lacks credibility. So many people are "gaming the system" when it comes to their test scores and refuse transparency. While I believe Mastery has indeed improved the schools they operate, it is easy to artificially increase test scores without increasing true student achievement in a holistic manner.

Scott Gordon refused to allow me to visit Mastery Gratz. High schools are my area of expertise because I have worked in them for 34 years and have been instrumental in the movement to restructure our schools. I am very interested in watching Mastery Gratz because it was indeed out of control. I have read that they have a program which secludes disruptive students from the regular classrooms. I do not know if that is true or not.

However, if it is true that they remove disruptive students and house them elsewhere, I am not opposed to that practice. Torch Lytle himself created such a program at UCHS which we called "Opportunities." It does improve the climate of the other Small Learning Communities and it does give the disruptive students additional behavioral controls and coaching.

Charter schools are safer because they do exclude disruptive students. Many do screen out students with instructional needs. The game has always been to get the best students in your school and exclude the difficult and low achieving students. That is how our magnet schools work, too. I call them "select schools."

Our True Charter Schools are also smaller in size which makes them easy to manage and control. Parents gravitate to them because they are safer for those reasons. The parents of charter school students are wary of their neighborhood schools because so many of them were and are out of control because there are so many disruptive students to contend with. That is because of poverty and other socio-psychological reasons. It is also a product of the academic and behavioral stratification of the district.

As to mismanagement, Paul Vallas and Arlene Ackerman were the poorest leaders and the poorest managers I have ever seen in my 34 years in the district. They were destructive and created negative organizational synergy. They followed no rules for putting people in positions of power and nepotism infected the culture of our school district. It is an "institutional illness" which destroys the "community of our schools." I call it the "Whose friend are we putting in today disease?" As a result we have many ineffective managers in our district.

The mantra of today is to blame poor schools on the teachers. That is ridiculous. The teachers in every school I have ever been in do their best to implement what they are told to implement. They have not been allowed to create their own programs as we once were in our district.

The blame for poor schools is squarely on the shoulders of the management. They have excluded teachers, the real people with instructional expertise, from participating in the governance of their schools and the decision-making process.

What Scott Gordon can do, and has done, is cut the the BS and the bureaucracy from the management process. He can and does get schools completely refurbished in a matter of months. That can be done with all of our schools if we hire and retain competent people to run our district and its schools. Perhaps Scott could lend us a hand in that area.

What we need most is an "era of collaboration and openness" along with honesty about what we do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2012 10:33 am

You suggest that Gordon has cut out the BS, yet he refuses to allow you to visits Gratz. As you should know, Gratz was made to fail starting in the early 1990's when there was constant turnover in leadership. It was nothing more than an administrative stepping stone, even though there were several excellent SLC's. Everything that I have heard about the new Gratz is pretty bad. The fact that he won't let you in to a tax-payer funded facility would seem to confirm this.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 31, 2012 11:02 am

Yes, I agree. I just meant cut the BS in the way he gets schools painted and modernized as opposed to the BS the school district gives you.

As to the self promotion and Mastery hype, the Notebook commenters usually tell it like it is.

As one of my critical friends and most admired teacher, Joe DiRaddo, reminds me: 'It is like the ancient philosophers used to argue, "What is more important? What is? Or what it appears to be?"

That is the question....

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on September 3, 2012 4:51 pm


Why has Mr. Gordon barred you from visiting Mastery Gratz? I thought that they had an open door policy to let skeptical people come and visit their schools. It is a publicly-funded school, why can't you visit? Could the District deny you access to one of their schools?


Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on September 3, 2012 5:49 pm

My visit to Mastery arose out of discussion on this site between Brook Lenfest and some commenters. Brook said to commenters, "Visit a Mastery school and see for yourself." Of course, I raised my hand and took him up on the offer. I wanted to visit Smedley and Gratz. Ben Herold suggested that I write a blog about my visit and what I saw from the eyes of an experienced teacher and administrator who has spent 35 years in many different Philadelphia schools.

Brook and I negotiated the school. Scott did not want me to visist Gratz. He did not trust me to write an unbiased article or he was afraid of what I would see and report on at Gratz. He said to me point blank, "You need to be watched."

I am sure it has to do with my propensity for calling it exactly like I see it. I have been around the block a few times in my career and have learned a great deal about the truth to what is going on. Since I am also an attorney who has studied the law of school governance, I also see the legal issues quite clearly and many issues no one has even talked about yet on this site. I have thought about the issues 24/7 for ten years now.

I wrote a completely unbiased article about what I saw at Mastery Smedley. it was a good school with small class sizes and all kinds of resources.

It also has a lot to do with my book, Whose School Is It? the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools.

The last thing charter operators or appointed school leaders want to hear is the word Democracy.

I have a strong belief in the power of democratic leadership and the power of democratic governance to build positive organizational synergy and a healthy school community.

