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PSP responds to Helen Gym's commentary on universal enrollment

By Kristen Forbriger on Oct 25, 2013 03:14 PM

If the Notebook is going to delve into the proposed universal enrollment process, it should begin with the facts. 

Start with the purpose of universal enrollment: to simplify the process of applying to schools for families and make access to the city's best schools more equitable. Also note that universal enrollment is a goal of the Great Schools Compact, which was signed by Mayor Nutter, the School District, charter and Catholic school leaders, and the state secretary of education. Philadelphia School Partnership serves as project manager to the Compact Committee, which includes representatives from all of these.

The Compact states: 

We will pursue a system of “universal enrollment” – i.e., aligning schools’ application procedures, from public announcements to application materials to lottery dates and other timing, as uniformly as possible. Expanding the number of high performing schools will only truly serve parents and students if they are more readily able to access, understand and apply for the options available to them.

Here are other important clarifications to Helen Gym's commentary:

  • The Compact Working Group on universal enrollment is not a private entity, but rather a working group consisting of school operators, representatives of the School District, education nonprofits, and a student advocacy organization. It is an advisory group only. The working group has sought and received parent feedback on universal enrollment over the past six months in a number of venues. It has also sought and received feedback from school leaders, community and faith-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and other education leaders. Before implementation by the District, a vote by the School Reform Commission would likely be required, which in turn would require additional public discussion.

  • Universal enrollment does not make choices for students. Students choose schools and rank them in order of preference, and universal enrollment uses software to attempt to give every student the highest possible match. In New Orleans, 84 percent of students receive one of their top three choices, and 99 percent receive one of their top five choices. In Denver, 70 percent of all students get their first choice, and 84 percent of students receive a top-three choice.

  • Early-stage interviewing for an executive director to oversee universal enrollment had begun in late summer, but has been postponed due to the delay in full implementation of PhillySchoolApp.

  • As proposed, students who desire to attend their neighborhood District school would still be assured of that option under universal enrollment.

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did not fund universal enrollment in Philadelphia.

  • In all cities that have used universal enrollment, data systems have been established to ensure confidentiality of student data. School operators have access to the data only for students who apply to their schools, as is the case under existing practices. Here’s how the system works in New Orleans. The data-controversy example of inBloom, from New York, that Gym cites is unrelated to New York City's long-running universal enrollment system.

  • Until Philadelphia school operators formally agree to participate in a universal enrollment matching system, none of the policy decisions around how the system would work can be finalized. But it is true that students receive a single match in New Orleans, New York, and Denver. This benefits the many students who, under previous practices, ended up without an acceptance to any schools or only to their neighborhood school; at the same time, it does limit the number of acceptances (or "matches") for those students who, today, may be accepted to five or more schools and, then, can only choose one. For example, at the briefing for City Council that Gym references, a parent told the story of her child who was rejected by all of the charter schools he applied to -- and denied admission to his neighborhood school because of overcrowding. Note that a universal enrollment system would not limit application choices: Students would be able to apply to multiple schools and rank their choices in order of preference.

The bottom line is that the current system is too complicated and unfair for far too many families across the city. All students should have equal access to high-quality schools, and school operators from all sectors are collaborating to make this possible.

Kristen Forbriger is the manager of communications and public affairs for the Philadelphia School Partnership.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (70)

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on October 25, 2013 12:00 pm

1. "•The Compact Working Group on universal enrollment is not a private entity, but rather a working group consisting of school operators, representatives of the School District, education nonprofits, and a student advocacy organization" But no parents, students or teachers

2. •"Universal enrollment does not make choices for students. Students choose schools and rank them in order of preference, and universal enrollment uses software to attempt to give every student the highest possible match" Based on who's criteria? And I am NOT giving you my child's data, so try again

3. "•Early-stage interviewing for an executive director to oversee universal enrollment had begun in late summer, but has been postponed due to the delay in full implementation of PhillySchoolApp." Again with no input from students, teachers, or parents

4. •The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did not fund universal enrollment in Philadelphia. As I tweeted earlier - I call BULL!

5. Why the hell do I care how things work in New York or New Orleans I don't live there and my child doens't go to school there. Even worse, NYC schools are in WORSE shape NOW!

6. "•Until Philadelphia school operators formally agree to participate in a universal enrollment matching system, none of the policy decisions around how the system would work can be finalized" So parents, teacher and students MUST fight even more when what we should all be focusing on is the kids and thier education. Thanks for taking more time away from that.

Submitted by Helen Gym on October 27, 2013 10:24 pm

The issue is not about starting with "facts." The issue is that there are multiple and relevant facts around PSP's proposed involvement in Universal Enrollment. Let's be clear. Whatever PSP chooses to say at this time does not negate the fact that there was a clear presentation before City Council last month that demonstrated a scope and breadth of thinking about its role in privately controlling and managing UE that took plenty of people - the District apparently included - by surprise.

