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PhillySchoolApp site debuts

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 8, 2013 07:32 PM

A new website called PhillySchoolApp launched Friday, the first step in what eventually could be an overhaul in how students apply to high schools and to charter schools in the city.

Despite the name, the site is not yet itself an "app." For now it describes itself as "an online resource for applying to Philadelphia K-12 schools." 

It includes the District's high school application form, as well as a new common application for charter schools that so far is being accepted by 30 charters, including 11 high schools, and a Catholic school application form, allowing a student to select up to three city or suburban Archdiocesan schools.

The application process is not online, however. Anyone using the site must print out the application forms and send them to the relevant places. 

The initiative is backed by the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, although that information is not on the site. In general, the site is still pretty bare-bones, with not much information besides the applications themselves and no live links to other online sources about high school options. It doesn't advertise the upcoming High School Fair, which will be held on Nov. 16.

The site gives brief descriptions of each sector of schools -- District, charter, and Archdiocesan. It does not note that, for students applying to selective District schools, there are separate admissions pools for students in special education or learning English. It also doesn't flag which selective District schools have additional requirements as part of their applications, including essays, interviews, or auditions.

The Philadelphia School Partnership, which staffs the Great Schools Compact, touted the launch in a mass email, calling it "a big step to make the application process easier for families." It said that the site would be tweaked based on parent and student feedback.

The District, charter, and Archdiocesan applications follow a similar format but differ in some ways beyond listing a different set of schools. For instance, the Archdiocesan application asks the student for information about any history of suspensions or expulsions, while the District's application asks simply, "Have you ever been expelled from a school?" The charter application does not broach that subject.

Despite the move to a similar application form and a common deadline of Dec. 6 for those using the application, the process for applying to schools has not changed in other respects. For instance, a student using the common application for multiple charters must still submit a separate form to each charter school.

PSP head Mark Gleason has said that the Compact's goal is to move Philadelphia to a universal enrollment system in which students would use a single form to apply to up to 10 schools and would be matched to a single school by an algorithm as a way to make it more fair. Ultimately, under PSP's plan -- which has generated controversy -- the matching process would be taken out of the District's hands and run by an entity called PhillySchoolApp.  Originally, the intent was to make PhillySchoolApp fully operative this year, but the District decided not to participate.

PSP is also reaching out to charter schools to use the common application. Of the 30 schools that have so far agreed, most are run by organizations that operate several charters, including Mastery, KIPP, Young Scholars, and String Theory. Few independent charters have so far signed up.

Comments (48)

Submitted by Helen Gym on November 8, 2013 10:04 pm

For clarity, the PhillySchoolApp website is owned by Mark Gleason. Philadelphia School Partnership was asked on twitter whether there was an independent entity running Philly School App, and they could not say that there was. So effectively PSP which staffs the Compact is running Philly School App - of which there is zero mention. I find it deeply troubling that the Compact and PSP have both been challenged about a complete lack of transparency on their actions. Their next step? PhillySchoolApp which completely masks their role and ultimate intent as presented in a City Council briefing.

Since this mention is buried in the story: PSP seeks to privately control student enrollment and placement (with a per pupil fee and backdoor vouchers included): http://thenotebook.org/blog/136578/philadelphia-schools-partnership-pushes-private-management-student-placement

PSP as lobbyists for potentially expanding voucher programs that enrich their own board members: http://thenotebook.org/blog/136579/how-universal-enrollment-highlights-psp-expanded-role

