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New innovative high school gets $2 million from Philadelphia School Partnership

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Updated | 3:50 p.m.

The Philadelphia School Partnership announced Tuesday that it will donate $2.6 million in grant funding in the hopes of aiding the creation of 850 new seats in what it deems high-performing District, charter, and Catholic-run schools.

Building 21, a new District-run high school opening in the fall, will receive most of the funding: $2 million in startup cash over four years.

As a non-selective-admission high school, Building 21 will enroll 150 students into its 9th grade in the fall.

The school, which will be housed in the former Ferguson Elementary School in North Philly, will enroll 60 percent of its student body from those living in surrounding neighborhoods.

The remaining 40 percent of Building 21's seats will be open to citywide admission. All rising 8th graders are invited to apply to the school beginning Monday, March 24.

Building 21 is the brainchild of Laura Shubilla, the former president of Philadelphia Youth Network, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce the city's dropout rate and prepare students for the workforce.

"What I learned from that experience is how important connecting learning to the real world is to high school students," said Shubilla, who has been developing Building 21 as part of her doctoral work at the Harvard School of Education. 

The school will reflect her central educational philosophy: With a stress on project-based "real world" learning, students will be assigned "competencies," and then be given leeway in how they prove their mastery of subject matter.

"High school graduation shouldn't be just be based on credits and courses," she said, "but actually skills and knowledge."

The Philadelphia School District's website describes Building 21's pedagogy this way:

The high school experience focuses on "learner as designer," where students create their own self-paced learning pathways and choose from a variety of instructional opportunities, including blended learning, problem-based learning and experiential learning. Traditional courses are re-organized into "studios" that are based on fields of study, such as journalism, environmental science, and finance. In studios, students have the opportunity to integrate content and apply their skills and knowledge to solve real-world problems.

Students applying to Building 21 must complete a one-page application. Shubilla says the school will keep kids no matter their academic performance.

"We have no plans to kick kids out because of poor academic performance. Our plan is to work with kids to get them where they need to be," she said. "The whole reason we're doing this is to bring kids in who have struggled in some cases and haven't necessarily found their place. We want to create a school where they can really be successful."

In July 2013, PSP announced it would pledge $50,000 to Building 21 for planning and design. That money has already been spent. (Building 21 also received a $100,000 grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges.)