The fact of the matter is I like Scott Gordon and respect him as an outstanding businessman and leader. But I love schoolchildren and have chosen to speak up on their behalf. Their best interests are my guiding principle.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:59 pm

Rich, do you also write under the name A Touch of Sense or is that a typo? Just curious.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:30 pm

Not normally. Only when I write from his computer and forget to replace his name with mine. I just wanted to answer you becuase you inspire me with your Great questions. A Touch of Sense is really Joe DiRaddo, one of my long time critical friends from my days back at Uni and the best reading teacher I have ever been honored to work with. I always make a point to use my own name whenever I comment. It has to do with my belief that everyone should feel free to exercise their freedom of speech witnout fear of reprisal. Of course, we all know that is not the case in the School District.

Joe has more insight and wisdom into human motivation and political reality than anyone I have ever met in my lifetime. Back at UNI, teachers, like Joe's students, gravitated to his classroom and we all hung out together before school every day and talked teaching, learning and educational politics.

What the Notebook community does on this site, we did in Joe's classroom "back in the day." Even though he is 83 years old now, he can still tell it like it is better than anyone I know.

That is the best part about the profession of teaching -- you make life long friends.

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Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 28, 2012 9:16 pm

If public schools follow the lead of private universities, educational decisions will be based on profit margin versus upholding an institution which is suppose to be an "equalizer" and provide "opportunity" regardless of class, race/ethnicity, gender, etc. (Univ of Penn makes money off of its affiliation with Teach for America, its "quicky" "Mid Career Doctorate," etc.) Granted, the history of US public education is bathed in inequality and lack of opportunity, but public education is one of the few institutions that might promote the idea of equity and common good. Pumping up "high performing seats" in select schools - whether SDP magnets, charters or parochial / private - will not provide an adequate - no less equitable - public education for ALL students.

What is "reasonable" has to be for ALL students - not just the "high performing seats." It also isn't "reasonable" to segregated some students into test prep factories (Mastery, KIPP). There are independent charters which have maintained their integrity by not swallowing the "by any means necessary" to increase scores. There are also efforts in Philly neighborhood schools to creatively do more than the 440 test prep dictates. "Reasonable" has to insist that adequate PUBLIC money fund PUBLIC education so that ALL students have more choices than "Walmartesque" choices.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 2:28 am

Positively Orwellian doublespeak. So choice actually means eliminating any choices that are not defined by the status quo Public administrators?

Your commitment to what you define as an equitable outcome rather than high performing seats basically sums up the problem with the ed establishment- the system, the ed PHD theorists that run it, prefers to deliver a mediocre offering to 100% of students rather than offering 50% of students the same mediocre offering and 50% of students a superior offering.

The theorists seem primarily focused on "equality" and "fairness" with maximizing educational outcomes a secondary goal. Looking at behavioral or discipline standards, this notion seems in practice to allow the lowest common denominator to define the standard.

The author here seems to be mainly concerned about losing control, recognizing that you can only engineer "fairness" in a coercive monopolistic environment. Given the choice, few parents will choose to compromise their childs education for some ed phd's notion of fairness.

And the author's belief that somehow Charters are somehow less accountable to parents than an city school bureaucracy is laughable on its surface.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:33 am

Using doublespeak to accuse someone who believes in equality and fairness of doublespeak. What a world!

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:47 am

I'm not going to reply point by point because you didn't read my post very carefully. You are making many assumptions and hold beliefs which I do not share. Your approach advocates a form of social Darwinism that creates more inequity. Why do you assume equity and fairness for ALL students leads to "mediocrity?" The SDP already has a very tracked system - in high schools by design and in elementary schools by neighborhood income. (Penn Alexander is a classic example of a "neighborhood" school whose demographics changed sharply once the school was built.) This system of tracking has led to mediocrity for some.

The problem too often with K-12 education is that some parents will not work for the betterment of all children - they only want their children to "get theirs." This form of individualism is the bedrock of corporate capitalism - U.S. style. Some of these parents are also teachers which, as a teacher, is very disconcerting.

Parents with economic means have many rights - to move to Lower Merion, send their child(ren) to private schools, provide every opportunity to get into schools like Masterman and Central, etc. Other parents have to rely on school leadership to do the right thing for ALL students. I don't write off all charters. I don't expect the range of choice for SOME Philadelphia parents to change. (When Ackerman mentioned changing Masterman to a school which prioritized Center City residents, that was overturned in 24 hours.) Nevertheless, the move to "high performing seats" will further segregate students based on ability, access and parental involvement. It will also exasperate the funding divide.

The belief that ALL students deserve an equitable and fair education did not come easily in the U.S. I'm sure most readers are familiar with Brown v. Board and related court cases. The ground breaking Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) also shook up the educational establishment. Shanker and union leadership fought - or at least publicly questioned - IDEA from its inception. Advocating for ALL students - which also requires advocating for changing the economic structure in the US which not only allows but promotes 25% of children living in poverty and all the consequences that come with it - is not double speak.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 2:03 pm

My old school in Baltimore County can no longer hold PTA fundraisers on site because their fundraising success created inequality with the poorer schools in the district. No fairs, no christmas workships, events that existed for decades. No one is better off for this action but some ed bureaucrats (former Baltimore City hacks appointed by governor) feel good that they have helped contribute to equality. The ideology of levelling- it is easier to bring someone down than to lift them up.