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on November 9, 2013 8:29 am
This is another example of Phila. School so-called "Partnership" using their vast resources (financial, political, etc.) to create "facts on the ground." This is not about so called "high performing seats" nor improving public school access in Philadelphia. It is about the Board / Funders / Supporters of PSP usurping the power and role of a public institution through privatization.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 9, 2013 2:33 pm
PPT, I've never seen anything like this, a private entity that's about 3 years old just creeping around and taking over the functions of a public school district. They have an application for the District-run schools, but the District didn't even agree to being a part of the system. It's galling. What I'm wondering is, WHO IS GOING TO PUT A STOP TO THIS? Except for special ed, the District is pretty much cannibalizing itself, but this is also because non-profits like the PSP and some unruly charter schools and charter management organizations are eating the District alive, taking advantage of the severity of budget cuts. EGS
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on November 9, 2013 2:16 pm
Agreed. Just like the High School Fair, instead of the District running the Fair the so called "Partnership" is calling the shots because it has money. This fits the agenda of the privateers - not the public. The fact Catholic schools are included - not all sectarian schools - adds to the questionable motivation of the PSP. (I don't agree with any sectarian schools being included / receiving public funding but that is a larger issue.) It is Gleason and Company stripping a public responsibility from a public institution. Cojones without ethics - the mantra of Gleason and the PSP.
Submitted by carlyewithane (not verified) on November 9, 2013 5:04 pm
The high school expo was cancelled. It's not run by PSP "instead of the district". This year, it's being run by PSP, GreatPhillySchools, and a large number of other organizations (http://phillyhighschoolfair.com/) completely and totally in response to the district cancelling the fair. All schools were invited to attend and given the same opportunity to do so. The district will be in attendance, with tables to provide information on their CTE programs, enrollment, and special services.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 7:49 am
carlyewithane, Admissions and school assignment is a CORE FUNCTION of the School District of Philadelphia. The District didn't have the money to run the fair because of severe budget cuts to the District, which are happening because of policies that the PSP is promoting. Mastery Charter Schools opened two new schools WITHOUT public oversight: Mastery Charter Prep and Mastery CS Thomas Elementary. PSP and Mastery Charter Schools are in bed together. Wake up and smell the coffee. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 9, 2013 6:05 pm
"They have an application for the District-run schools, but the District didn't even agree to being a part of the system." No, they have a copy of the District's application form. They did not make their own application and usurp the District.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 8, 2013 10:19 pm
Helen, Thank you for doing the due diligence on PhillySchoolApp. I had never before heard of Network-Tools.com. I raised these very issues about transparency in my follow-up comment to Kristen Forbriger's response to my comment on the article "Resources to help with choosing a high school" (http://thenotebook.org/blog/136620/resources-help-choosing-high-school). Kristen answered some of my questions, but not others. She wrote the following in response to my comment: __ Hi, This is the correct contact page (and the one that is visible on the website): https://highschoolfair.squarespace.com/contact Thanks for the heads up about the template page. You can also direct questions about the fair to phillyhighschool(at)gmail.com The School District's office of Specialized Services and the Enrollment Office will have tables at the fair... as well as about a dozen other service providers. In the past, the Fair has been held at various venues. If you -- or others -- have additional questions, please feel free to email me. I don't check the comments often, so it's not the best way to reach me. I'll also be at the fair if you would like to speak in person. kforbriger(at)philaschool.org Thanks, Kristen __ I