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Nonprofit gives $3.4 million to expand two Philadelphia charters

By Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Mar 13, 2013 11:44 PM
Updated, 3 p.m. with quotes from Mark Gleason (PSP), Marc Mannella (KIPP Philadelphia), and Helen Gym (Parents United for Public Education)


The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced Thursday that it will give $3.4 million to charter school operators KIPP Philadelphia and Scholar Academies so they can expand by a combined 1,500 students.

The moves could mean as much as $10 million a year in unplanned expenses for the struggling Philadelphia School District.

The push to grow KIPP also comes just eight months after the School Reform Commission, citing concerns about academics and cost, mostly denied requests made by KIPP to expand its existing schools in North and West Philadelphia.

PSP executive director Mark Gleason touted Thursday’s announcement as another milestone in his group’s push to increase the number of good school options available to Philadelphia parents.

“We’re trying to support the creation, expansion, or turnaround of 35,000 seats around the city,” Gleason said. "These grants will help thousands more students in Philadelphia have access to a high-quality school and, ultimately, to college.”

UPDATED: But critics, still smarting over the SRC’s decision just last week to close, merge, or relocate 28 of the city’s traditional public schools, continued to question PSP’s growing influence on efforts to reshape the city’s educational system.

“There is great concern about PSP’s role and whose interests they’re representing,” said Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education.

"From our vantage point, [Thursday’s announcement] is about ideology, favoritism, and circumventing public process.”

An investment, with a cost

The School Reform Commission has not yet approved the charter school growth that PSP’s new investments are intended to spur.

"The District has not made any recommendations at this point regarding further expansions of charter schools," said District spokesman Fernando Gallard. "That includes any expansion of charter schools being managed by KIPP and Scholar Academies."

Any such expansion could prove expensive.  District officials estimate that each “new seat” in a regular charter school costs the city’s traditional public school system $7,000 per student, per year.  Converting traditional public schools to charters is estimated to cost the district roughly $1,000 per student, per year.

UPDATED: PSP’s Gleason said Thursday’s grant awards would be tied to SRC approval of forthcoming expansion efforts by KIPP and Scholar Academies. It’s unclear what would happen if that approval is not granted.

“Absolutely, the hope is that the SRC works closely with providers who are already serving lots of students in this city, and doing a good job of it, to find a responsible way for them to expand their operation,” Gleason said.

High-quality seats?

Thursday’s announcement is just the latest from the Philadelphia School Partnership.

Founded in 2010, the influential nonprofit organization is dedicated to increasing the number of “high-quality” seats in Philadelphia schools. To date, the group has distributed over $13 million from its “Great Schools Fund,” mostly to charters and Catholic schools.

Gleason said PSP was drawn to KIPP and Scholar Academies because both have “strong track records preparing students for high school and college” and both are “well-positioned to grow over the next three to five years.”

Parent demand for the schools is also strong, he said.

Enrollment at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in North Philadelphia has grown from 518 students to 755 students since it was taken over by Scholar Academies in 2010. More than 90 percent of public school families from Douglass’ attendance zone now send their children to the school. Test scores have also shown marked increases.

Scholar Academies also operates a regular charter school in North Philadelphia and will compete to manage one of the three additional District schools designated last month for conversion to a charter as part of the District’s Renaissance turnaround initiative.

The group will receive $1.8 million from PSP to support efforts to enroll between 600 and 900 new students in the coming years.

"We are grateful for PSP's support of Scholar Academies' continued commitment to turning around Philadelphia's lowest-performing schools," said Lars Beck, CEO of Scholar Academies, in a statement.

Gleason from PSP also praised the performance of KIPP Philadelphia, which operates a total of four schools under two different charter agreements with the District.

“We’ve done a very thorough analysis,” Gleason said.  “We are convinced that they have a really good academic program, and we’d like to see them be able to expand.”

Just last June, however, Philadelphia’s SRC mostly denied an expansion effort by KIPP, issuing only 121 of the 1,115 new seats sought by two of the group’s existing schools.

KIPP-West Philadelphia, for example, was seeking to grow by 545 students, mostly by adding a new elementary school. But the SRC awarded the school just 15 new seats.

Marc Mannella, the CEO of KIPP Philadelphia, said he believed that decision was faulty because it was based largely on KIPP-West’s poor School Performance Index (SPI) score.  The District has since suspended use of SPI, citing flaws in the way schools’ scores were calculated.

Hoping to create a K-12 feeder pattern, KIPP-North also sought to add hundreds of seats last year in new elementary and high school grades.  But because the schools’ charter was not up for renewal, the SRC deferred most of those seat requests until this year.

Now, KIPP will receive $1.6 million from PSP to support a renewed expansion push.

The grant calls for KIPP to enroll between 700 and 800 new students, some of which would come through the creation of a new elementary school in West Philadelphia.

"Parents want us to do more, and we’re ready to do more,” Mannella said.

Pressure on the SRC

UPDATED: For Gym of Parents United, Thursday’s announcement amounts to an ideologically driven end run around of the SRC.

Fresh off of “cheerleading” the District’s controversial school-closings push, said Gym, the Philadelphia School Partnership is now “circumventing public process and District oversight to independently help finance a massive expansion of charter schools.”

“I think there is a clear intent here to influence and drive the District’s decision-making,” she said.

Gleason agreed that his group is trying to influence the School Reform Commission, but said that PSP’s investments do not amount to improper interference.

"We want the SRC to know we believe that these schools should be expanded.  That’s the extent of it,” Gleason said.  “We have no role in the decision-making process on the public agency side.”

Regardless, the District and SRC will clearly be under significant pressure to grant forthcoming expansion requests.

In the wake of recent court decisions that Pennsylvania districts may not impose so-called “enrollment caps” on charter schools, several Philadelphia charters have added more students than called for in their agreements with the District, then gone directly to the state for reimbursement.  Over the last 18 months, that has cost the District at least $8.7 million.

Mannella said KIPP would consider doing the same if the SRC does not grant its request to add students and grades to complete the K-12 feeder patterns for which it has been approved.

“We have students in second grade and 11th grade in our existing schools who we made promises to, and we need to make sure we fulfill those promises,” he said.

Still, said Mannella, he’s hopeful that his group can reach an understanding with the SRC.

“There’s an overwhelming parent demand to send their children to charters, and specifically to KIPP schools,” he said.

“Hopefully, they’re going to come out in a way that supports the requests and the desire of the students and families of our city.”

This story was reported through a partnership in education coverage between WHYY/NewsWorks and the Public School Notebook.

Disclosure: Helen Gym is a member of the Notebook leadership board, but her opinions expressed in this story are not positions of the Notebook leadership board.




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Comments (121)

Submitted by Paul Socolar on March 14, 2013 11:02 am

We have been having technical difficulties with commenting - please bear with us while we try to resolve the problem.