  • Compact Working Group:  Whatever legal construct the Compact is, it is not a public entity. Its meetings are private. Numerous requests have been made by individuals and media to attend the meetings. PSP has refused every single time. At this point in time as we see UE and other Compact-driven initiatives like report cards for schools begin to be driven through the District, we have to ask whether this is really just an advisory group or whether it is something significantly more influential and where a self-selected group of entities have unprecedented and completely private access to District and city officials.
  • I am a parent in the district and connected with multiple parent communities all across the district. Almost every community I have spoken with, including principals, teachers, and parents, had no idea of the scope and level of control of PSP's proposal. I think it would be a real stretch to suggest that this was a well-known venture.
  • The question of whether UE provides choice really depends upon your perspective does it not? As an operator of the system, it is choice. For parents, however, there is plenty of indication that there are legitimate questions about how much choice there is.
  • I did not say that the Gates Foundation funded UE.
  • Pls. do not link NYC's placement system to the proposed PSP plan. NYC's student placement system is District-managed and run and includes (except for kindergarten) only District schools. PSP's proposal is to take student placement private, something unprecedented anywhere, and include non-District options, namely Catholic schools. I brought up InBloom because it is a private entity with access to student data - and in fact as a private entity InBloom has the right to not only collect that data but sell it to other vendors. That is the distinction. The concern is that PSP is proposing a private entity to run a controversial program like UE which also includes Catholic and charter schools. It could not be more different from NYC's student placement system.
Submitted by Helen Gym on October 25, 2013 12:48 pm

Kristen, could you clarify which student advocacy organization is now a member of the Compact? Could you also explain the process by which organizations can be a member of the Compact?

Submitted by Kristen Forbriger (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:45 pm
The Education Law Center
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:50 pm
Tellingly, you didn't answer the second question, Kristen.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:59 pm
Perhaps the ELC can write a commentary explaining how this process is proposed to work without violating the rights of students with special needs.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:48 pm
Kristen, You forgot to answer the second question Helen raised. To me, it is the more pressing question.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on October 25, 2013 2:04 pm
Yes, cherry picking at its finest. I'll say it once more before hibernating for the winter-----------Until the people fight back in a huge, hostile--define hostile anyway you like, and very organized way, this abuse will only get worse. NEVER has a bully backed off until they feel pressure, up close and personal. File complaints until your face off, march around like zombies in circles, pray until the skies beg you to stop, fast until you die------------------and it still won't mean a thing. There's too much easy money to be made on inner city kids and most of the pols are in solid cahoots with the Kenny Gambles of the city, to give a damn about anything except money. Does anybody past the age of 6 really believe Nutter, Corbett etc. give a rat's ass about the kids marching around with signs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 2:41 pm
You sure have a lot to say for someone who supposedly retired from posting on this site. But truth telling has never been a strong suit for a PFT member. Why not just walk off into the sunset and not make a liar out of yourself once again.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on October 25, 2013 4:47 pm
You got a point, sweet pants.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on October 28, 2013 4:32 pm
i see you didn't heed my advice. thanks for inviting me back.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 28, 2013 7:56 pm
reformer--as i recall you were given a giant break several months ago. i strongly encourage you to watch your words. That's your choice.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on October 28, 2013 8:31 pm
enforcer..............................................................first a pejorative, now a threat? stick to the issues. remember, we are in an open forum. it's big enough for all who care to join. welcome back.
Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on October 26, 2013 8:27 am
You are right. But as teachers we don't do a good job educating who the enemies are. The majority of us is brainwashed into thinking that "we are all in this together", while a large portion of the population (read: conservatives) self-identify with the abuser. Read this: http://tinyurl.com/kts7gwx and this http://tinyurl.com/mt7mhjg
Submitted by Kristen Forbriger (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:56 pm
Hit save a little too quickly on that. The Education Law Center is a member of the working group on universal enrollment. There are multiple working groups assembled on various issues including talent, facilities, shared services, etc. I will try to get more details for you on that process.
Submitted by Helen Gym on October 25, 2013 2:28 pm