responded as follows: ___ Hi Kristen, I appreciate your responses. As far as contacting you, I appreciate that you provide your email address. However, doing so does nothing to further the public conversation. Many of us who frequently comment do so in order to further public dialogue on education-related issues. Therefore, asking questions via email is dialogue which, for all intents and purposes, takes place behind closed doors. I'm not interested in dialogue behind closed doors. I care about democracy and fair funding for all schools for all children. This has been my stance even prior to becoming an employee of the School District of Philadelphia. (i've also worked for a charter school organization, by the way.) One issue that numerous people have with the PSP is the lack of public oversight and public involvement. There are fundamental trust issues because your organization does not have frequent opportunities for public involvement, dialogue, and ACCOUNTABILITY, such as open board meetings. As a private organization, PSP is not required to have open board meetings, but that's a fundamental issue. Your organization has a great deal of involvement with PUBLICLY-FUNDED schools, but isn't required to have the same PUBLIC PROCESS as the School District of Philadelphia does. The bottom line is that until PSP becomes more transparent about what it does and the reasons for what it does, there will continue to be a credibility gap and mistrust of your organization. And ultimately, mistrust and a credibility gap hurt your organization. EGS ___ My response to that comment applies to your points as well. Kristen (or other employees of PSP) have previously responded to my comments and the comments of others by providing their email and encouraging me to email them. I've always seen this as beside the point because THIS DIALOGUE SHOULD BE TAKING PUBLICLY. Creating dialogue is the reason why persons like you and I comment on this site in the first place. Helen, please stay persistent in digging up dirt on the PSP and what they are doing. It may take some time to build public awareness and outrage, but eventually, your hard work will pay off. PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE HIDE NOTHING! The PSP has an agenda and information to hide, and that's the bottom line. If they didn't have anything to hide, they would (a) open up their board meetings to the public and (b) be more willing to provide publicly viewable comments. EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 9, 2013 7:59 am
EGS--Everything Helen posted is completely right and of no surprise to anybody who has been following this hostile takeover, replete with overt abuse, corruption and apartheid strategies and goals. Everything you posted is equally true and commendable. BUT, where do we go from here??
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 7:44 am
Joe, Someone needs to sue. I can't sue because I don't have any children. Parents need to take PSP to task and sue over the PhillySchoolApp for privacy reasons. In order for students with disabilities to be a part of the system, there has to be explicit permission from the parent/guardian because the PSP is not an LEA. Educators can help, but we can only do so much. There are direct conflicts between special education laws (IDEIA) and PhillySchoolApp. Parents could sue in state court and can sue or appeal a decision to federal court. People should be pressuring the ELC and PILCOP to take action as well. People also need to speak at the SRC meeting about this. EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 10, 2013 8:15 am
EGS------------------------OK, you're back in my will, just like everybody else.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 8:32 am
Lol, Joe. Your coercive words are a concern. ;)
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 10, 2013 4:03 pm
EGS---Coercive?? "If you submit to tyranny, you serve it." How about, "He who complies with corruption against his will, is of his own opinion still." Bottom line is the strategies so far have not worked and are being scorned. We need to try something else and grow a collective pair in the process.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 5:09 pm
Joe, What I meant by coercive was mentioning your will (the document). EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 10, 2013 6:30 pm
Don't worry, I still love you. I thought you were referring to the will but wasn't sure.
Submitted by Helen Gym on November 9, 2013 10:01 am