This faux desire you express to serve ALL students- it is a facade. You could serve the poorest students by setting expectations for them and teaching them some basic old school values. But that would offend the other core tenet of this ed PHD ideology- that schools must be a values neutral, judgement free environment. Anything else would be racist or classist or something offensive to the absolutist doctrine of moral relativism the left holds so dear.

So you combine leftist levelling instict with this vacuous moral relativism and then wonder why the more motivated hardworking parents seek to segregate? Maybe they are not the selfish ones. Maybe you are selfish for imposing your fashionable relativist ideology onto everyone else despite its obvious shortcomings.

The best opportunity for poor students is social mobility enabled by education. The fact is it won't work for ALL students. Pretending this is your goal is a cop out so you can get away with providing a mediocre result to everyone else. You don't serve anyone, certainly not the poor, by indulging anti-social disruptive behavior, focusing on their rights rather than their responsibilities, allowing them to taunt kids whose parents are better off as a levelling exercise. Social mobility for the poor and disadvantaged implies moving, up against the odds stacked against them, not dragging others down to the values of the street.

BTW, you know where in the US rich and poor still go to school together? Smaller towns where levelling ideology and moral relativism receives little countenance.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:07 pm

You don't know very much about charter school financing. No mention is made of the fact that SDP retains over 20% of the school subsidy of which charters receive very little benefit from. Nor did you mention that until last year, the state reimbursed local districts for money they paid out to charters, recouping even more money.

Many charters, while receiving less than 80% of the money SDP spends per child, shield teacher salaries from this deficit and pay 85-90% of SDP salaries plus better benefits in many instances.

As a percentage of income, charters pay better than the SDP.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:20 pm

Is this Little Scotty Gordon again?? Give it a rest, dude !!

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on August 28, 2012 5:03 pm

Let's post all the salary scales from all the charter schools in the city then. And the benefit packages. Define better benefts. Also, let's see how many teachers make it to the top of all the respective charter schools' salary scale in proportion to the SDP. 

Here is KIPP's

Wanna make any bets on if all Philadelphia charter schools provide this information?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 6:52 pm

This information is already posted on the internet (salary scales). You can find the information for all public and charter school employees.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:06 pm

Where? Post the links. I also want to see the salaries of the CEOs / administrators. We know the salaries in SDP schools. The charter salaries are not as readily available. Most charter school teachers are under paid. Some are not even enrolled in PSERs. The most glaring inequity is at Chester Community Charter School.

According to the Inquirer, "The teachers (at Chester Community Charter School) are relatively green, averaging about five years of classroom experience. The state average is about 12 years. Other charters average about 6.5 years. They are also among the lowest paid in the state, averaging $39,790 last school year. The state average was $55,500; for charters, $45,435."
This school is also under investigation for cheating - teachers can get $1000 bonuses for test scores.

Meanwhile, "The charter school pays CSMI L.L.C., the management company Gureghian heads, a fee of about $5,600 per student, according to a recent state report. That totals $16.7 million this school year - more than 41 percent of the charter school's budget." "For example, Vahan Gureghian owns the Charter School Management Corporation, a private, for-profit company that manages the finances for Chester Community Charter School. Gureghian was Governor Corbett’s single largest individual campaign donor and a member of his Education Transition Team. In the first ten years after the school was founded in 1999, he had already collected $60.6 MILLION from the public coffers. While salary data for public school employees is public information, we don’t know what Gureghian is paid – or his wife, who is general counsel for their company."

At the same time, ""Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Gureghian recently purchased two Florida beachfront lots for $28.9 million where they plan to build a 20,000 square foot “French-inspired Monte Carlo estate.” [See “Soaking the Public”.] "

While most charters are not as egregious at Chester Community Charter, there certainly are many examples of charter CEOs who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars - and June Brown over 6 million - from our tax dollars.

Submitted by taxpaying parent (not verified) on August 29, 2012 4:36 pm

I have also been unable to find all teacher/ admin salary info for all charters on the pde website or anywhere else. You can find some CEO salaries on the Annual Reports, which are pretty limited in what they provide to the public. I do wish someone would post this information if it exists.

I have been told by teachers I know at several charters that they do not have prep periods and feel generally overworked and unhappy. The fact that they make so much less than traditional public school teachers of course, does not help.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 6:50 pm

Try this website
Hope this helps.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 6:45 pm

Thanks for linking the web address. I stated before that all the information is located on the internet.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 6:48 pm

The link doesn't work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 7:31 pm

Here it is again:

The numbers11 refer to the year, so if you want 2011, you just put in 11 after PAteachers...If you want 2010, you just put in 10 after PAteachers.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 10:27 pm

Thank you for sharing the link. It is clear that some suburban districts (Cheltenham, Council Rock, Lower Merion, ETC.) pay much better than the School District of Philadelphia. (The administrative salaries are not better but the teacher salaries are considerably higher). Philadelphia charter schools, in general, pay considerably less even for teachers with years of experience. The CEOs of charters make considerable more. (Look at Global Leadership Academy Charter. The CEO makes $200,000 while most teachers make less than 1/4th her salary. She is one of the charter leaders on the Phila. Partnership "team.")