Submitted by Dina (not verified) on March 14, 2013 1:15 pm
Much as I appreciate many of the teachers, who I have known since they started teaching, at these two charter schools and the hard work that they do for students, I'm stunned that exactly a week after the SRC votes to close district schools, and several weeks after the disastrous cuts proposed for district teachers and schools, here we have a private group giving huge amounts of money to charters. Actually, I'm not stunned. It's all part of the plan. The privatize, standardize education for urban students, and union busting plan.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 17, 2013 8:29 pm
I agree and also noticed that the charter schools have no quotas so I see mostly young white teachers being hired. With no union they are not required to hire black and Hispanic teachers. So all the teacher jobs are going to fresh out of college white kids. I hope someone can prove me wrong but I have only seen white teachers at Mastery and KIPP. Also they aren't required to have certifications many do not have level II and the level I cents are expiring
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 18, 2013 3:10 pm
At the Mastery school where I spent time, between 1/3 and 40% of the teachers were teachers of color, most of them African American. About 1/3 of the administrators and support professionals (school counselor, deans, social worker) were people of color (again, almost all were African American). There is research to show that a teacher's race matters. I've included a couple of citations at the bottom. As a matter of policy, I am aware that the PFT contract does have quotas for African American teachers. At the very least, every charter school needs to have an affirmative action policy. Having a diverse teaching staff at any school is important. For white children, having teachers of diverse backgrounds is important so that these children don't think all teachers are white and to have exposure to people of different races and ethnicities. For African American children, especially those children who may have special needs or behavior problems, having Black teachers may decrease the likelihood of misdiagnosis due to cultural or SES factors. For children who are English language learners, a teacher at the school who speaks the language of some or all of the ELLs (e.g., Spanish, Vietnamese) can serve as an important cultural broker for families. Interpreters are great, but having a teacher who is bilingual/multilingual brings additional expertise. This teacher can work with other teachers and school personnel to help them interact effectively with children and their families. Teacher Race, Child Race, Racial Congruence, and Teacher Ratings of Children's School Adjustment By Rowan L Pigotta, Emory L Cowena (See The Race Connection: Are teachers more effective with students who share their ethnicity? by Thomas S. Dee (See
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2013 11:02 am
At KIPP Philly 36% of teachers are POC.
Submitted by tom-104 on March 14, 2013 1:00 pm
If anyone had any illusions that we are in the midst of a corporate takeover of the School District should now see the reality. The Philadelphia School Partnership is now even going around the SRC and going to Corbett and his ALEC buddies to take money from Philadelphia public schools and give the money to charter management corporations. It is like we have been invaded by an outside army and they have staged a coup détat to install a colonial education system!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:16 pm
But keep in mind that the SRC has the final word, and the final responsibility for this decision. That is who needs to be held accountable.
Submitted by tom-104 on March 14, 2013 5:53 pm
I did not in any way mean my comment as a defense of the SRC. They will do the bidding of the Governor as Pedro Ramos has made very clear. I think it is significant, however, that the charter management companies are even going over the head of the SRC in total disregard of the past actions by the SRC in regard to charter caps. Such hubris and haste shows signs of panic and desperation that they fear the myth of corporate reform is being exposed.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 7:40 am
Yes, they will convert the worst district schools in the city into the highest performing charters. Great Job!!!
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 8:38 am
Tom 104---The SRC is small potatoes, just globs of protoplasm, spewing nonsense. The Charter folks know it and bum rush the SRC on their way to the shot callers. Let's not forget Mr. Nutter and his complicity in all this. What a guy !!! The Daily News Cover page a couple days ago tells it all, though I disagree with the humor of him as buffoonish, not with the pain and suffering he's helping to cause. He's lots of things but funny isn't one of them. P.S. I don't see the panic you observe though I wish I did. The corporate "reform" has been exposed LONG AGO but the pols are supporting it for the money they can make skimming form the operators. "Money for Nothing."
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 2:36 pm
Surely you jest. The SRC calls no shots at all---zero, zilch, nihil, nada.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 1:22 pm
"responsible expansion plans"? By those ethics is this responsible?
Submitted by Gtown_Teach (not verified) on March 14, 2013 1:38 pm
Yeah, we need a Dem governor to disband the SRC. This is ridiculous. The public trust is being shattered by monied interests.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 14, 2013 1:44 pm
According to PSP's About Us page, "We also activate parents to demand great schools in their communities and facilitate the sharing of best practices among school leaders" ( I'm curious how they promote the sharing of best practices. Does "what works" at the publicly-funded charter schools flow freely to the traditional public schools? Or are these best practices proprietary? If this is about educating ALL CHILDREN, shouldn't charter operators be freely sharing their "secrets to success" with traditional public schools? If KIPP and Scholar Academies are already working, why not give the money to a school that could use the money in order to improve. Most District-run schools are cash-strapped. If this is about a high-performing school in every neighborhood, invest in neighborhood traditional public schools (TPSs)--since most neighborhood schools are TPSs--to help them improve. I'm suspicious of Mark Gleason and the PSP because they give the vast majority of their funds to charters and private schools. Yes, they give money here and there to a TPS, but these are TOKEN grants. They give these TOKEN grants to traditional public schools so PSP can say that they work with all sectors of K-12 education in the city. But anyone who looks beneath the surface sees that these TOKEN grants are just a way to save face and disguise the PSP's strong preference for schools other than traditional public schools. Education Grad Student
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:54 pm
fact check: charters have offered to share best practices with the district. they never accept. there is much we could share, but you and your peeps are to focused on venomous attacks.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 14, 2013 3:24 pm
How does the District not accept the best practices? Be more specific.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:00 pm
they've shown zero interest in collaboration. if the district wanted to know anything a charter is doing, all they need to do is summon that school. charters are at their beck and call.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 7:09 pm
You mean they've shown zero interest in DOMINATION. There's a big difference.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 8:39 pm
The District is legally unable to do what charters do. The District must accept all students regardless of their test scores, attendance, behavior, or disabilities. There will never be a fair or valid competition between charter schools and the District until charter schools have to accept all students, even those that are kicked out or "asked to leave" their District neighborhood school. I've seen the "due process" that students have received in charters--It's a joke and really incomprehensible. Charters don't have to offer any alternative placements for students they can not program for. They have the local neighborhood school to sort that out for them. Honestly, I do understand the opportunities that a charter can offer, especially from the perspective of a parent in a low socioeconomic neighborhood. But I don't think anyone really believes that it's the superior curriculum and instruction in charter schools that accounts for any differences in test scores and achievement.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 10:33 pm
You are totally right. My school just received 7 transfers from charter schools that were kicked out right at PSSA time. They do it every year unload thier low performing and problem students to traditional public schools so their tests scores aren't impacted. That is a mockery and disgrace of the whole system.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 15, 2013 12:34 am
Are you able to name any of these charter schools that "dumped" their students into your school? Have children from charters been arriving throughout the school year or just right now, not long before the PSSAs begin? EGS
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 15, 2013 2:26 am
I think the whistleblower swallowed his whistle. approximately 30% of district students change schools every year. stop trying to a act like it's only charters.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 6:52 am
But charters conveniently get rid of their students at PSSA time. That's not a coincidence.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 15, 2013 6:48 am
and from whom did the charter get those students? i know that a few charters play that game, but most of them are trying to make progress with kids that where failed by the district schools. you know that most of the kids starting high school enter 2-4 years behind on average. many show up barely able to read. they are passed from school to school like hot potatoes. the reason most kids leave charters is because they find they do not have magic pixie dust. putting on a uniform and walking not kipp has no mystical effect. you have to do what they say, work hard, be nice. the idea that the district allows a minority of trouble-makers ruin the school experience for all is asinine. grow a pair and deal with those miscreants. there aren't that many. schools with little tolerance has little to tolerate. that's what most of the parents want too. you'll gain their respect by insisting on there cooperation. If hite wants to really fix the schools, he should make them safer. safety doesn't always equal academic achievement, but disorder always prohibits learning.