Kristen, you mention that the Compact Working Group on UE is not private. Yet all the advisory members on UE signed confidentiality agreements with PSP in order to be a part of the group. Isn't that true?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 25, 2013 8:18 pm
Hi Kristen! Thank you for participating in our conversation. Trust is a central issue here. So is democracy. So are the rights of the citizens of Philadelphia to participate meaningfully in the governance of our public schools. So is the democratic principle that our leaders should be accountable to "the public." As you know, I have a strong belief that public schools should be run for the best interests of our students, our community and the common good. I also believe the only way to ensure that is truly the guiding principle of our collective endeavor is to govern and lead public schools democratically and collaboratively. I am talking about true collaboration. Through my experience and study of leadership and the law of school governance for 40 years in the field, I have come to understand this: It is the Constitution of the United States of America that "sets the conditions" which enable each of us to seek our dreams and have the real hope and opportunity to fulfill those dreams. For us to create "The Great American School" for all of our children, we must govern and lead our schools upon the very same principles and ideals. That is the only way to "set the conditions" for great schools to emerge. Of that I am sure. PSP and the Gates Compact Committee have a trust issue and a credibility issue. When credibility is lost -- so is all power to lead lost. Trust is built over time with honesty, openness and forthrightness. It is never clothed in secrecy and selfishness. My advice is to listen to the advocates and voices of our community, and make sure the actions of PSP match their words. Cognitive dissonance is painful and alarming.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2013 8:00 am
I am a parent of two children in the city and I have ZERO trust in the school district for taking card of my childrens' education. That's why they are in a charter school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2013 9:20 am
Understandable with the elks of Hite, SRC , Corbett and Nutter. It isn't due to the hard effort that most school staff put forth daily. It's the people mentioned above by holding their pockets open for the greedy, selfish profiteers to make the decisions and tear the District apart. Make it look like charters are better. I will tell you this if the whole Phila. school system was charters you will see a huge difference since the charters would have no place to get rid of the students they don't want. That's exactly what charters do is transfer out students immediately instead trying to make it work for the students like the traditional public schools do. Catholic schools do the same thing. Sure it's easier and looks better when you only want the creamiest of the crop.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2013 9:24 am
My kids charter school IS better and they don't kick kids out. It's a Renaissance School. And we were guaranteed a spot last year.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2013 9:17 am
Renaissance School or not -it's all a label.You might have been guaranteed a spot but doesn't not mean when a students is disruptive,or other issues,not in line with what that school wants they will dump the student to the District run schools .Charters and Catolic schools do it all the time.They don't want to or even try to deal with them. Again , yes you may see them as better,(Charters and Catholic schools) because the they cherry pick students who are less disruptive.Weed the ones they don't want out of the the charter , Catholic schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2013 3:27 pm
Our school doesn't do that. Please reread the last post.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 26, 2013 4:50 pm
I absolutely understand what you are saying. That is another facet of "the trust issue" which must be addressed by the district leadership. Why are many regular public schools not given the staff and tools they need to be safe, orderly and efficient learning communities which meet the needs of all of their students? Why are some schools not well managed, and why does the district leadership not do anything to remedy the situation before turning them over to only "charter operators?" Why may I ask?
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on October 25, 2013 12:10 pm
Oh and also as soon as this goes through I WILL file a lawsuit regarding separation of Church and State and I am sure I can 1000's more on board with me. Not one dime should go to a Catholic School. If PUBLIC money is being used then it should go to PUBLIC schools.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:32 pm
I know lots of Catholics who send their children to public, charter, and Catholic schools who will be happy to sign on to you law suit. I identify as Catholic and it slays me that these arrogant, wealthy, clueless (but not stupid) mostly white men persist in making us look so bad. Most of us learned in school about the value of a democratic society. I would like to personally have an opportunity to escort these clowns out of town (along with Nutter and Hite)
Submitted by Uni Teacher (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:28 pm
I'm sorry, I still don't understand. How is this separation of church and state? I read the proposal and both articles and only understood it to mean that the Catholic schools, if those chose to participate, would agree to use the same interface (PhillySchoolApp) as others. How does public money go to funneling students into Catholic schools? And I don't see an instance where a student would be forced into a Catholic school either? I actually don't see an instance where a student would be forced into any type of school they didn't select as a choice, other than their neighborhood (which is currently the policy) if they don't meet admission requirements for their five choices. This is not so different from the current process except that the steps for parents are shorter and simpler?
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on October 27, 2013 3:07 pm
Because PUBLIC money should not be used to fund sectarian schools. The State Constitution states: Public School System Section 14. The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth. Public School Money Not Available to Sectarian Schools Section 15. No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 1:05 pm
Why shouldn't one dime go to a Catholic school? They pay taxes, too. They just don't want to send their kids to public schools because they are so lousy. If anything, we should be giving vouchers to parents who send their kids to Catholic schools. Anyone who is against that is only looking out for the interests of a public sector union.
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 25, 2013 4:14 pm
The simplest reason is because it discriminates against all other religious schools, who are not being granted equal access to what PSP is claiming is a public process. This is leaving aside the idea that public funds cannot go in any way to support any religious institution, school or not. You might as well try to argue that because the city supports public libraries, they should be force to also fund Christian Science Reading Rooms because they are taxpayers too, but have their own, religiously-based library facilities that will admit members of the pubic when it suits them. It's really no different in the end.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 4:50 pm
Then lets offer vouchers to everyone to spend wherever they choose. Cut a check directly to the parent for having a kid. Then THEY can spend it wherever they want. That would take care of the so called separation of church and state nonsense.
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 25, 2013 5:48 pm
Passing public funds through an individual doesn't make the process any more constitutional. This is why every time vouchers are proposed (and that is exactly what you're proposing) they are struck down by the courts on exactly these grounds. You can't use parents as a beard to do an end-run around the Constitution.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 25, 2013 5:07 pm