We have to support efforts to unionize charter teachers if they are ever going to have salaries / benefits similar to the SDP. Phila. teachers are not "expensive," to quote Dr. Lytle. Charter teachers are underpaid and, I assume, some are overworked.

Submitted by Ingeborg (not verified) on May 2, 2014 10:37 am
This is a topic that is close to my heart... Many thanks! Where are your contact details though?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 6:46 pm

If this link doesn't work (didn't work for me). You can get access to it by changing the /PAteachers11/ to /PAteachers10/ portion of the web address.

It worked for me when I did it that way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2012 7:48 am

I reposted the link and gave a brief explanation a couple of posts above so that people will not read your post and not use the link to obtain knowledge. Thank you for letting me know that the link was not functioning.

The working link is posted a couple of posts above, but here it is again.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on August 31, 2012 11:31 am

Did you read the disclaimer? The data is from "mulitiple sources" and "the accuracy or completeness of the information" is not guarnteed.

 I looked through my old school, and lined up the numbers with the PFT contract as 9/1/10 (the next revision was 1/1/12, thus not applicable to the salaries from this data set). There were multiple teachers not making salaries that are even possible under the contract. There were teachers at year 2 making doctorate money that didn't have doctorates. 

So let's make that list again




Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:28 pm

At least one mistake on this site: my degree is stated incorrectly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 10:39 am

Chester Community also use to (and may still) require their teachers to agree to pay a $2,000 fine if they left before the school year was over. Do you think they pay their teachers that same amount if they choose to fire them?

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on September 3, 2012 12:55 pm

Isn't the cell phone KIPP gives to employees so students can call them late at night? Seriously. Aren't KIPP teachers "on call" until late at night.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 2:04 pm

They are "on-call" to about 8 pm. Anyone who agrees to teach at KIPP knows the policy. I welcome email from students until 9 pm and I am a SDP teacher. (Email includes text messages which are more common among teens). I also have students contact me throughout the summer. No, this isn't in my contract but I'm willing to do it. I wish my children's teachers would at least respond to email during the day.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 6:14 pm

Which charters pay "85%- 90%" and provide "better benefits?" How many charters have teachers with 20 plus years experience? (Not at a particular charter, but teaching.) How many charter CEOs make over $150,000?

Charter operators/Board of Directors/CEOs will do anything to keep their staff from unionizing for due process and equitable salaries / benefits. KIPP and Mastery pay more because they require longer days/school years. They also charter operators which receive substantial grant funding whose goals is to get rid of public education run by elected school boards.

Submitted by (not verified) on May 8, 2014 4:39 pm
I don't knoww whether it's just me or if perhaps everybody else eencountering problems with your site. It appears as though some of the text in your posts are running ooff the screen. Can somebody else pleasse commenht and lett me know if this is happening to them too? This ccould be a problem with my browser because I've had this happen previously. Thanks
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 6:11 pm

I can absolutely say that your post is NOT TRUE. As a former teacher in a charter school, a charter teachers salary is lower than the school district by about $10 - $15,000.

The benefits, as well, are better in the SDP than in any charter school. This explains why many teachers leave the charter school and go the district (myself included).

This is verified if you take the time to search teacher salary in Philadelphia, which is public information.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:27 pm

Actually, no. This explains why there are so many disgruntled district teachers working in charter schools, now.

What do parent & teacher satisfaction surveys say about charters? They are part of SPI for schools so the data is there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:33 pm

I'm not sure if you have ever worked in a charter school, I know that I have for a number of years.

If a district teacher leaves and goes to a charter school, more than likely they WILL take a pay cut. Thus, this is the reason that their pay scale is not displayed, like the districts (most DO NOT have a pay scale).

The toss up for the lower pay is that the students are a little better behaved, less stress in the classroom.

The starting salary in the charter school that I worked at is only 36,000 while the district is higher. (verified on internet website for salary)

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on August 30, 2012 6:53 am

As an extension: This is how Union Breaking works. Right now the Charters are under some pressure to pay comparable salary/benefits. The minute that pressure is gone, they have no incentive to do so. Many (though not all) believe great teachers are replaceable or they believe they can get similar results at a much cheaper price (Moneyball!).

There are a lot of positives in charters, but the message is that they don't want dedicated, life-long teachers (or, if they do, you should be prepared to earn very little).