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on March 25, 2013 8:48 am
Please - you are giving credence to the Charter Schools being safe. Remember they are their own School District and go to Harrisburg to report safety problems - that is when they report them. Philadelphia Academy Charter High School had several incidents years ago and never reported them. When the Board who was fired was led by a former police officer, incidents occurred and they were taken care of by not filing police reports. Several Philadelphia Traditional Public Schools were on the unsafe schools list because they began reporting a higher number of incidents. There is such inequity between Charters and TPS in the reporting of safety factors, climate and PSSA Scores. Charter Schools may have up to 25% of non-certified teachers within their schools - meaning EACH school. When a teacher is not certified in the subject they are teaching in a TPS, a letter must go home to the parents. Does this happen in the charters? I am not against Charter Schools when they are held to the same bar and not given favoritism (such as what the Governor and the Secretary of Education) tried to do when compiling their PSSA Scores concerning AYP. Let's all put the facts and the truth on the table and be real clear about it. Philadelphia has the largest number of Charter Schools in proportion to TPS. New Orleans where it is basically all charters has been proven that it is not working. Read the Eli Broad Expose - it lays out the whole plan! PSP will definitely go over the SRC's head and insist that the Charter Schools be expanded and will receive the Governor's ok. People need to start supporting Roebuck's Bill - we need fairness in education!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 10:56 am
If the charter school student admissions and removal charade were some big revelation, then it would be whistle blowing. There is no need to be so defensive. That's not what bothers me because as I said previously, when I put myself in the shoes of a parent in an impoverished neighborhood, I would be fortunate to have alternative educational opportunities such as KIPP for my child. What irritates me is the comparison of student achievement between charters and traditional neighborhood public schools, as if all things were equal. Charter schools are not equally accessible to all children. Public schools are, fortunately. When parents enroll their children in their neighborhood public school, they are not asked to sign a contract agreeing to specific requirements, responsibilities, and acknowledging what constitutes grounds for dismissal. Public schools do transfer student to other public schools, alternative schools, or approved private schools (infrequently, but at significant cost). However, they can't transfer highly challenging students to charter schools. The District has to provide a free and appropriate education to ALL students, regardless of how severe the behavior or disability. I'm not opposed to charter schools. Just call them what they are--additional or alternative educational opportunities for a select group of students. Also, when neighboring public schools continue to decline due to insufficient funding and the fact that they no longer represent the true diversity in the communities they serve, don't revel in it and have the audacity to promulgate the success of charter schools.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 15, 2013 11:55 am
how about looking at the district's way of doing things. you take your most capable students and put them in special admit schools. the kids who aren't as bright but have good attendance and behavior go to citywide schools. you sit in a neighborhood school bragging about taking everyone. that's no quite how it works. and by the way, you're not the only one bothered. what bothers me is how decisions are made about the children's ability. one of your colleagues recently posted that 80% of the city kids would be special ed in a wealthy suburban district. was he e aggregating or does this statement reveal the bias attitudes the kids must overcome? you'll probably say it's the former. me, well i'm not so sure. this mess is not solely the result of bad kids and bad parents.
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on March 25, 2013 8:11 am
Great points - well said!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 6:01 am
I'll find out today what specific charter schools they came from and then post. We usually get transfers at the beginning of the school year and then by mid October. There has been a trend of the charters unloading their students at PSSA time the last few years but this week was absolutely ridiculous. All were 8th grade students who must take the PSSA's and all were from charters. That's not a mistake at all.
Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on March 15, 2013 1:29 pm
Dumping students just before PSSAs only works to control possible disruption. It does NOT make a schools' scores better. The PSSA scores are attributed to whatever school the student was attending in October of the school year. Any student that transfers after that time has his/her scores sent back to the previous school. So, it does not really help scores to "dump" students right before PSSAs, though it might help climate.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2013 8:18 am
Universal is one company that "counsels out" students who are problems - told directed by student in the school - "they are doing the paperwork to get rid of kids - then we will be a real charter school" yes, it is so true. If they want to hand pick - then let them be a private school and stop using tax payers money!
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 16, 2013 10:17 am
let's set the record straight on the "creaming" accusations. charters who follow the law well enroll all students and families who want what the schools mission promises. because of this, most charters have some type of parent orientation prior to enrollment. we've learned what they used to say about syms, an educated consumer is our best customer. we don't want to hear objections to the uniform, discipline, or academic requirement after the student is enrolled. it works much better if you address those things up front. any students who agrees with the program will be enrolled. i reject your assertion that children are leaving charters at a greater rate than they do district schools. most of they kids who come to charters come from the district. did you kick all of them out? when charters assert the right to educate potential parents, we are accused of selective admissions, or "creaming". this is a racist term because it is only used in reference to inner-city latino and african american children. nobody says penn, princeton, or swarthmore creams. northeast hs has 50% more asian students than washington, 3 times as many as frankford, and about 8 times as many as fels. are they creaming asians? creaming is when you limit the kids you take and do your best to educate them all. i would suggest that the district is "reverse-creaming". they take everyone but only educate a few.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2013 2:31 pm
LOL! I have never heard such an Open Admission that Charters DO select the students they want and kick out the rest at the first sign of trouble. The funny part is that you are trying to argue just the opposite. Thank you for confirming what we in the truly Public Schools already know. Please feel free to defend Charters anytime LOL!
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 16, 2013 5:30 pm
I didn't say all charters, i said charters who follow the law. and there's probably an infinite amount of correct information you haven't heard so add thie to your list.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 17, 2013 10:53 pm
I've worked at universal for three years and we have never talked out a student. Im not even sure the administration is intelligent enough to figure out how to do that.... They also can't figure out how to fill out paper work for expulsion.... Even with all the teacher assaults.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 18, 2013 7:01 am
So what you are saying is that Universal is not intelligent enough to be running a school?
Submitted by High School Teacher (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:07 pm
We'll be glad to share our best practices re: correct grammar and punctuation in published public responses. You "peeps" should work harder to present an educated viewpoint. Otherwise, you come off as ignorant and undereducated.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 7:55 pm
oh i'm sorry. I'll get right to work on that. thanks for the advice. i'd like to reciprocate. everyone makes errors on this site. but you think presentation is important, right? maybe you should present informative rebuttals and not snarky comments. or else you come off as overly educated, but ignorant none the less. have a wonderful evening.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 9:11 pm
So by, "Ignorant," you meant to write, "Rude?" Hmm, no wonder you think over-educated is a negative attribute.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 10:22 pm
I certainly don't think you're over educated. You definitely missed the lesson on sarcasm. you have developed a sense of superiority working in the district. in the real world, people like you get exposed and dispensed of much more quickly. that is probably a little scary to you since you're surely looking for work. good luck and good night, snarky.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 11:47 am
EGS---------------I've mentioned before that 'reformer' is just trolling for whatever reason. Your getting frustrated with him, plays right into his hands. Just ignore his comments as though they don't exist. Sorry but it's true.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:02 pm
This is a travesty. How are you helping education in the city when the District is trying to bring down a humongous deficit, reign in spending, and actually try to balance books the right way. A private entity is going to cost the District $10m because of its partisan is that fair, equitable, or helping the majority of the students of this city?
Submitted by Anon. (not verified) on March 15, 2013 12:10 pm
$10m is a made-up number and I'd be interested to see Herold's math.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 1:06 pm