I saw your exchange EGS and appreciate your persistence on it!

Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 8, 2013 10:06 pm
Click on the District button and when the list populates, the special admit schools come up at the top, with the neighborhood schools at the bottom. The button for Catholic schools says Parochial. Parochial is not the most accurate term because not all Catholic schools are parish schools. High schools and Mission schools are independent of any parish. Parochial is a way of making it seem less religious.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 9, 2013 12:25 am
That's not true about the district schools, the list is alphabetical.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 9, 2013 4:29 pm
Anonymous, look at the list again. The District-run schools are listed alphabetically UNDER headings for special admission then neighborhood schools, then city-wide admission. Under each heading, the schools are listed alphabetically, but they are not listed alphabetically overall. Additionally, Simon Gratz HS Mastery Charter and Olney HS Aspira Charter are listed under District schools. However, these are both Renaissance schools. So the information in PhillySchoolApp is incorrect. Finally, the District is not participating in PhillySchoolApp. So why are there any schools under District? There should be no participating District schools because the District didn't approve participation. The PSP is disregarding the stance of the District. The PSP is being defiant. Yet many charter schools won't keep kids who are defiant and have other behavior problems. Catholic schools don't generally take kids with behavior problems. EGS
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on November 9, 2013 8:11 am
I thought this was still being decided? Why in the hell is it live before it was approved???
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 9, 2013 11:21 am
Violation after violation after violation............................... so what are we going to do about it ????????????????? Same ol, same ol ?????
Submitted by tom-104 on November 9, 2013 10:49 am
This is a violation of the state constitution. Public School Money Not Available to Sectarian Schools Article 3, 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 Education Grad ... on November 9, 2013 4:26 pm
Who's going to file a lawsuit about this? Corbett and the Legislature aren't going to take PSP to task. Has anyone contacted AG Kathleen Kane about this? Is a lawsuit even a good idea given the conservative bent of the Commonwealth's Supreme Court?
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on November 12, 2013 9:04 am
They get around this with two laws that have NOT YET been challenged in court. One is the Education Improvement Tax Credit Act and the other is the Pennsylvania Opportunity Scholarship Act. These laws were crafted as back door voucher plans, which would not otherwise pass the constitutional smell test. Business leaders like Mark Gleason and Michael O'Neill with the help of state lawmakers from both parties, including voucher advocate Tony Williams and Bill Keller, have used these laws to encourage corporations to donate money to middleman organizations like BLOCS which then forward them to elite private and sectarian schools. The donors can get back 90% of their taxes as credits. It is all legal. Of course, Corbett is in favor of anything that privatizes education.
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on November 9, 2013 2:02 pm
Policies and procedures are being decided behind closed doors. They are being decided by private organizations whose meetings are not open to the public. Why? Because the "public" representatives on the SRC have been shutting us out while opening the doors to them since the SRC signed the Gates Compact--without public notice or discussion--in November 2011. Hate to be a broken record, but this is a threat not only to our public schools but to our democratic system. So, yes, I will say it again: butt out. If you are not elected to nor accountable to anyone, then you have no business usurping the power of the students, teachers, parents and community members in public matters. Lisa Haver Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS)
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 9, 2013 4:37 pm
Lisa, Will you be speaking about the PhillySchoolApp at the upcoming SRC meeting? I'd love to go but really don't have the time with grades and IEPs due. My #1 question is why District schools are listed on the PhillySchoolApp website even though the District said it isn't participating in PhillySchoolApp this year. Also, where is the public notice about the PhillySchoolApp? EGS
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on November 9, 2013 5:37 pm
EGS, I will be there. Anyone who comes to a Monday meeting can speak; you don't have to sign up. As always, I urge anyone who can get there to do so and to ask as many questions as needed to get straight answers. I have found these Monday meetings to be more like infomercials than discussions, especially on matters like blended learning or UE or anything GSC and PSP are trying to sell. I do not know all of the answers to your questions yet, but I will be trying to find out as much as possible this week. I'm not sure what you mean by "public notice"--you mean why was there no discussion at an SRC meeting before they moved to adopt it? That has become par for the course. All of the discussion takes place at GSC/PSP meetings, then a perfunctory vote is taken by the SRC.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 5:16 pm
By public notice, that includes SRC meetings. It also means notice in local newspapers and other news outlets. There should be much more public comment on PhillySchoolApp than what has happened so far. EGS
Submitted by carlyewithane (not verified) on November 9, 2013 2:00 pm
So, right now, this website provides applications to all three school types and allows parents to use the same application for multiple charter operators. That makes it easier on parents to provide information while allowing schools to retain every ability to control what happens after they receive this information. Especially for parents who don't have the resources to sort through all of the complicated application processes, this is a step in the right direction.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on November 9, 2013 2:32 pm