Submitted by the interlace condo (not verified) on June 7, 2013 9:52 am
Situated at the fringe of short distance to city, Sant Ritz at Potong Pasir (Singapore) in District 13. the interlace condo
Submitted by Rebecca Poyourow on August 29, 2012 6:56 am

Whenever that 80% figure is thrown around, I am reminded of the fact of all the costs charters do not have to cover that the district is required to cover (many of which benefit charter students): transportation (of public, charter, and private students), meals for low-income students, early childhood education, serving students with a range of special needs who are usually not served by charters, and serving students who are English Language Learners, professional salaries and benefits, district debt service...I'm sure I'm leaving things out. When the true costs are compared, I believe it's a wash.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 29, 2012 6:48 am

Thank you. It was revealed this year that the SDP could not charge Renaissance Charters rent for buildings - only operating expenses such as salaries for custodial staff. Therefore, Renaissance Charters are getting buildings at extremely low cost. (Remember, Universal had NO cost for two buildings last year and this year will only pay $500,000 for two schools which will cost the SDP nearly $1.9 million in direct costs.) The larger cost, I assume, is debt service. Charters also appear to have greater access to grant/private funding - not just through the Philadelphia Partnership but other funders.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on September 3, 2012 9:28 pm

For information about salaries o charter school and traditional public school employees, current as of 2010, go to

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 28, 2012 5:07 pm

I've said this many times--Where is our sense of urgency, silence is not golden. Jerry Jordan says very little of consequence. Is that because he thinks all is lost? Is it because he feels the courts will support the unions when suits are filed? Has he lost interest in his job?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:11 pm

Yo Joe, your "fixation" on Jerry Jordan is downright creepy and tiring. Put the man crush away and move on, dude.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:29 pm

Joe should be questioning a leadership which is not leading. Our lives depend on it!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 28, 2012 8:03 pm

I agree totally about Jordan. He appears to me to think he's along for the ride as opposed to being the leader and that better concern PFT members. I apologize if I am fixated on him but when I read articles extolling charters as well as watching Corbett abuse the kids' , I become less than amused and wish our side would fight back.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 10:50 pm

Joe, no need to apologize about Jerry Jordan.
Many of us agree with you and appreciate your speaking up.
We need leadership. We need collaboration with all unions in Philly.
Our union was underrepresented at the August 11th rally. This does not bode well for us in a contract year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 9:22 pm

An excellent post. The only sad commentary I have to add is that teacher contracts in SDP which provide teachers with a middle class wage and good benefits would be called "expensive."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 10:43 pm

You are so right !!! We are one of the lowest paid districts around and we are called expensive----scary stuff !!

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on August 28, 2012 10:54 pm

Come to the PCAPs conference next month to develop alternatives to the SRC's agenda:


Conference For a Community Based Plan For Our Schools:  Alternatives to Austerity and Privatization

Friday evening, September 21 and Saturday, September 22nd

The School Reform Commission, corporate sponsored foundations, and the city’s business elites, have a vision for our schools that leaves them underfunded, further restricts the democratic voice of parents, students, and citizens, undermines the rights of school workers, and offers no real solutions to the pressing needs of our city’s young people.  

The SRC’s plan for massive closures of neighborhood public schools, while accelerating the growth of charter schools, strikes at the heart of the idea of public education as an institution that serves all children.    In cities across the nation schools in predominantly African-American and Latino communities are being closed in “restructuring” plans sponsored by corporate school reformers.   Standardized test scores rather than the needs of our children drive decisions about education.

This spring in community meetings in schools and churches parents, students, educators and neighborhood residents spoke out against the school budget and privatization plan.   Now it is time to take the next step, moving from opposition to developing an alternative vision for our schools and a plan for realizing it.  

To begin this process we are calling for a conference that will bring together parents, students, educators, and neighborhoods to build this alternative from the bottom up.

The Conference will aim at deepening our understanding of the privatization plans and austerity budget that have been presented by the SRC and the Boston Consulting group.   We will then focus on two related tasks:


  • Launching  a democratic, community based process that over the next few months could develop a plan that reflects the needs and interests of parents, students, educators and neighborhoods.


  • Taking the first steps to develop a state wide network to win a people’s budget that will prioritize human needs and raise revenue by closing tax loopholes for corporations and the super rich.


To join in the process of planning and building this important event email us at






PCAPs  member organizations


Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT)

American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania (AFT PA)

Youth United for Change (YUC)

Philly Student Union (PSU)

Action United

UNITE HERE Local 634

Fight for Philly

Teacher Action Group Philadelphia (TAG)

Jobs with Justice (JWJ)

Occupy Temple

Occupy Philly Labor Work Group

March 1 Coalition

Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

Media Mobilizing Project (MMP)


List of  conference sponsors in formation




Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 28, 2012 11:50 pm

Wow, this was a fantastic commentary by Dr. Lytle! He touched on so many issues and was able to exlore various facets of them, from teachers, to charter schools, to privatization. Two points stand out to me:

1. This policy agenda has had very little effect on schools in wealthy suburban communities because students in those schools do well enough on state tests to ensure that their schools meet performance standards (i.e., make Adequate Yearly Progress). But what NCLB and Race to the Top have done, happily pushed along by Harrisburg, is create policies and funding for urban public school takeover by charter management companies.

Everyone talks about the achievement gap because this is more palatable and less controversial than talking about the opportunity gap. Talking about an opportunity gap would bring up the messy issues of racism, classism, and unequal distribution of wealth.

2. Why is it that rich White folks are leading the conversation about what poor Black and Latino kids need? Why is so much campaign money being used to support charter and voucher proponents? Where is the evidence that charter schools do a better job than traditional public schools? And what does Boston Consulting Group know about urban schooling that School District teachers and principals don’t?