I suppose reading the article would be a start: "Any such expansion could prove expensive. District officials estimate that each “new seat” in a regular charter school costs the city’s traditional public school system $7,000 per student, per year. Converting traditional public schools to charters is estimated to cost the district roughly $1,000 per student, per year."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:45 pm
EG, I'm not sure how PSP "activates" parents but it's not by letting them participate in their meetings. Members of my organization have made written requests to attend board meetings of both PSP and GSC (Great Schools CompactI) and received no response. Both groups have stated publicly that their meetings are not open to the public. Activating seems to mean having their people testify at SRC meetings on behalf of charter chains and in Harrisburg for vouchers. It is truly craven for Mark Gleason to advocate for closing public schools and not even one week later funnel more millions to KIPP and Mastery. Of the approximately $10 million dispersed by PSP this year, only $215,000 has gone to a public school--Powell Elementary. They are the epitome of what Diane Ravitch calls the "Billionaire's Boys Club": elected by no one and accountable to no one. They should be stopped.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 14, 2013 3:25 pm
Lisa, I totally agree with you. People who have nothing to hide hide nothing. There is clearly a reason why they are not allowing members of the public or the media to attend their meetings. Whatever is taking place at their meetings would clearly be detrimental to the PSP's reputation and expose them negatively. I also find it incredibly bold of the PSP to pledge money for the expansion of two charter schools when the SRC has not yet voted to increase enrollments at these schools. Typically, doesn't the District usually allot additional seats to a charter school at the time of the renewal of the charter? KIPP's charter renewal took place last year, so what does that mean for their enrollment? Is this money helping to expand the additional slots that KIPP received with their contract renewal, or will KIPP be pushing for even more slots? What is so dangerous about this grant from the PSP is that they are trying to drive the District's policies and decision-making. The PSP is trying to drive the policies and decision-making of a public entity that is largely taxpayer-funded and, in turn, is supposed to be accountable to the public. Public education means that education is open to the public in at least 2 ways--open to all children and open in the sense of being transparent and accountable to the public. Mark Gleason and the PSP and other private organizations are taking the public out of public education and that is scary. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 9:15 am
They "activate" parents by bringing in ParentPower for photo ops. Sylvia Simms should be ashamed of herself for many reasons and this is one of them.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:23 pm
EG, Sorry. Forgot to sign my comments. (last sentence: They should be stopped.) Lisa Haver
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:01 pm
The Philadelphia School Partnership is, once again, attempting to destroy the School District of Philadelphia. Awarding the grants to two charter school companies undermines any effort by the School District to control costs and, just as importantly, a vision for the School District. The so-called "Partnership" is not a partnership. It is attempting to take the public out of a local school district and create an entity under its control. Wow. Does Gleason have NO understanding of the concept of "public" institutions and "public" control? Gleason has created - with the support of Nutter - an educational oligarchy in Philadelphia. Shame! (On top of it, KIPP's West Philly school's charter was almost not renewed... )
Submitted by Anon. (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:50 pm
These grants are not to "charter school companies" - they are to operators of PUBLIC schools. Both KIPP and Scholar Academies are excellent public school options with extremely long waitlists. Parents are demanding seats in these schools for their children. These schools offer, on a whole, a much safer and stronger academic experience for Philadelphia students than the SDP has been able to provide. I applaud PSP for supporting these schools and expanding educational opportunities for our city's kids.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 14, 2013 4:51 pm
And KIPP and Scholar Academies also have more money because they receive extra private funding!
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:41 pm
are you suggesting they spend more per student? not! the over-priced and bloated district cost model has limited their flexibility. district schools attract extra private funding. sla is tied to the franklin institute. do you complain about them? i just saw that randolph gets vending machines free to teach students how to repair them. the teacher bragged that they were the only school in the country to do this. sweetheart deal? district could attract lots of funding at some of their special admit schools. why don't they? you're questioning the wrong people.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 14, 2013 7:23 pm
I'm with whoever spends Title I (best Federal grant ever) on the poor kids, for which it was given. So far the charters lead. $3.4 million? See what the SDP has received over the years. How many teachers know what is in their School Improvement Plan? How many schools diluted/lost this money to ineffective schoolwide positions rather than giving the enrichment to the children for who it was meant for? From the State's website (Federal Revenue (detail spreadsheet)): Philadelphia City SD NCLB, Title I - Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged 2010-11 $152,984,041.15 2009-10 $206,996,487.32 2008-09 $155,708,440.31 2007-08 $150,434,694.80 2006-07 $153,577,058.57 2005-06 $149,970,405.53 2004-05 $147,625,724.26 2003-04 $137,553,205.57 Total = $1,254,850,057.51 So why the fuss over a one time $3.4 mil when you are looking at an annual grant of $150 mil for the SDP?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 15, 2013 8:41 pm
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 15, 2013 9:05 pm
EGS, Title I is extra GRANT funding. Is extra money, not extra because it comes from the Federal government? The only real requirement on its use is that it can't fund core curriculum. A school can develop its own School Improvement Plan and use the money to support that plan. In fact it is the answer to the SES issue. It is given to "level the playing field". It follows the poor children, so if the charters get a SES disadvantaged child, they also get this grant funding. The complaint is that the SDP is getting a greater percentage of these disadvantaged children because the charters are screening them out. Well then they also get a greater percentage of the Title I funds. What has it been used on all this time, that the SES disadvantaged children have made so little progress? SDP has gotten this massive grant for more than 10 years now. The stats I pulled from the State's website did not go back to the beginning of it. So why, if I had money to gift, would I give it the SDP, when I see that it "loses" this massive gift from taxpayers?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 16, 2013 1:13 am
Ms. Cheng, My bad. My comment "I said EXTRA PRIVATE MONEY" was directed toward reformer, not you. I should have addressed it to him/her. In terms of Title I finding, I'm not very knowledgeable about it. Don't charter schools receive Title I funding? I do know that many Catholic schools in the city receive Title I funds, typically for at least one teacher. So not all of the Title I funding goes to District schools. The District does receive a lot of Title I funding. At the same time, they are also paying a great deal for debt service, charter schools, and pension costs. Also, there are more students for the District to pay for because many children who used to attend Catholic schools now attend public or charter schools. Might it be that Title I funds are simply plugging the hole for money that the District has lost due to budget cuts and its ballooning deficit? In terms of your statement, "What has it been used on all this time, that the SES disadvantaged children have made so little progress?," imagine what would happen if there was no Title I funding. Would there still be full day kindergarten? EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 16, 2013 2:25 am
Title I funding is specifically for the poor children, and it follows the child. If a school has 40% of enrolled that qualify for free or reduced lunch, then it is allowed to use its Title I allotment for the entire school. It can't be used for debt service, pension costs, etc. It is for enrichment for the poor children, and only that. What is "plugging the hole" is that $300 million loan, not Title I. When we look at what charters get in grant money, we forget that the SDP is the beneficiary of this huge grant, and it was given a lot of freedom to be creative with how it was used (thus Ms. Ackerman was able to use it to save full day Kindergarten (this only recently) since it is not a "core curriculum" required by the State). What is tragic is that the SDP watered down how the money reached the designated beneficiaries. School wide (basically) administrative or "in house" PD positions, instead of such things as educational manipulatives sent home with the disadvantaged children. As a result, the disadvantaged children are still as disadvantaged as before, despite the extra money. This $3.4 million that the PSP is giving pales in comparison to Title I. It would be going to "start up" investments, likely in equipment and materials should the SRC approve the extra seats. It would be instructional to all caregivers who are evaluating their school options to be able to see summaries of each school's School Improvement Plan. Each school was to create one to address their individual needs and direct where their Title I money would be spent. A lot of information about the administration and the strengths and weaknesses of a school could be found here.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2013 7:56 pm