Sorry Stewart, but you are WRONG. Voucher programs have been upheld as CONSTITUTIONAL by the SCOTUS on MULTIPLE occasions. Here is a summary. Milwaukee http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/1998/12/01/us-supreme-court-... Cleveland http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=16487 Arizona http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/04/04/supreme-court-upholds-arizona... Later ............
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 25, 2013 8:39 pm
And they are wrong, pure and simple. Nor do all these cases specifically address the question. The only Supreme Court case goes all the way back to the Rehnquist court, the Arizona decision was abased entirely on standing rather than merits, and the Milwaukee case is a state court decision. These would not be the first precedents overturned by later courts. Nor should you be bringing up the Milwaukee situation, since every credible study of it has shown it has failed in it's stated goals. http://www.epi.org/publication/book_vouchers/ http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/in-ravitchs-defense-milwaukee-... So, while voucher have managed to survive for a while, they are still unconstitutional and useless for improving education.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 25, 2013 9:56 pm
Stewart - The facts have proved you wrong. For the third time, vouchers are constitutional. Please give it a rest. I am aware of the study you referenced with the hyperlink. Next time, please try reading the executive summary, which disproves your point about vouchers being "useless for improving education".
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 26, 2013 2:20 pm
Obviously, you didn't read that executive summary very carefully, because the base-line conclusion in it is exactly what I have noted above. Here is the relevant section of the executive summary that speak about the study's conclusions:
Thus, our analysis finds little or no indication that pupils in those Milwaukee public schools that have more school choice possibilities nearby made significantly greater year-to-year gains in primary school tests than pupils in other Milwaukee public schools. The effect of other variables, such as staying in the same public school from year to year, seem to have a more consistent (albeit small) positive impact on student performance, particularly on language arts test score gains. Nor did we find evidence that students realize higher test score gains in schools suffering greater recent-past losses in enrollment. Enrollment losses are the purported mechanism pushing public school personnel to work harder to keep students from leaving. This result is particularly interesting because the Milwaukee Public School District has long threatened and now has carried out school closings because of declining enrollment and continued poor test score results in a number of traditional public schools. [emphasis mine]
So, the study quite clearly does point out that no gains can be attributed to the supposed mechanism by which voucher proponents claim they will work, nor can any gains be reliably attributed to their use. That is more than enough to warrant my designation of "useless" when it comes to educational improvement. They do say that the one-time gain that was seen in Milwaukee schools may have come from a new attention to state testing (i.e., teaching to the test) at the time of the voucher program's expansion, but they also note that no mechanism related to choice and vouchers was found to support this hypothesis and that the momentary gain did not translate into any other improvement or even sustain itself past the year of expansion. That means we're dealing with an effect that can't be directly attributed to the supposed cause and has not been sustained in any way that would support the underlying assumption that competition from vouchers produces real educational improvement. The final section of the summary backs this point up quite nicely:
This study shows that the traditional competition indicators do not seem to provide this explanation. If choice can, at best, produce a one-time improvement, particularly an improvement due to schools taking standardized tests more seriously, this is an effect that can probably be produced by other (possibly lower cost) policies and incentives. Thus, we need a much better explanation of what occurs in both public and private/charter schools when such choice plans are introduced.
And, as Kurt Vonnegut was fond of saying, "there goes the ballgame" as far as the usefulness of vouchers is concerned. I am a trained researcher with a good knowledge of statistics as well as being a teacher; I'm very well aware of how to interpret a study like this and my comments (as the quoted section above and my comments on it shows) is perfectly in line with the conclusions of the study's authors. You and I have gone the rounds before on this kind of data-driven analysis; I'd have thought you would know by now that I know what I'm saying and can support it when I make a statement like that and provide the evidence for it. Perhaps you should try and read a bit more carefully yourself before you accuse someone of distorting someone else's work.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 26, 2013 4:28 pm
Stewart - Reread the last paragraph because you conveniently left out two critical sentences. Here are those two sentences. We also conclude that for the choice argument to be convincing, advocates need to show more consistent and sustained improvements in student learning and should be able to explain at the operational level how choice induces schools to improve student performance. A more concrete explanation of this one-time increase in test scores is especially needed because the Milwaukee case is one of the few where a significant positive competition effect on student achievement has been found. Setting aside test scores, the two selling points from voucher advocates has been about increased competition and economics. The last paragraph alludes to it with their statements on competition and lower costs. Technically, economics was not the thrust of the study, but the researchers are well aware of it. Nobel economist Milton Friedman was an advocate of vouchers with a focus on increased competition in the marketplace. My take from the study is that ol' Milton was correct on both points, competition and economics. Obviously, the researchers see something there. Furthermore, vouchers are about choice for parents and students that are stuck in failing schools to opt out for a different school. Quite frankly, you can't put value on choice. You can not quantify it with a number. As I stated above, I do not like vouchers, but I do understand their purpose. To call voucher program useless is disingenuous at best. Please look at the whole picture (choice, economics, competition, etc. and you will find that vouchers could be a winner. After all, isn't this about the kids and what they and their parents want for their education?
Submitted by tom-104 on October 26, 2013 6:05 pm
"Vouchers don’t do much for students" http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/vouchers-dont-do-much-for-students...
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 26, 2013 10:19 pm
You're really reaching by referring to Friedman, since "ol' Milton" is a pretty poor authority to be citing, given the abject failure of supply-side economics and the Chicago School's theories when they hit the real world and nearly took our entire economy with them. Citing Milton Friedman on competition does not bolster your case, nor does his advocacy of vouchers, given that he was a free-market fundamentalist who rejected the entire idea of public schools. Plenty of other Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (it's not an actual Nobel prize, but rather one that was created in 1968 by the Sveriges Riksbank and that the family of Alfred Nobel rejects) winners have called Friedman's theories into question (Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and many others) and his adherents are currently scrambling to try and explain why his ideas haven't worked out as promised. It's hardly surprising that he loved vouchers, but that's not a selling point for them nor any evidence of their economic usefulness. Now, on to the rest. It was hardly necessary for me to include the two sentences you quote, since I had already dealt with their contents in the paragraph I wrote just beforehand, i.e., these lines:
They do say that the one-time gain that was seen in Milwaukee schools may have come from a new attention to state testing (i.e., teaching to the test) at the time of the voucher program's expansion, but they also note that no mechanism related to choice and vouchers was found to support this hypothesis and that the momentary gain did not translate into any other improvement or even sustain itself past the year of expansion.
These lines are a paraphrase of the lines you quote and do not change their meaning in any way. Just because I chose to paraphrase as part of my argument does not mean that I am cherry-picking, just that I choose to use my own words as much as practical, especially when I am trying to emphasize a particular part of it, which is that the study rejects the argument from competition based on the traditional mechanisms, which it clearly does. Nor is "choice" in itself either a desirable or an important goal when it comes to educational policy. If it does not serve the ends for which it is proposed, as this study certainly contends is the case, then it is useless. To pursue the idea purely for the ideological goal of providing parents and students the appearance of control (since no voucher program has ever been able to provide more than a limited selection of available schools nor guarantee to parents that they will actually be able to choose the most desirable schools for their children to attend) is simply to destroy a collective responsibility (the provision of good education for all members of the community) in favor of a chimera of individual freedom that undermines the very goal it claims to support by draining that collective good for the benefit of only some of that same community. For someone who doesn't support vouchers, you seem awfully quick to jump to their defense. That you use the tired and discredited arguments of people like Friedman, and appear to favor the dismantling of what was once seen as one of the pillars of our communities and their collective responsibility to all of their citizens makes that claim ring a bit hollow. Vouchers are a disaster for any real effort to have an effective system of public education, and "choice" in this regard is simply a code-word for the same process, even when literal vouchers do not change hands (as in the case of the tax-credit system recently enacted here in Pennsylvania.) The whole idea is just another tool in the hands of those who wish to privatize public education, and that is the only thing that vouchers can actually succeed in doing effectively. You were right, in that regard, when you called me out for saying that vouchers are useless; they are certainly so when it comes to improving public education, but they are quite effective in the effort to destroy it.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 27, 2013 12:34 am
Stewart - Ah, yes, collective responsibility for ALL members of the community versus SOME of the community. Set aside charter, private and parochial schools for a moment and take a good look at the structure of SDP itself. As you know all too well, not all schools are equal in this district. Take a good look at your neighborhood schools (NS) versus special admission (SA) schools versus Promise Academies (P). Therein lies the problem that puts a major dent in your argument against vouchers. Schools like Central, Masterman, SLA, Girls, etc. are Special Admission schools that select their students. No LOTTERY system here. No First Come, First Serve here. Anybody left over gets stuck in a Neighborhood School or somewhere else. It's kinda like applying to the Ivy League. You know that you are good enough to get into the Ivy League, but you end up at community college. How would you feel if it was your child? Life is not fair, but education should be fair, more like equal. Face it Stewart, but SDP has a tiered system of education. Not ALL members of the community have access to the best schools, only SOME have access to them. You can apply, but that doesn't mean you will get in. I can stop the debate right there because you and I know that to be true. What about those "chronically failing" schools that were remanufactured over into those Renaissance schools? Ask yourself one question, is SDP structured to some or to all? IMHO, the school district is structured to some, which goes against your argument. It has already determined the haves and the have nots. Winners and losers? Don't get me wrong, we all want winners. Vouchers allow the "have nots" in this school district to opt out. It is the central premise of the voucher system to allow those students trapped (that operative word) in these schools. Public education is destroying itself within, kinda like the Roman Empire. It was crumbling long before we ever heard of PSP, charter schools, vouchers, high stakes testing, reformers, etc. If public education was succeeding in this city, you would have never heard of those items. After all, that is why you are hearing about them now. Quo Vadis => Whitier Goest Thou? Good Night !!!!!!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 28, 2013 8:57 am
Competition works. Monopoly does not. Even a Keynesian clown like Krugman would admit to that.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 25, 2013 5:21 pm
Anonymous - As background, I went to catholic grade school and finished up in public schools 30+ years ago. So, I know both worlds. In my opinion, based upon my experience, I found the catholic schools to be far superior than public schools with curriculum and standards. I sent my kids to catholic schools. I still have one in the system. I do NOT like vouchers. Although I do believe in public education as a public good, it's not like it used to be, particularly in the urban areas. The last thing I want is the government to be messing around in a catholic grade school with their curriculum, standards, mandates and high stakes testing. They've done enough damage. Contrary to what most people on this blog know, but voucher programs have been upheld as CONSTITUTIONAL by the SCOTUS on MULTIPLE occasions. Don't get me wrong, I understand the voucher crowd and where they are coming from. I would love to see more kids in religious schools whether they are Catholic, Christian, Lutheran, Muslim, Jewish, etc. It's a choice. BTW, catholic grade school and high school teachers are union. Yes. They are members of a union. I found that they do work closely with administration and parents.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2013 5:56 pm
Can you clarify the union that represents catholic grade school teachers? I was not aware of this.
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on October 27, 2013 3:35 pm
I too went all through Catholic elementary and high school. I found it to be the worst education ever! I was completely unprepared for college and had to take an extra year because of all of the extra classes I had to take because I didn't have the basics.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2013 5:07 pm
I'll bet you wouldn't talk that way if the money was spent on Muslim schools. There are many religions besides the Catholics who would love this tax money to forward their own agenda. Catholic schools helped to cripple public education in Philadelphia by skimming off the cream of those kids and sending their behavior and special ed problems to the public sector for the past 50 or 60 years. Parents who might have been involved in public education, otherwise, were not and this dual system set up by the Catholics made for a loss in the city of human resources and talent. Look at every major city where education has disintegrated and you will see evidence of this dual system in their past. In fact, many of the first charter schools were located in Detroit Catholic schools, without religion classes during the regular school day.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2013 6:43 pm