This paragraph hits the nail on the head. Bill Gates NEVER attended a public school and I doubt his children did either. He NEVER taught. What does he know about public education? Melinda Gates attended Catholic schools (Google it). Bill Gates attended the Lakeside School, a highly prestigious private school in Seattle. The kind of education Bill Gates received at Lakeside is the kind of education that ALL children should receive. But of course, wealthy people don't want undue competition for their children from the masses when it comes to selective colleges, boards of companies and foundations, and their money (hence why so many wealthy people fight progressive tax policies). They want to keep all of the power and money to themselves!

This brand of education reform is very suspicious in its seems to disempower rather than empower, even if on the surface, kids are attending safer schools (because many charters in Philly are doing better at school safety than traditional public schools, although the student populations are often very different). The public is losing its voice in the operations of schools. How many charter schools hold public forums every month the way that the SRC does? There are some positives from this school reform--school safety in this city being one of them. However, it seems that the movement toward privatization which is well under way will be hard to reverse because of all of the interests involved.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 8:46 am

Once again Dr. Lytle is right on with his comments. If Dr. Lytle was running this district back a few years ago rather than a string of outsiders (Hornbeck, Vallas, and Ackerman) we would not be in the mess we are in now. I had the pleasure of working with him many years ago and he is one of a few of the great educators left in this city.

Submitted by Conservation (not verified) on May 8, 2014 3:21 pm
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Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 29, 2012 9:07 am

"Another concern about charters is that they intentionally encourage teacher turnover to keep salaries and benefits low. "

The largest institution promoting teacher turnover and inexperience is Teach for America (TFA). The Graduate School of Education at the Univ. of PA is the biggest proponent of TFA in the Philadelphia region. Dr. Lytle heads the division that runs TFA.

Dr. Lytle also states teacher compensation is "expensive." Is the solution to have revolving door TFA teachers who cost less because they have no to little experience and rotate out every two years? (Most also do not have undergraduate degrees in what they teach. This is especially problematic for high schools.) While teachers should not expect to live in a large, main line, Chestnut Hill or Society Hill home, they expect to be able to by a Philly row house in a working class neighborhood.

Dr. Lytle states public schools have "treated students and parents cavalierly." This, unfortunately, has been my experience at far too many SDP schools. This starts with administration and flows down to teachers. This includes magnet schools. As a parent, I have been dismissed by administrators who are condescending, dismissive and arrogant. Some teachers will not return emails or phone calls. Customer service has to be a priority. Willingness to work with parents should also be a requirements for administrators.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on August 29, 2012 11:37 am

Good points Concerned Philadelphian, especially about Penn's connections with TFA. One caveat, however. It is not good to look at administrators and teachers relationship with parents as "customer service". This is part of the merchandizing of education by the privatizers. You are a parent who is expecting administrators and teachers to give your child the best education possible as a public good so your child can be a good citizen with the right to "the pursuit of happiness". You are not a "customer" and your child is not a "commodity" (or a "high performing seat" as the BCG would have it).

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 29, 2012 12:05 pm

Thank you for the correction. I agree - poor choice of words on my part. Nevertheless, I find some administrators/teachers disregard parents.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on August 29, 2012 1:30 pm

Agreed Concerned Parent. I did not mean to disregard what you experienced with some administrators and teachers. The attitudes you experienced should not be tolerated and they hurt public schools.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 29, 2012 1:03 pm

Tom is right on point and it is certainly not an "esoteric" difference. There is a significant legal difference:

The School District of Philadelphia, its schools and its corpus of assets is a "public trust." The students and their parents are "beneficiaries" of that public trust. They are not customers.

The SRC members are trustees of that public trust. As trustees, they have a legal fiduciary duty of loyalty, care, and good faith in their operation of the School District.

Their fiduciary duties inure to the children, their parents and their community. They do not inure to any privatized organization, individual or charter operator. Their duty is not to the Mayor or Governor. Their fiduciary duties go to the schoolchildren and they must operate the schools in the singular interest of its students.

There are several Commonwealth Court and Supreme Court decisions which deal with that issue, especially in the case of charter school boards of trustees.

The general rule which has been well stated by our courts is that boards of trustees must operate their schools "for the singular interest of its pupils." A case in point is West Chester Area School District v. Collegium Charter School, 760 A.2d 452 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2000), affirmed by the S.C. of Pa., 812 A.2d 1172 (2002).

That is a whole lot different than operating schools as businesses where its students are "customers." They are not customers under the law -- they are Beneficiaries.

They are not customers to be sent elsewhere if they do not like it. They have rights in their schools whether they are regular public schools, charter schools, or operated by a privatized "charter operator."

(I apologize for commenting so much but you guys are so goooood and soooooo perceptive, that you just draw me into the conversation -- like a kid in a classroom with really Great teachers!)

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 1:40 pm

Thanks so much Rich.
So can we just take some of your clarifications and place them on giant billboards throughout the city. You have clarified the legal issues at the root of public education. I believe our governor, our mayor, our SRC chair, William Penn Foundation, our elected representatives and school choice supporters all thoroughly understand this. They just make pretend like they don't and see how much they can get away with. We need to stay on task (as a really good teacher might remind us!)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 29, 2012 1:23 pm

Yes! You may use any of my words any way you like -- as long as they are to advocate for the best interests of students, parents, teachers, principals and the Common Good.