How about the SDP gave $16 million in Title One funds last year to supplement the district run Head Start program. Out of that $16 million Head Start paid $2.5 million to lease 10 offsite Head Start facilities. That is such an abuse of mismanagement of Title One funds. The SDP Head Start program should've never been in the business of leasing space when schools had space available. A lot of people have been asleep at the wheel a long time. So now the SDP is only giving Head Start $8 million to supplement the over $80 million grant to service 6,188 children. You would think that with an $80 million federal grant the Head Start program wouldn't need $8 million from the already strapped SDP. I support early education and I am a current Head Start teacher but I was astonished when the Deputy Chief Renee Jackson shared the numbers with us. Please noted that she did not divulge the amount of the federal grant but it was $78 million under Jennifer Plumer Davis. All this is being said to simply state that SDP administrators need to take simple math and accounting courses. What moron decided it was okay to pay $2.5 million in rent for 10 Head Start Centers!!!!! Totally ridiculous!!!!!
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 17, 2013 5:17 pm
So each center cost $250k to rent? Does a Head Start space/classroom require anything special? If they could have been housed in a SDP building, it is indeed a waste. It is something/an added cost that should have been kept in mind when the District decided on closures. Using the Title I grant money better is a priority. After all it is these children who are the ones unable to focus, or the ones disrupting class, some turning to bullying. Ultimately they are the ones that will cause a school to be labelled "failing". There has to be something better than the institutionalized mindset that creates and follows worse than useless actions. There is a working idea in the Cincinnati community schools: a procurement officer who is hired by an agency outside of the school district. This officer is responsible for obtaining services. I can imagine that through this method, we could get some of these disadvantaged kids into YMCA group swim classes, or group music classes (we have our own district Instrumental Music teachers after all), or field trips. Or we can bulk purchase simple science or building toys they can take home. All things that a middle class family would try and provide for their own kids. Perhaps this officer could even coordinate the strategic placing of Head Start classrooms? Something must be done, that is for sure.
Submitted by Kristie (not verified) on March 17, 2013 7:58 pm
I will say that Stearn Headstart is being relocated to the Headatart my children currently attending at the Frankford Spin Center. Those parents just win the lottery. It is an amazing Keystone four Star program. I will be crying when my children graduate in June after three years. Privatizing Headstart is lousy for District HeadStart teachers but fantastic for children and families.
Submitted by Anonym (not verified) on March 17, 2013 9:26 pm
Why is privatization "fantastic?" How were your children able to participate for 3 years? I thought the limit is 2 years? I would want my children's teachers to be paid fairly and have a contract that provides for good working conditions - your children's school conditions are the teachers working conditions.
Submitted by Kristie (not verified) on March 17, 2013 9:11 pm
It's more like 2 1/2 years. Children can enter HeadStart on the 3rd birthday no matter what month it falls on. My kids have a Dec birthday. Kids with Sept 2nd birthday could get 3 full years. The working conditions at our school is amazing. That's why teachers with masters degrees willingly work for less then $15 an hour. Go visit Stearne Headstart then walk down the street to Frankford Spin and judge for yourself.
Submitted by Anonym (not verified) on March 17, 2013 11:58 pm
Don't you have a problem with someone with a Masters degree working for less than $15/hour? Do you have a Masters' degree? Do you work for less than $15/hour? If this person works for 10 months, s/he earns less than $25,000/year. How is this teacher suppose to support a family? Yes, s/he will qualify for food stamps, child care subsidy, Earned Income Credit, etc. but who in the private sector with a Masters will work for LESS than $15/hour? If you respect your children's teachers, you should want them to earn a fair wage.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 18, 2013 6:00 pm
I doubt that very many teachers with masters degrees WILLINGLY work for $15 or less per hour for a long period of time. Of course, teachers care about more than just pay. They care about working conditions, autonomy, and some enjoy working in particular communities. At the same time, if you do the math, $15 per hour x 40 hours = $600/week. That's between $2400 and $3000 a month. Who can support a family on wages in the low $30,000? Add student loans to one's expenses and $15/hour for someone with a master degree just doesn't cut it! EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 18, 2013 3:47 pm
Ms. Cheng, I totally agree. In most regions of the city, the District will have enough space in buildings in order to accommodate Head Start classrooms. Even if the District goes ahead with the proposal to contract out some of its Head Start services to private operators, it would make sense to have the Head Start programs in District buildings in order to save on facilities and rental costs. I'm not saying I support or oppose contracting out Head Start services, just that I think it's wise to use District facilities for Head Start programs so that more money is going to classrooms and less going to rental/facilities costs. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 20, 2013 8:14 am
Where did you find this info about the district leasing Head Start space for 2.5 million? I have a feeling it was not honest and political....
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 16, 2013 6:49 am
egs, i have not figured out whether you're just another district shill or if you really are as uninformed as you appear. the special admit schools, particularly masterman, central, and girls high, do have te ability to attract private funding. two of the newer district high schools, constitution and sla, were created in partnership with sponsoring organizations, the constitution center and the franklin institute. these partnerships have accelerated their development (they also have another district rarity in common, both have extremely competent principals). public/private partnerships will be essential to solving the problems in urban education on so many level. the district has the absolute worst reputation for working with outside groups. rigidity and low motivatin of the administration and staff is often sited as the reason why those partnerships are mostly unsuccessful. instead of your full time charter bashing activities, you should look into how things got so bad in the first place. and stop getting all your information from the same sources. they are all collaborators in this catastrophe.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2013 8:10 am
I'm trying to figure out if you are Mark Gleason of just someone from his office.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 2:20 pm
It's neither, just someone with too much time on its hands. No matter what position you take, it will take another. Just a waste of time responding. I tried too and it went nowhere fast.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 18, 2013 6:03 pm
Reminds me of a chihuahua a few houses down from me, nervously barking at everyone walking by, regardless of who it is.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 10:23 pm
Watch the tone, kid. People are already dubious about your "knowledge" and "experience." Try some humility. It really is an appealing trait.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 16, 2013 1:06 am
My bad, my comment was directed at reformer, not Ms. Cheng. I should have addressed my comment to reformer.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:19 pm
I had promised Tom and several of our readers that I would write an article to explain the legal difference between a "true charter school" and a school which is run by a "charter operator." but before i do, I have to complete my research. I have read some very significant legal decisions which held that they are not public schools. There are tests which the federal courts apply to that determination. I will explain the legal issues and the 'tests" being used by courts when I do write the article. The fact of the matter is that both Kipp and Scholar Academies are tied to a national charter chain which operates charter schools. What I have noticed is that PSP, and Mark Gleason, only give to "charter operators" and not to true charter schools or any regular public schools. They are arguably the most privatized form of school governance and the most easily run as for-profit organizations under the charter school guise.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:18 pm
I apologize for my typos above. My bad.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 8:09 pm
I see your point, although i don't believe that having more than one school is a problem. I would ask if you would feel differently if they only gave to " true" or as we say, "organic" charter schools?
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 15, 2013 9:10 am
That is an interesting characterization as some charter schools being "organic." I have not heard or read that term anywhere in any article, case law, or discussion. Who are the "we" you are referring to? When I say "true charter school" I mean a charter school which was actually created pursuant the procedures required by the Charter School Law and has its own board of trustees particular "the charter school itself" as required by the Charter School Law. As opposed to, let's use Universal as an example: Universal is a nonprofit organization created by Kenny Gamble. It operates its schools pursuant to a contract with the SRC. Universal was not originally organized as a charter school, but it "operates" charter schools. Universal is not a charter school. It is a private nonprofit corporation which functions as a "charter operator." None of "their schools" can be said to be "true charter schools" because those schools do not have their "own board of trustees for that particular school alone." Thus, none of Universals schools are "true charter schools." They are called charter schools and they do have a contract to operate those schools. That contract can be called a charter but is not a charter as required by the Charter School Law. One is a contract; the other is a "grant." The true charter schools are given charters which are legally a "grant" of a charter by the State through a School District. Begin to get the picture? Commissioner Dworetzky calls the original charter schools which were granted charters through the processes required by the charter school law -- "traditional charter schools." I will explain the legal significance of these two different legal entities when I write my article about the "private vs. public" issue which is critical to understand rights of stakeholders in schools. When our Charter School law was passed by the General Assembly, the intent was to create "charter schools." There was never any intent to create "organizations of charter school operators." Nor, are there any provisions in that law granting anyone the right to be "charter school chains" and still "be" a public entity. Those chains, under any " legal test" used by courts to determine if they are public schools would not be called public schools because they have no "indicia" of acting as public schools, except that they are paid for with public funds at taxpayers expense. It is a fascinating area of the law which is just beginning to evolve.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 15, 2013 10:30 am