Many charters have ties to religious congregations and/or individuals. Walter Palmer is just the tip of the iceberg.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 27, 2013 8:31 pm
I don't have a problem with Muslim schools. It appears you do. Sad, very sad.
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 25, 2013 3:59 pm
An once again, the PSP and Kristen Forbriger are giving us all a lesson in how to distort with (incomplete and questionable) data. Her assertion of the effectiveness of UE based on the use of the Walton Foundation-funded OneApp process in the New Orleans districts (both RSD and OPSD) is a very interesting example:
Universal enrollment does not make choices for students. Students choose schools and rank them in order of preference, and universal enrollment uses software to attempt to give every student the highest possible match. In New Orleans, 84 percent of students receive one of their top three choices, and 99 percent receive one of their top five choices.
This is a highly deceptive set of figures. The 84% number given their first choice actually only applies to students entering kindergarten and rising 9th graders and is for the 1st round of placement, not the entire process which consisted of three rounds for the 2012-2013 school year (there are no 2013-2014 number available yet.) The figure for all other students was 76% for the first round, except for pre-K applicants, which was only 68%. The figures that Kathy is citing are not what she claims them to be. But even the correct figures do not tell the whole story, since many parents (a majority in many grades) did not complete the applications for round 1 (only about 50% of rising 9th graders, who had the best results, filed applications, for instance.) Once past round 1, many of the most desirable schools had filled their quotas and were not available to be listed as a selection for rounds 2 and 3 applications (which are separate from the round 1 applications) and included students who did not take part in round 1 and thus had no chance to list the top schools as choices at all. Even with the more limited options in round 2, only 61.9% were matched to their first choice, and 23.8% were not matched to a top-three choice. Things get even worse in round 3, when there are even fewer schools available to choose. In the end, a large percentage of students did not get to make any real choice at all, but were assigned to the remaining schools on the basis of available seats and other unknown criteria, but not (by policy) based on geographical proximity. It was a process that claimed to offer choice to all parents but practically eliminated even the choice of a neighborhood school for as many as half of them. If you really want the complete run-down on just how much of a disaster this process was in New Orleans, take a look at the
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 25, 2013 4:40 pm
It seems that my last comment was cut off a bit, so I'll add the end here. The
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 25, 2013 4:09 pm
And, it seems, the comment system does not know how to handle links correctly, even though it handles other kinds of html tag. Oh well. Here is the link to Mercedes Schneider's article on UE in the New Orleans districts. http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/new-orleans-parental-choice-an... You'll have to cut-and-paste it into the address bar to check it out, but it's well worth it since she is not only a Louisiana teacher, but is also a statistician.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on October 28, 2013 7:56 am
If this "success" is founded on families ranking choices, then there is a fundamental flaw, because some choices are equally desired by students. A system where they are given just one choice based on a forced ranking, is an easy iteration. But one based on realistic choosing, is not. Yes, there needs to be a master application, but this system sounds more problematic than the one the District currently uses for its own schools. Speaking of which, itself is a system not even completely understood/transparent. What is wrong with adding charter choices to the system the District currently has? An important feature it should also have, which I see no mention of, is a tally of what students/families first/preferred choices are. It would clear up which seats truly should be expanded based on demand.
Submitted by Lana Weinstein (not verified) on October 25, 2013 3:38 pm
Kristen, I'm sorry, you are off on here. How can you defend this process--even if you defend this idea. The groups are not open to the public, it is not acceptable for a district that has 80+% of students eligible for free and reduced lunch to require a fee of any kind. I have not, ever been invited to a meeting to give feedback or input--there is NO community engagement for someone like me. I know that confidentiality clauses are required for the working group. I know that ELC had to fight for the one measely seat that they have. I know that the utilization rate in New Orleans is low and that right now, there are students unable to get into a school. Likewise for Denver. If it walks like a duck . . .
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on October 25, 2013 5:18 pm
"The Compact Working Group on universal enrollment is not a private entity, but rather a working group consisting of school operators, representatives of the School District, education nonprofits, and a student advocacy organization. It is an advisory group only. The working group has sought and received parent feedback on universal enrollment over the past six months in a number of venues. It has also sought and received feedback from school leaders, community and faith-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and other education leaders. Before implementation by the District, a vote by the School Reform Commission would likely be required, which in turn would require additional public discussion." The opposite of private, in this context, is public, not "working". We still don't know who that student group is. No mention of parents, teachers or community members. I don't know when PSP has sought feedback on UE or how. I attended a meeting last year at Temple that I happened to find out about a few days before which had representatives from Education Voters and PSP; it was more of a sales pitch than an informational session. I don't know of any others, and if there were some, they were not announced on either PSP's or the district's website. Who does the advisory group advise? A vote by the SRC would likely be required? For those of us who attend SRC meetings and wade through the pages of resolutions, this is a a joke. At the last SRC meeting, I asked a question about two programs which were funded by Gates/PSP, and I was told that it was not the right time to ask the question. There have been numerous grants/contracts funded by PSP, including one for "recruitment of senior staff" and one for principal training, which have been rubber-stamped by the SRC without any discussion or explanation. The point is, to put it crudely: butt out. We don't want private, corporate funded organizations deciding which schools are funded and how much, who gets hired at administrative levels or which schools our students will attend.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 10:48 pm
We don't want private organizations interfering in public education. You mean, like the union? Specifically, the private union staff who have office in 440 to oversee the public employees there?
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on October 26, 2013 2:59 pm