And of course, to enhance the Great teaching profession!

Yeah teach we should stay on task, you're right.... (really good teacher)

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 30, 2012 5:46 pm

PLEASE define "Stay on task." How are we doing that? Give 1 example. All I see is our side being exploited while being silent so the whole argument is 1 sided and framed completely from the privatizeers point of view. Their corruption and the breaking of laws are being ignored. How is any of that staying on task. Please tell me what I am missing.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 29, 2012 5:16 pm

Then why are the Charters getting away with all this in Philly?? They are being challenged lots of other places but NOT here?? Why??

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 7:23 pm

Hey Joe,
Think Jerry Jordan would spring for the billboards? :)

Submitted by Ken Derstine on August 29, 2012 8:31 pm

Don't forget, those billboards and ads for charters all over the internet are being paid for with tax dollars.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 2:53 pm

As a Philly TFA alum still working in Philly, still actively working with students in education and college access, and wholeheartedly a public education advocate, I agree that TFA's model is not a solution in itself and can sometimes have its flaws, but I caution you from equating the problems of teacher turnover/inexperience/cost to just what's wrong with programs like TFA.

We are not automatons of the TFA model and many of us are committed to teaching or continuing to improve education in the public sphere. TFA does not directly promote any kind of teacher turnover to us--it's a personal decision when you feel you have limited options and often one reflective of what many new teachers face working in the School District, not just a TFAer. Yes, some move on to go to law school, to take that fancy consulting job, etc., but that doesn't account for the many who choose to stay and want to stay, but get shifted to a new school within the year, forced transferred, get laid off, seniority-based transfers, aren't rehired at a Renaissance school, can't find a school placement anywhere to begin with, and so, have to look at all opportunities available to be employed and make a living wage. We may not have the age experience and years (and if you study teacher effectiveness data, your undergrad degree is not a strong indicator of your effectiveness in the classroom), but the turnover as a group is representative of what many new teachers or career changers face entering into this tumultuous system whether through traditional or non-traditional routes.

Please realize that it won't do any good pointing fingers at just one model of teacher selection and that, in this system, current and former teachers as well as teacher hopefuls have to stand as a united front because we are all making the same sacrifices to give our students as best an education as we can deliver and upend the status quo currently in our education system. I hope you would stand with any teacher, younger/older, 1 year exp. vs. 20 years exp. if they hold those same values and want to see a more just education system for our students and are willing to fight for it.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on August 29, 2012 5:13 pm

Thanks for your post. It's really important for those of us who have legitimate concerns about a model such as TFA to voice those concerns. It's equally important for us to separate our concerns from the individual young people who may participate in TFA. In the spring, while rallying in front of 440 I witnessed many eager TFA folks entering 440 for interviews. I spoke with them about this. So I think it is fair game (and necessary) to critique a model, but never at the expense of tearing down young people who may have limited options. The tone of your post lacks negativity and your points are well taken. Please continue to keep an open mind to many notebook education professionals who have additional experience in the school district. They have so much to teach you. I say this as a school nurse who continues to learn so much from my teacher colleagues.

Submitted by ロレックス 時計 メンズ (not verified) on December 26, 2013 1:21 pm
Kudos, Numerous stuff.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 30, 2012 11:17 pm

Concerned Philadelphian,

I disagree with your following point:

While teachers should not expect to live in a large, main line, Chestnut Hill or Society Hill home, they expect to be able to by a Philly row house in a working class neighborhood.

Doesn't it make sense that teachers be highly paid along the lines of doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, and lawyers (even those which work in the public sector)? Maybe the pay should be a little less because teachers typically spend fewer years in school than doctors and lawyers, but teachers are typically well-educated professionals and deserve to make good pay early in their careers, not just after 30 years. For a job so important, teachers should not be making a working class salary or wage.

In addition, doesn't it make sense to pay the best teachers as well as the principals and other administrators at a school and in a district? Why is there so much incentive to move up into administrative roles instead of being paid for excellent teaching?


Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 31, 2012 6:05 am

My comment regarding salaries / housing was a bit of jab at Dr. Lytle. He and his spouse live in very nice home in Chestnut Hill and were able to send his daughters to private schools. He wrote teaching salaries in Philadelphia are too expensive even though they are lower than some surrounding suburbs like Cheltenham, Lower Merion, Colonial, etc.

I think teachers should make similar salaries to nurses - not doctors. While some teachers have considerable formal education, others do not. There are also too many fly by night masters degrees in education (e.g. online programs to Cabrini type college programs). Then, there is summer vacation... While some of us attend workshops, go into school on our time, take courses, etc., others do not. In Philadelphia, after 10 years, teachers are usually at the top of the salary schedule. That is fair. There should be more incentives for teachers to stay in the classroom (e.g. National Board certification). Far too many people teach for 5 years or less to become administrators. It isn't only the salary - it is also the power and, to be honest, less work. Administrators are not taking home papers to grade, lesson plans to write, phone calls to make, etc. Administrators, in my experience also like the power - they hold tremendous control over teachers. This is very difficult in Phila. since so many administrators are incompetent and operate based on their power versus knowledge and skills.