wow! that was quite a load. you seem like a well-read man. you might want to check out the principle of parsimony. for the record, your traditional and my organic charters are the same. i don't see any challenges of charter "chains" so i guess we'll have to see what happens if that ever goes to court. admittedly there are huge differences in their results. i think this is why school districts shouldn't be the ones to authorize charters. they're to slow to close bad ones and they authorize to suit their interests; not the best decisions. that's where the whole renaissance phenomena came from. there want charters that they can reabsorb into the district. singletons aren't as easy to do because they're unique. systems tend to operate similarly be it government run or a cmo. bureaucracy is bureaucracy no matter whose it is. they are assumed to be better than you because of the unionized teachers, but i see ineffective management and your principals as a bigger problem
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 15, 2013 11:03 am
Why do you, when referring to the school district, and conversing with me say "you" and "your principals?" I am not the School District of Philadelphia. I am retired from the district. I now work as an advocate for students, parents, teachers, and any educator who has a stake in schools and wants to run schools as public schools and as professional learning communities guided by the principle of the best interests of its students and their school community. I believe, if we really care about children, we should all be on the same team. It is about "the common good."
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 15, 2013 8:44 pm
Rich, Is Universal's Universal Institute Charter School a true charter school or does Universal operate UICS pursuant to a contract with the SDP? EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 16, 2013 2:23 pm
That is an interesting question. I would have to do a little research into that one to give you a definitive answer. But I would bet that, if I do research that question, I would find a Pandora's Box of issues.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 16, 2013 2:05 pm
This may help answer some of your questions as to whether Universal is operating as a true charter school or as an educational management organization:
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 18, 2013 7:29 pm
Very interesting, Rich. Thank you. I can see that Universal is a charter management organization, and as such, may not be operating true charter schools. I was interested in the Universal Institute Charter School and whether or not is is a true charter school because my understanding is that it is the only one of Universal's schools that is not a Renaissance school. In other words, it began from the ground up instead being a District school that the District handed over to Universal. EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 18, 2013 9:25 pm
It could have been initially set up as a charter school consistent with the Charter School Law, but I will bet that it is now being run by Universal companies as one of their schools that they just "operate." I will explain the difference in the future. Paul Vallas didn't know what he was doing either and just did whatever he wanted. The vast majority of the original charter schools are set up and run by their own individual board of trustees as required by the Charter School Law. The bottom line is like Representative Roebuck said this morning in his Commentary in the Inky, "Charter schools were meant to be schools of innovation, not tools of corporate profit."
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on March 25, 2013 9:28 am
Thanks Rich - it's interesting that no one speaks about Universal's failure as an "EMO." Vare failed under Universal! How are the Universal "Charters" performing? I will have to research for myself. Watch out Milwaukee - Gamble is coming to town. I would suggest monitoring everything his concern does. People in Philadelphia are not so enthralled by Universal.
Submitted by Anonym (not verified) on March 25, 2013 11:27 am
Former Philadelphia CAP Thornton is in charge in Philly. Is he also "friends with Gamble?"
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 11:19 am
Rich--You're making the same mistake EGS is making. "reformer" is just playing with you, a bizarre variation of the shell game. Do yourself a favor and don't let it stress you out. It's not a serious person trying to communicate opinions.
Submitted by tom-104 on March 14, 2013 6:40 pm
More doublespeak from a corporate education deformer! This column by Jersey Jazzman spells out that KIPP is not just your friendly community school as stated above:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 8:47 pm
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:39 pm
The school district's finances didn't go over a cliff until the state created an absurd charter funding plan - transfer the individual student money from the district to the charter, but omit compliance responsibilities. It's an upside-down pyramid scheme where the school district is forced to fund its own demise - then is told it's financially irresponsible.. What a scam!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:51 pm
Can someone from PSP please provide evidence that KIPP students are learning more than kids in district schools? I truly respect how hard the KIPP faculty and staff work, but KIPP Philly schools have simply not shown the gains that KIPP has seen in other cities. According to KIPP's own report (, KIPP DuBois had a 27% attrition rate in 2011. I think there are some great charter schools in Philadelphia, but I also think we don't know enough about what's happening at KIPP Philly to justify more seats.
Submitted by Anon. (not verified) on March 14, 2013 3:42 pm
Comprehensive academic info on KIPP's results is posted on their website:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 4:54 pm
Great -- now my question that I hope the SRC asks PSP: why do you use change in percent proficient over time as your academic growth metric when PDE recommends using PVAAS for looking at growth in student learning?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 4:10 pm
Does KIPP have statistics on how many students have completed a four-year college? Just getting accepted is less than half the battle. If they are going to crow about college readiness, let's hear how many college graduates they have produced.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2013 11:24 am
33% with a college degree as of last year
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 4:36 pm
This is from the PSP website, NOT KIPP's. When you go to KIPP Philadelphia Charter School Website (a 5-8 school) there is no academic data. It says the data page is coming soon: Wonder why? They probably do not want grade 5-8 data viewed separately from the younger grade data.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:02 pm
this isn't about what kipp or scholars got. it's about what the district doesn't have. a cost-effective method of educating sufficient numbers of students in their schools. and to my friend ms. haver, you've been to both src and to city council meetings. they're open to the public. do you feel better informed about what will happen?
Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on March 14, 2013 5:16 pm
It seems that the buzzards are circling. So like any business, let's follow the money: who exactly is PSP? My research stops with identifying mostly white male lawyers who claim educational expertise, & can judge what works. Is this true?Who are they tied to? Who else do they fund, and for how much? And finally where exactly does this money come from?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 6:06 pm
A trip to their website shows that they are made up of bankers, hedge fund managers and the like. Needless to say, no educators. They were formed as a condition of the Great Schools Compact (the Gates Compact signed by the SRC in a drive-by resolution); they are now the "project managers" (their term) of the GSC. The money we know of came from a $15 million donation from the William Penn Foundation last year. They say they want to raise $100 million, but they don't say specifically from where. Suffice to say it won't be at bake sales. Questions need to be directed to the SRC about how they are collaborating with PSP. How often do they meet with them and what is discussed that we should know about. If I'm getting three minutes at the mic, I want to know how much time PSP gets to be heard when we are not around. Lisa
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 9:15 am
In the past, district staff has not always been present at these meetings either. Sometimes, Lori Shorr attended the meetings and report directly back to Pedro. This dynamic may have changed since Hite came on, but another question would be who meets with whom.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 12:14 pm
It doesn't matter anymore. We know the enemy and it is WE for not acting sooner and with more vigor. Paralysis by too much analysis has set it. We need to go more "teamster" and far less "St. Francis-er." "Them buggers mean us no good," a quote from one Morgan Earp on his way to the OK Corral with his boys.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 11:35 am
Lisa--You know as well, if not better than I, that that ship has sailed. We need NO more conversations with the SRC. They're peons, nothing more than talking heads, for the shot callers like Corbett and those above him. Does anybody really think Heather or Feather or whatever her name is, speaks her own mind??? It goes on and on and unless WE stop it in a big way, it will only continue. They have the "hook up" and they know it. We have the Power of Numbers and we better organize and mobilize our forces or we're all dead. Tell me where I'm wrong.
Submitted by Anonymous on March 14, 2013 6:00 pm
