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More Philadelphia schools land on state's lowest-achieving list

by thenotebook on Feb 12 2013 Posted in Latest news

by Julie Mazziotta

On a yearly list of Pennsylvania’s low-achieving schools, the number of Philadelphia schools increased in 2013, raising the District’s total from 158 in 2012 to 177 schools, according to the state’s Department of Education.

The Philadelphia School District now constitutes about 44 percent of the list, with 177 of the 406 lowest-achieving schools. Pittsburgh has 21 schools on the list.   

Students at these schools are eligible to apply for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OITC) program, which provides scholarships for students to transfer to a participating public or non-public school.   

As the Notebook reported last August, Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores in the District plummeted in 2012 after 10 straight years of increases. The proficiency targets also increased.

As a result, only 33 schools achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), compared to 110 schools the previous year.

State officials later attributed the declines to increased test security in 2012, imposed after evidence of adult cheating during the 2009-2011 school years was found. For the 2012 test, the state Department of Education restricted Philadelphia teachers from administering the PSSAs to their own students. It was the only district in the state that was given this restriction.

Others argued that the drop was due to the massive funding cuts. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education ranks each school based on the students’ math and reading scores on the PSSA from the previous school year. The lowest-achieving 15 percent of elementary schools, and the lowest-achieving 15 percent of secondary schools in the state are placed on the list.

Under the OITC program, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law last year, students who live within their current schools’ boundaries and whose families earn a household income below $75,000 a year, are eligible for the program.

The maximum scholarship for non-special-education students is $8,500, and special education students are eligible for up to $15,000.

Under the OITC law, the Department of Education must publish the list each year by Feb. 1. After that, school districts are required to post information about applying for the scholarships within 15 days.

Julie Mazziotta is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (6)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/12/2013 - 17:40.

Shouldn't this read "The lowest-achieving 15 percent of DISTRICT-RUN elementary schools, and the lowest-achieving 15 percent of DISTRICT-RUN secondary schools in the state are placed on the list."? In other words, there are charter schools that may be lower scoring, but they do not have to be included in this list, giving the impression that only district-run schools are the lowest performing, right?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/12/2013 - 17:55.

Does this rag ever report on anything good about the Philadelphia School District? I mean, really... This is old news. We've heard it all before.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Tue, 02/12/2013 - 18:42.

No, this is "new" news. It means that 177 schools have a LOT of students eligible to apply for the OITC (vouchers snuck in on our watch). Our neighborhood school was/would have been eligible, had it not been untimedly closed...how fortunate.

There is no reporting on how well this OITC has been funded, or disclosure on who is funding it. If like the EITC, donors get up to 90% credit of their donation with a State tax credit. Seems likely that Catholic schools which have devoted alumni would take advantage of this offer to support their system. What other businesses would have a reason to support education of the poor, unless, wow, they might actually wish to help?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 07:05.

The schools are failing and have been. Why do we always look at blaming everyone for the failures instead of really looking at how to improve. Most of the schools on the list were failing before vouchers and charters were a thought. They were failing when money was being pumped into the system and they are failing now. Every time the blame is shifted, it simply makes district educators look like they are passing the buck.

There are problems and have been problems with administration and now funding is an issue. However, for years we let this problem persist. People will undoubtedly respond to this post with more finger pointing and excuses. Let's stop playing the victim.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 07:11.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this ranking based on the criteria set forth in No Child Left Behind? If it is, it should me clearly spelled out that the requirements for proficiency were upped each year meaning more and more schools would be seen as not making AYP. In 2014 100% of schools are supposed to be proficient. Isn't it now obvious that No Child Left Behind was a set up to promote a privatization agenda?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 08:15.

The ranking is based on test scores (on "target the bottom tier" state created tests), not on the deficit in making AYP.

On the matter of AYP: Obviously the Federal government has no right to ask for any accountability when they give billions of taxpayer dollars to states in Title I funds (they're not a private entity, what were they thinking?!). And obviously they knew districts like the PSD would waste a good deal of this money, eventually attracting privatizers. How could PSD schools have accepted all that money when this "accountability" scheme is so apparent?

Obviously NCLB and Title I funding should be allowed to expire and not renewed.

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