In case you've forgotten, the PFT is those public employees themselves collected together by their own consent and pulling from their own ranks those who will do the work of representing them as a body. PFT staffers do not in any way "oversee" their members and have no authority or ability at all to manage anyone. They are there to provide services to their members that those members have chosen to have their union take care of for them. They exercise what little say they have in the running of the district because they are public employees directly involved in that public entity. The PSP and the other members of the Compact Working Group are not public employees at all, have no legal or legitimate connection to the district, and thus have no right or authority to have any say above and beyond that of every other citizen. But they do, especially since most citizens without their money and connections has no say whatsoever in how the district is run. If they want, as people not employed by the district, to have a say, they should be fighting to return the district to local control and an elected school board that would be answerable to all the citizens of Philadelphia. But they are not; they are using the influence of their money and connections to subvert rather than to support a public institution and to subject it to the whims of a privileged few who are answerable to no one.
Submitted by ConcernCitizen (not verified) on October 29, 2013 5:58 pm
Lisa, YOU butt out. Bad news: you don't get to pick and choose who participates in public dialogue. You bucket anyone who doesn't agree with you as "private, corporate funded organizations." Newsflash: our city, our country, and our world all function BETTER because of competition and the efficiencies created by corporations. Cite ONE way the District operates in the most efficient way possible. Literally ONE WAY. Good luck, because it doesn't exist. "Private, corporate funded organizations" aren't the enemy here. Teachers and students ALIKE need more efficient use of limited resources (something corporations do FAR better than the public sector every time), leadership, and guidance. Stop your nonsense. It's divisive. It's disgusting. And you're getting in the way of kids getting the resources they need to learn, grow, and thrive in Philadelphia.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on October 29, 2013 8:29 pm
Concerned Citizen, I winced my way through your corporate cheer, thinking of the savings and loan debacle and the banking disaster. Clearly there's a bit more to the corporate story than the self-denying efficiency you invoke. Students need to learn to make more efficient use of resources? Now we're blaming our underfunded students for their inefficient use of resources? Could you give me specific examples? I'd love to meet some of the students in the SDP who have been given enough resources to have anything to spare. Waste is largely a matter of abundance, and I haven't seen anything approaching abundance in the SDP in my decades in the system. A sufficiency of resources would be a monumental step forward for us. It's ridiculous for teachers to be underpaid so that the top 1% reaps more profit. It's even more ridiculous to say that students should be tightening their belts.
Submitted by ConcernCitizen (not verified) on October 30, 2013 10:07 am
I never called for "students" to tighten their belts - no way. Philadelphia students are SEVERELY under resourced. No one disagrees with that, especially not me. The DISTRICT needs to be more efficient in its use of our limited resources. And, yes, I can be VERY specific with my examples. Let's look at the inefficient distribution of resources at two vastly unequal schools and the allocation of the most valuable resource: teachers. Alcorn: In 2011-12, the average base salary at Alcorn was $56k per teacher (http://www.openpagov.org/k12_payroll.asp). Assuming 40% benefits (this is probably over-generous, but I’m being conservative), the average salary & benefits was $78k per teacher. They had to purchase teachers for $92k each. The ACTUAL cost for teachers’ salaries and benefits was $2.7mm. However, Alcorn had to pay $3.2mm for these resources through the District budgeting process. $500k was left on the table (stolen from, if you ask me) for the highest need kids in the city. Looking at the same for Meredith: In 2011-12, the average base salary at Meredith was $72k per teacher. Assuming 40% benefits (this is probably over-generous, but I’m being conservative), the average salary & benefits was $101k per teacher. They got to purchase teachers for $92k each. The ACTUAL cost for teachers’ salaries and benefits was $2.5mm. However, they only had to pay $2.3mm for these resources. Meredith experienced a $200k net gain based on these budgeting practices. Tell me how that makes sense. Tell me how that's fair to our Alcorn kids and other kids who need extra supports to succeed academically. Finance matters. Money matters. Ignoring that fact does a huge disservice to the kids in our city.
Submitted by tom-104 on October 29, 2013 9:37 pm
Why is it that schools in wealthy districts operate "in the most efficient way possible"? The problem in all urban school districts is that they have a large number of low income families. Add to this, in Philadelphia our School District has been (mis)managed by the state since 2001. The Philadelphia schools have been systematically starved of resources to build up charters, especially in the last five years. The District is like a medieval village that has been surrounded and under siege for years and now the corporate raiders such as Great Schools Compact and Philadelphia School Partnership are invading for the kill. What we will be left will be a return to separate but unequal which will create an even more severe caste system in this country. We can't "butt out" because this is our community. We live here and we do not accept the world corporate education reform is trying to force on us!
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on October 29, 2013 10:52 pm
tom-104 - It's a matter of scale. SDP is too large of a school district to manage efficiently. SDP was so poorly mismanaged that the state had to step in and take it over. It didn't work prior to 2001. From what I've seen, it already exists, there are the haves and then there are the have nots.
Submitted by tom-104 on October 29, 2013 10:32 pm
That's not why the state took over. The School District was making progress under Constance Clayton. When the state took over, they immediately tried to turn many of the schools over to Edison Schools. When this privatization plan failed, they went back to the drawing board and eventually came up with Imagine 2014.
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on October 29, 2013 11:04 pm
And you are....?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 30, 2013 10:23 am
ConcernCitizen, I assume you have a name so why not use it? Not using your name makes me think you have something to hide. Calling people names is a smokescreen. I have to wonder whose interests you represent and why you are so unwilling to be identified. Karel Kilimnik
Submitted by Deborah Grill (not verified) on October 30, 2013 1:26 pm
To Concerned Citizen, "You don't get to pick and choose who participates in public dialogue." But that is exactly what private, corporate funded organizations do. PSP's board meetings are not open to the public. The Great School Compact meetings, which they manage, are not open to the public. When public institutions are privatized, the public dialogue is left out or seriously controlled. The district has already started to operate this way. The meetings concerning the proposed school evaluation system were canceled when the parents who attended the first meeting voiced their concerns over assigning a grade to schools who have little resources. When the meetings were rescheduled, the district hid public notice of them on a page of on their website that was not easy to find and sent out invitations to selected groups on very short notice. SRC resolutions are not open to public comment until the night they are voted on. "Our city, our country, and our world all function better because of competition and efficiencies created by corporations." Really? Tell that to the people who lost their savings, their houses, their jobs since the 2008 financial meltdown orchestrated by private banking institutions. Our schools do not need this efficient corporate model.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 25, 2013 10:12 pm
Helen has become a hater. As a long time teacher in Philly, we need a simple system that allows all children access. Maybe she doesn't want the children I teach having access to the charter school her kids go to.
Submitted by Helen Gym on October 26, 2013 1:55 am