omg,they want to take over the school dist. of philadelphia,its a cou de tat"....its a 52 fakeout.....
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 6:12 pm
Philadelphia has a very odd relationship with charters. For as many charter schools as it has, it has been fairly hostile to outside charters (i.e. non-Philly). KIPP is embraced by most districts, but Philly nearly kicked them out completely. There are a couple of other national networks that seem completely uninterested in Philly. Unfortunately, I think part of the problem is Philly's existing education system. I taught for several years in the neighborhood high schools, until very recently. Every single time I had an "exceptional" student, it turned out that a large portion of their K-8 education had occurred somewhere other than the SDP. And I don't even mean suburbs. I'm talking other urban districts with mediocre reputations (NY, some southern mid-sized cities, etc.), or even developing nations in the Caribbean. The education many students are getting in K-8 schools in Philly is so far below "standards" that it often takes stepping outside of the SDP to realize how inadequate the education is. There are a huge number of complicated factors (bad leadership, bad management, inadequate funding, staffing rules that make it hard for schools to truly shape a team, distrust at all level, bad communication, corruption, etc.) but the bottom line is that the SDP is operating several notches below even some other "broken" urban districts. At one of my schools, two of the administrators were transplants from other Districts and they spent the first couple of months trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to adjust to the dysfunction of Philadelphia. They were appalled at the state of the District. There is a reason Philly hired Dr. Ackerman in 2008--nobody else wanted the job. Even Ackerman had to be persuaded to take it. I recently had a chance to talk to some folks involved with some national charter school networks and mentioned that Philly didn't seem to have much of a presence from the more national networks, and was mostly local charters (Mastery, Universal, etc.) Their response was basically that nobody in their right mind would try to tackle the education problem in Philadelphia--and they noted the problems KIPP has had replicating its generally solid nationwide results in Philly. I'm not saying this to bash Philly. I love the city, and would return in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. But, for real progress to get made, I think all stakeholders have to come to terms with the honest reality that the SDP is offering an education (in many, many situations) that's several orders of magnitude below adequate. Very few of the arguments I see really get to this core. There's a lot of fighting over exactly which schools to close, or where to put this set of money or that. Where is the honest discussion about how to fundamentally fix Philadelphia's schools? It's going to require everybody (unions, SDP, charters, business, etc.) working together. As long as everyone's fighting among themselves, the schools will continue to decay, the children of Philadelphia will continue to be provided with an inadequate education, and Philadelphia's long-term prospects will dim. Framing anybody as the "enemy" or the "bad guys" just totally misses the point, and will, in the long run be the downfall of everyone--most tragically, the students.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 15, 2013 8:50 am
Yes, and that is the tragedy of all of this. The fight to keep the neighborhood schools should have started many many years ago. The only reason that the PFT, the lobbying block with the best chance of being able to institute real reform in some kind of check against corruption, is speaking up now, is the imminent loss of jobs and union membership. With the corruption and lack of high standards, the SDP is the cause of its own demise. As a supporter of neighborhood schools, it makes me sad for those who have done their best in earnest, but it is too late. Some 30k families simply left the City taking their 44k plus children with them from 2000 to 2010. Charters/corporations, are not the real culprit. Charters take enrollment from the Catholic schools as well as the SDP... from the families that have not opted, or are unable to leave. Even in the Philadelphia2035 plan summary document there is a statement that Philadelphia has lost more jobs than people... so yes there is another, bigger problem here. Until we "open our eyes", we won't be able to make things better.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 17, 2013 12:01 pm
The "core" is undying, unforgiving, unrelenting racism with a touch of classism too. The inner city folks, by and large, have been marginalized for years and years. Charters are the latest predator with which to deal, just like slumlords, drug dealers and other varmints who capitalize on the poverty and despair of the urban areas. That would take decades to "fix" even if the government wanted to which I doubt. Hey, we have prisons filled too. The traditional charter schools were designed to experiment not rob the real schools of money. When the corporations and the shady pols realized money could be made, they invaded the inner cities like flies on poop but now I am being redundant.
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on March 25, 2013 9:38 am
I notice there was no mention of "Parents." Why are they always forgotten in the process, after all if they didn't send their children to school, there would be no schools!
Submitted by Brian Cohen (not verified) on March 14, 2013 7:39 pm
While I think there is a definite need to restructure how the School District of Philadelphia is governed (i.e. put in an elected school board, please) this seems like a backhanded way of increasing charter enrollment without regard to the current governance structure nor the current finances of the District. Increasing charter enrollment will most definitely reduce the financial contribution the District can spend on its own schools, furthering the spiral of public school destruction. This is quite unfair and I'm sorry it is taking place. I don't know how the Philadelphia Schools Partnership looks into its investments - if it involved a lot of lobbying by CEOs then it is inherently unfair as School District administrators do not have time for that. Perhaps the PSP should send representatives to talk to teachers and students across the District to see if we are worthy of investment as well - they might find some surprising results.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 14, 2013 8:06 pm
if you asked them they'd probably tell you. then you wouldn't have to speculate and ascribe evil intentions or processes to something you really know nothing about. the post right before yours says it all. the quality of the education received by even the most engaged students in neighborhood schools is inferior. people don't say that about kipp. your folks always say its because they have different kids or they kick out the bad ones. but given equally able kids, which would you think would produce the best results?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 12:01 am
Given "equally able kids", then may the best school win. My pick would be the school that could attract the cream of the crop of teachers and staff by offering a better overall compensation package. This is where charter organizations would be at a disadvantage. Without the lure of not having to deal with the most challenging (i.e., developmentally delayed, conduct disordered, socially and emotionally disturbed, etc.) kids, why would a highly qualified teacher take a position at a charter for less salary, no job security, no representation or collective bargaining, etc., than his or her peers in neighboring traditional public schools?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 15, 2013 8:35 pm
Anonymous, You are assuming that the best overall compensation package would always lure the best educators. However, for some educators, compensation is not the most important factor in selecting a job. Working conditions, autonomy, the demographics of the students (e.g. ELLs, African American, high-poverty), the mission of the school, or other factors may influence the decision of where educators teach. There are some excellent teachers in the School District of Philadelphia who could find employment in more affluent districts and receive a better salary, but choose to teach in Philadelphia. EGS
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 15, 2013 3:17 am
look what your cometitive compensation package attracts now? you don't believe this yourself. your insistence on focusing on salary and wages that has zapped the professionalism of district teaching ranks and prohibits the district from being competitive with charters. why do so many of your colleagues enroll their children in charters? would you favor a rule that prohibited district employees from enrolling in charters? i don't think it happens the other way very often.
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on March 15, 2013 5:41 am
KIPP, Scholars Academy, Mastery, etc. have "success" with some students because they demand a commitment from their staff that is not sustainable. KIPP teachers are expected to work 10 hour days and then be "on call" at night. While someone may do this for a few years, they will not be able to do it if they have other responsibilities (e.g. kids). They also have larger "support" / administrative staffs who assume many responsibilities School District teachers are suppose to assume. I'm sure some parents like this model because it puts a lot more responsibility on the school. Wouldn't it be nice if someone else took care of my kids from 7:30 - 5:30 pm and then was on call to help with homework? Wouldn't it be nice if someone took care of my kids in the summer for free? (There are summer programs.) Wouldn't it be nice if someone else did all my college planning starting in 7th grade? This all costs a lot of money - and wear and tear on the staff. Nice but certainly not possible for ALL students in Philadelphia.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 16, 2013 2:04 am