I didn't become a teacher expecting a six figure salary. A starting salary of $45 - 50,000/year is very competitive especially with summers off. (When I first started teaching, I worked summers and a 2nd job at night. Neither job had anything to do with teaching. That isn't necessary now assuming one lives within his/her means.)

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:15 pm

Where does he write that salaries are too expensive? He makes a comparison between District-operated and charter schools when he writes:

For 2012-13, Philadelphia public schools pay $100,000 per teacher, including benefits, when they develop school budgets. Most charter schools pay teachers less and have lower benefits; assume $60,000/position. If a school has 25 teachers for 500 students, the public school will need $2,500,000 for teacher salaries, the charter $1,500,000. Because the charter needs $40,000 less per position, it has $1,000,000 more to spend on rent or a mortgage, equipment, maintenance, administration, operating expenses, and payment to its charter management organization.

I also agree that there are too many fly by night programs. Having attended a masters program, which mainly served working professionals, many of my colleagues in the program were just trying to do the work they had to do to meet the requirements for assignments. Given the choice to leave early, most wanted to leave early. Given the choice in a hybrid course of how many times to meet, most of my classmates didn't want to meet on campus very often; they would rather do online discussions.

One way to make teachers better is to make entry into the field more competitive. Teachers cannot just go into teaching for "matters of the heart." People go into medicine and law for matters of the heart, but they can also make a very good living doing so. The MCAT and LSAT tests are difficult. The Praxis I is a joke. It's very similar to the SAT. In our society, we don't value teachers enough. Teaching needs to be able to attract the best and brightest. Why can't the best teachers make as much as principals and other administrators? Surely, teachers are just as valuable since they are actually teaching kids!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 10:58 pm

It is in the paragraph right after you quote Lytle -
"In financial terms, urban school districts are unable to compete with charters because they are struggling with unsustainable costs – debt service, aging and underutilized facilities, expensive employee contracts, special education, children who don’t speak English, and unfunded pensions." NOTE: "expensive employee contracts" implies the contracts need to be less expensive if urban schools districts are able to "complete" (or survive).

How will you determine who goes into teaching? a standardized test score? There are many factors that contribute to a "good teacher" - sometimes it takes someone who understands the struggles of learning versus someone who tests well. That said, too many masters in education degrees are a joke - including the one for administrators. Secondary teachers, in particular, should have a masters in their field / discipline.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2012 9:13 am

Why shouldn't a teacher expect to live on the Main Line or Chestnut Hill or Society Hill? Often it is not how much money you make but how you chose to spend the money that you make.

Teachers spend just as many years in school as doctors and lawyers, 4 years undergraduate school, 2-3 years in graduate school=6/7 years, some teachers go further to obtain additional degrees, 2/3 years which now =8/10 years and let's not forget those who go on to obtain doctorate degrees.

Without teachers, this country would not have doctors and lawyers or any professionals for that matter, if there were not teachers.

And yet, this country doesn't want to pay teachers what teachers deserve. Something is wrong when we pay basketball and football players millions of dollars.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on September 3, 2012 4:30 pm

I wonder if part of the reason for teachers being underpaid is due to teaching being a traditionally female-dominated profession.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 1:50 pm

Texas Students Enter Charters With Leg Up?
(Or, do students enter "high performing charters" with higher performance already?)
This can be found at

Researchers and advocates often debate whether charter schools and regular public schools are competing on a level playing field—or if charters' practices allow them select higher-achievers, and reap more impressive test scores and glory as a result.

A new analysis out of Texas wades into that issue and concludes that students entering a select group of charter middle schools arrived with stronger academic skills than their peers at comparable, regular public schools. It also finds that those charter schools generally enroll a smaller portion of special-needs students and English-language learners than comparable schools.

Its author, Ed Fuller, an associate professor at Penn State University, does not focus on all charters statewide, but rather on what he describes as "high profile" charter networks that also have large enrollments, which include KIPP, Yes Prep, Harmony, and Brooks Academy. The study was commissioned by the Texas Business and Education Coalition.

The author bases his main findings on a comparison of the test scores of students entering charters with those from "sending" schools, who instead went to a regular public school.

But David Dunn, the executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association, questioned that methodology, suggesting a more precise approach would have been to have been based on some sort of randomized trial, controlling for various student characteristics across schools. He also cautioned against making generalizations about charters statewide based on a study that examines only a fraction of them.

Fuller responded in an e-mail that his research methods were appropriate for the questions at the heart of his study—which focus on the characteristics of students entering charters, not the effect of charters on achievement.

And he says he was careful to acknowledge that his findings were based on an analysis of a select number of schools—though he also points out that they represent a substantial portion of the state's charter middle school population. "So, it's not like this is a tiny sliver of the charter schools," he said, "it's a big chunk."

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 5:18 pm

I love when the research corroborates my hunch!

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