Is this the new model of defending arguments? Employ posts supposedly written by anonymous teachers? Email me directly if you want a real dialogue. I'll be waiting but I suspect like the posters on the original page that this has nothing to do with seeking understanding.

Submitted by tom-104 on October 26, 2013 8:48 am
Interesting how the spreaders of corporate ed disinformation are being exactly what they accuse others of being.
Submitted by please (not verified) on October 26, 2013 9:04 am
Someone who criticizes PSP, and is able to refute every one of their arguments with facts and research, is a hater? They're getting desperate. Their little party, with the Governor as the guest of honor, is over.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on October 27, 2013 1:56 pm
According to Noam Chomsky, the tactics of the corporate elite is exactly what happened in Germany, setting the stage for the Nazi takeover. We all know how that turned out. Please don't be dumb enough to think it couldn't happen. These folks have shown how cold blooded they are, deliberately setting up and starving the real schools, hurting our kids in the process and then blaming everything on the PFT who have the audacity to demand livable benefits and wages. ALL of these "Austerity" tactics are designed to create Apartheid between the citizenry. ALL people of conscience need to band together and fight this fascism. A poster yesterday, whom we shall call, "Sweetpants," recommended I go back into retirement. It made a good point and I shall..........................at least for now.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on October 27, 2013 6:02 pm
"Also note that universal enrollment is a goal of the Great Schools Compact, which was signed by Mayor Nutter, the School District, charter and Catholic school leaders, and the state secretary of education. Philadelphia School Partnership serves as project manager to the Compact Committee, which includes representatives from all of these." Yes, and that is the problem. None of the parties mentioned above have the children's best interest at heart, nor do they include parents and teachers. Again, politics trumps the parents' obvious sense of investment and right to make decisions for their children - and educators expertise in the best way to educate our youth.
Submitted by Dennis Parker (not verified) on June 4, 2014 4:34 am
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