Annony, I totally agree with you on this point. As I have written, I spent a great deal of time at one of Mastery's schools. Being a teacher there is quite demanding and there is a larger administrative staff. Being an administrator there can be very demanding for principals, assistant principals, and Apprentice School Leaders. They have a "whatever it takes" approach. Some teachers put in more hours than others. Teachers have to wait with students on the playground after school and make sure that someone signs out the child. This person could be a sibling, parent, day care, etc. Kids can walk home if parents sign a release. It's typical for teachers to wait outside after dismissal for 15 to 20 minutes. 30 minutes after dismissal, teachers can typically take kids to the front office. There is a lot of data and reporting at Mastery. Teachers report everything. I saw kids fight in the District school and usually, as long as it wasn't a major fight or there wasn't an injury or blood, these "minor" fights were just seen as normal kid stuff or normal "this happens in Philadelphia" incidents. At Mastery, if any kid throws a punch, it's serious. Again, there are more administrators to help handle the issues with fighting, so there's more support at Mastery for handling the physical aggression. Parents of kids at a Mastery school get a call or speak with the teacher at dismissal for even a "minor" fight. The benchmarks at Mastery are data-intensive. The benchmarks take place more frequently at Mastery than benchmarks in the District. At both District and Mastery schools, teachers and others (Teacher Leader or Assistant Principal) assess reading levels; I didn't see much of a difference in this area. Mastery tests for reading levels in all grades, but I don't know if this happens in District schools of if it's just the younger kids. Each Mastery school has a principal, at least 1 dean, and an Assistant Principal for the following areas: Culture, Instruction, Operations, and Specialized Services. What do most District schools have--a principal, assistant principal or teacher leader, and in some cases, a dean? Is that right? Having an AP of Culture and at least 1 dean allows for Mastery to have the sophisticated behavior management system that they do. Also, they often have Apprentice School Leaders, who function as another administrator. In my experience at the Mastery school and student teaching at a District school, there were more support staff--e.g., instructional aides in kindergarten and special ed, secretaries/desk attendants--in the District school. There are school police serving District schools, but not in Mastery schools, at least not with the elementary kids. (Is there a school police officer at Mastery Gratz, Shoemaker, Pickett, or Thomas?) There wasn't a police officer stationed at the District school where I student taught, but they were available as needed and would come from the nearest high school or middle school. So, the allocation of people was different at the Mastery school versus the District school. Which was a better allocation? It's hard to compare because the schools were different in size, student demographics, and grade configuration. I imagine that there are probably strengths and weaknesses of each personnel allocation. Mastery has after school programs, but parents have to pay for them. As I have said before, time and time again, this Mastery school at which I spent time did not kick out the tough kids. They worked with these kids and their parents. I hesitate to generalize the situation at the Mastery school where I spent time to other Mastery schools. Maybe other Mastery schools do kick out more of the "problem" kids, maybe they don't, but I wouldn't know. Both Mastery and Scholar Academies use a teacher-made curriculum. I have spoken with one of the Scholar Academies recruiters, so that's how I'm aware that they use a teacher-made curriculum. Scholar Academies seems to have a similar approach and model to Mastery. Some Mastery teachers have published curricula, but for the most part, it's teacher made. For example, Mastery schools use enVision Math, but teachers have discretion as to how much they use the enVision materials, e.g. textbooks, teacher manuals. Even if there is a published curriculum, it has to be modified to fit the direct instruction-guided practice-independent practice format that Mastery uses. Mastery and Scholar Academies have a scope and sequence and then teachers design the lesson plans from the S&S. Mastery teachers design instruction from the S&S Mastery's instructional model and there is a lot of opportunity for teachers to incorporate their own ideas, strategies, and techniques. The District's curricula (Everyday Math, Trophies) places some parameters on how teachers teach. Mastery's DI-GP-IP model also provides parameters, but these are different than the District's. From what I saw, teachers at Mastery spend more time on lesson plans. Mastery uses very detailed lesson plan formats, and there are a couple of different format that teachers can use. Teachers at Mastery schools may co-plan, so this reduces the workload somewhat. However, the workload is definitely heavier at Mastery schools. Personally, I prefer having curriculum materials and then being able to use them in a way that works for me or put my own spin on each lesson. I found this to be possible with Harcourt Trophies. With direct instruction programs like Connecting Math Concepts, Reading Mastery, Corrective Reading, and Corrective Math, there's much less room for creativity. However, it's a lot less time that the teacher spends lesson planning. All of this said, it will be interesting to see the long-term retention of teachers and administrators at Mastery in 5 or 10 years. I don't know how sustainable their workload is, especially for teachers who want to make more money. Mastery pays better than many other charters, but from what I saw, becoming one of the "best" teachers at a Mastery school takes an enormous amount of work and is extremely demanding. I'd love to hear comments from others. Has anyone worked at Mastery, KIPP, or Scholar Academies. Has anyone worked at one or more of these schools and a traditional public school? I'd love to hear more stories and hear comparing and contrasting about what it's like to teach at one of these charters versus a District or other traditional public school. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2013 7:17 pm
Very informative. Thanks.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 9:26 am
Why do this now rather than wait until after the outcomes of the Renaissance process this spring for Young Scholars and the SRC votes next year for KIPP? This is an attempt to interfere with both processes. The SACs for the Renaissance schools are supposed to be focusing on finding the best fit for their school communities, not worried being the school that will get this one-time infusion of funds. PSP needs to answer for this.
Submitted by Anon. (not verified) on March 15, 2013 12:50 pm
I resent your qualifying quotations around "success." These schools do achieve successful results. They do so as a direct result of employing very committed educators. You cannot minimize students' results because you perceive these teachers' hard work and long hours as unsustainable. Many professionals balance 10 hour work days and being "on call" with their parenting responsibilities. Because YOU wouldn't choose this level of professional commitment doesn't mean other educators aren't willing to. Furthermore, you're right! It's exactly this sort of hard work and commitment that is driving phenomenal results for their students. Yes, it IS nice when a school takes responsibility for their students! In fact, I think that should be EXPECTED of a school. Where you're wrong is that this DOESN'T cost more money - these schools are operating at the same per pupil cost as district schools, if not less.
Submitted by Kristie (not verified) on March 15, 2013 6:59 pm
Philadelphia is in a perpetual state of Educational turmoil! There are quality Charter Schools but they have limited spots available. The SRC refuses to release funding so that these schools can operate at full building capacity as well as expand to serve a greater portion of the population. We must rally together and force the SRC to release this funding immediately. In a time where Philadelphia is closing approximately 40 public schools this year we can not hesitate to prioritize this issue any longer. For 10 years I was a long term substitute teacher for the School District of Philadelphia until three of my fingertips were severed in a classroom window in 2006. While it is my crusade to have all children receive a high quality education I initiated this crusade when my children, Mogue & Jonah Wisniewski, did not win spots at my top choice school (Franklin Towne Elementary). The enormity of 4000 kids on a waiting list for education overwhelmed me so much I had to take action immediately. My first course of action was to contact Nicky A. Charles, head of the SRC, to relay my concerns. She was very receptive to my concerns but also relayed this is not an issue being addressed at this phase of the reorganization process. I then went to speak at the District meeting held at Northeast HS where I was unpopular amongst my peers as I pushed for the closing of low performance schools and in favor of funding higher performing Charter Schools. In conclusion I hope we can rally together to change the motto NO Child Left Behind (which has a negative connotation) to Every Child Reaching their Maximum Educational Potential. I implore you to join me on this mission today.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 16, 2013 7:28 pm
You'd be pleased to know that after that horrific accident that severed your fingers all windows were checked by the SDP and windows deemed unsafe were labeled with bright orange caution stickers. We were told that all of those windows would be replaced. Well it's 2013 and the bright orange stickers have faded to yellow and not one window in my school has ever been replaced. I have 4 windows in my classroom with those caution stickers. So when it's too hot we take our chances.
Submitted by Kristie (not verified) on March 16, 2013 8:27 pm
I wish I could say I was surprised but the District has done me dirty as well. Paul Vallas promised me the world and I barely got any compensation and they fired me on top of that. I tried on several occasions to return to work. What school are you in? Luckily I miraculously won a Charter lottery for my twins who start Kindergarten this coming Fall. I am still in need if a new job as I sit back and watch the District implode. I would come to your school with a news crew and do a follow up story in your class on the windows if you are interested. I protested out side of the District last Spring and got Fox to cover it. If your interested run it by your administration and I will set it up.
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on March 25, 2013 9:34 am
I am a little confused can you please clarify for me - Nicky A. Charles is or was "head" of the SRC? When did that happen and is Nicky A. Charles still "head" of the SRC???
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2013 11:00 am
Nicky Charles is a chief of staff in the SRC office.

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