No it isn't!!! It's a goose step towards PSP control of of public schools and away from any kind of equitable education.
Submitted by carlyewithane (not verified) on November 9, 2013 5:34 pm
I'm sorry- how? How is this PSP controlling public schools? It is literally a website with PDFs. PDFs that are available in other places, but now placed in one centralized location for ease of access. I just honestly don't understand the hysteria. Why should only parents with time to comb through the district's horrendous website be able to apply to schools of their choice? It's a bare bones website. With PDFs of applications approved by all relevant school operators. That's it.
Submitted by tom-104 on November 9, 2013 7:50 pm
You are missing the forest for the tree. They are not just a website. They are a corporate funded lobby organization with no connection to Philadelphia which is advancing the privatization of our public schools...and we are not hysterical, just informed!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 5:02 pm
The District's website is not horrendous. The information about charter schools is quite easy to find. It's all here: http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/c/charter_schools/.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 11, 2013 6:13 am
Because the PSP is a "Poverty Pimp"
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 11, 2013 8:50 am
You can say that again! Poverty Pimp is EXACTLY what PSP is!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 9, 2013 4:24 pm
carlyewithane, The School District of Philadelphia said that they will not participate in PhillySchoolApp this year. Yet there is still an application for the District's high schools on the PhillySchoolApp website. Basically, PSP is disregarding the actions of the District. Where is the public notification about PhillySchoolApp? Has the SRC notified the public of this? Think more critically about what is happening. EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 9, 2013 7:20 pm
What needs to happen is a hostile and massive strike. Act 46 MUST be challenged or The PFT will go the way of the unicorn and Peter Pan. They have us surrounded and are starving us out in all directions. Our answer is to do more of the same which of course, is the definition of insanity IF IF IF the goal of the PFT is to exist as a traditional independent union. More and more, I am not nearly so sure that's the goal. Jordan and his folks are smart people so....................?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 11, 2013 9:07 am
Go for it. Probably the only way Corbett wins a second term is by reminding Suburban taxpayers of all the special interests who will have their hands in their pocket in the alternative.
Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on November 12, 2013 2:13 pm
Carylewithane, You're right...if that was all this is. PSP has made their intentions very clear: They will take choice away from parents by pairing your child with 1 school They will use a secret formula to determine the best match They will make a profit off this activity I love the idea of one PDF, listing only basic information, that kids can use for all (non-magnet) schools. But that's not what is on the table.
Submitted by You are all crazy (not verified) on November 9, 2013 7:14 pm
Is there anything you are NOT against?
Submitted by tom-104 on November 9, 2013 9:56 pm
Fully funded public schools...and equality of opportunity for all!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 10, 2013 8:12 am
Education Voters PA has a good description of what a fair, publicly run universal enrollment system looks like. All of the details are on it's website. Can PSP say the same? http://www.educationvoterspa.org/index.php/site/issues/common-enrollment/
Submitted by please (not verified) on November 10, 2013 2:25 pm
The glaring omission is how Education voters is working on PSP with this. The only UE being considered right now is the one being run by PSP. They need to explain whether they are supporting the PSP plan or not.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on November 11, 2013 8:16 am
PSP is not the school district! They are bullies who are force feeding their version of Ed reform down Philly's throat. We don't want it, have decided not to participate in one app yet the voice of the people AND the SRC have been ignored. That is a huge issue not wether or not the PDF's are in one place.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 11, 2013 1:51 pm
I usually agree with you but wrong, the SRC's wishes are not being ignored. The SRC is up to their collective ass in this corruption and hostile takeover. There's not an independent voice in any member of the SRC, including "The Good Cop," Dworsky. The PEOPLE of Phila. are doing themselves no favor by hoping our representatives are on our sides. They side where the money is and it ain't with us.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on November 11, 2013 11:15 pm
I should have clarified - the SRC has voiced the decision not to participate, this year. I know it's not their true intent but hell, the words were published and now PSP has just ignored them, as well as the publics' desire not to have UE. It's a strange twist. Not sure what game they are up to now but time will tell.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 12, 2013 12:19 am
I think The SRC will now play Pontius Pilate for a while. Actually, I didn't know that piece of it. Getting lazier and even dumber than I am usually. Thank you for filling me in. Joe K.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on November 12, 2013 1:11 pm
By the way, the piece about Nutter flying all over the world at taxpayer expense is a microcosm of who he is and has always been. Nutter believes he's better than the people of Phila. and had been raised that way. He's the Captain on the Ship of Fools and guess who the fools are??

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