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (26)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 18, 2014 12:09 pm
With the Philadelphia School Partnership, some partners are better off than other partners. Right Mr. Gleason?
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on March 18, 2014 12:48 pm
How does Gleason and PSP have and release the article a full 45 minutes before it is published online at this site?
Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on March 18, 2014 1:35 pm
guess we know why Ferguson was closed last year
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 18, 2014 1:46 pm
Another experiment on Philadelphia students. How does Gleason claim this goes to "high performing seats?" The school has not opened. It is a doctoral research project. It is city wide admission which means there are admission requirements - it is NOT a neighborhood school that has to take everybody.
Submitted by Anon. (not verified) on March 18, 2014 1:37 pm
There are no admissions requirements for the school.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 18, 2014 1:34 pm
Student have to apply. That is an admission requirement. Neighborhood schools must accept ALL students in their catchment. This is NOT a neighborhood school. Just look at the concentration of students with special needs, ELLs, emotional / social issues, records, etc. They are in neighborhood schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 18, 2014 1:49 pm
I am curious as to why they are putting this school in north philly when the northeast is so over crowded, or why not take that money and reinvest it into the district schools that need the resources?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 18, 2014 2:29 pm
Cruz will be the principal. That's why she was brought back from Deleware this year.
Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on March 19, 2014 5:24 am
Wow - now that is interesting....
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 19, 2014 9:22 am
Why is that interesting as in surprising? WE all need to stop being surprised and shocked and start fighting back--support the new caucus and call for action not more "Shockdom," which only plays into the hands of the charter lie folks.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 18, 2014 2:49 pm
Thank god we are expanding predominantly white charter schools with relatively low levels of academically disadvantaged & SPED students! For a minute there, I was worried that that those dollars would go towards improving the education of poor minority kids with no good options...
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 18, 2014 6:42 pm
Philadelphia School Dictatorship is at it again - determining which schools have "high performing seats" and should open / expand and which do not. Last year so-called "liberals" at The Workshop, SLA and Hill Freedman took the money. This year it is "innovative" high schools. Meanwhile, the rest of the schools are starved and condemned by the $235,000/year plus perks Gleason.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 18, 2014 7:26 pm
Simultaneously, Bodine High School has ended its 31 year partnership with the Worlds Affairs Council - not money. It also cut nearly all world language teachers this year. One of the only reasons to go to Bodine is for World Languages - now students only get 2 years. How many other schools area again slashing to the bone while those who will drink at the Phila. School Dictatorships fountain are getting fat? Public schools must be funded with PUBLIC money - not the handouts of hedge fund operators.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on March 18, 2014 7:46 pm
The very definition of Stupidity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. How many trendy educational experiments designed by outside geniuses has Philadelphia tried and all have failed. This one will be different because we are how much smarter?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 18, 2014 8:32 pm
I HATE the phrase "high-performing seats" or the implication that some schools contain seats which are "high-performing" and other schools do not contain such seats. Seats do not perform. Students perform (or not). Teachers perform (or not). Administrators, support staff, and other humans perform (or not). Some schools have systems in place (such as pre-screening students), people in place (staff and volunteer parents), and resources in place (such as donations from outside sources) that make it easier for performance to happen. Other schools do not.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 19, 2014 3:04 am
Amen!
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 19, 2014 11:20 am
So, do naysayers actually read? From Mr. McCorry's article: "All teachers hired for these three (Bldg 21, U School, LINC (all btw in North Philly, which needs additional resources)) schools will be members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and will enjoy all benefits of whatever contract terms are active at the time of hiring. 100 percent of the teaching staff will be chosen through the site selection process." Something wrong with that? Come on conspiracy theorists, keep fueling the pain...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2014 12:46 pm
The PFT is becoming a company union. PSP has no problem working with them. It's what happens to unions under authoritarian regimes. http://tinyurl.com/yqfhtm
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on March 19, 2014 12:16 pm
Ms. Cheng, as Jordan stated a few years ago with regard to Ackerman and 440: "THey have a credibility problem." The same language was used in 2010 with the first few "Promise Academies". What they say and that they do are two completely different turkeys. Last year, Hite repeated the narrative many times that no jobs would be lost as a result of the closed buildings. The School District violates Pennsylvania School Code on the daily. I am willing to bet that Hite, who arrived from Virginia by way of the Broad Foundation, does not even have a copy of the State Code- he farms those "interpretations" to others. You are an absolute naive fool if you do not believe that the PSP and the hired guns of Hite/Ackerman are here to do two things: destroy the Union and privatize the schools.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 19, 2014 1:35 pm
Teachers hired for the new high schools will be just like the Workshop school - NOT people who have been laid off or are District employees but people brought in from outside. Hite did the same thing with principals. You can't tell me there is no talent within the District. This gives Hite/SRC/Gleason (who is running the show) a chance to do a round around the contract.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2014 1:57 pm
Are there still teachers laid off? Specifically in the major content areas? I know there are quite a number of counselors still laid of. Will they be eligible? Will the new schools be allowed to pick their counselor off the street when there are still many at home?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2014 5:22 pm
I think so, I was called back three weeks ago as an English teacher.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2014 5:49 pm
There are still laid off social studies teachers.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 19, 2014 4:07 pm
So, how does this apply to the creation of these particular schools, and in North Philly? If PFT teachers are hired, how exactly are these schools going to destroy the union? The kids they would enroll would more likely have been charter students, the ones whose parents take the time to listen for opportunities and to apply. How does that privatize the SDP? All that you do by being convinced that the only goals are destroying the union and privatizing, is you do not look at what is being tried. You close your eyes, and shut yourself in a dark closet (all things that education is supposed to work against). Where were the teachers when they had a chance to propose a teacher run "achievement network"? Yes, I know, very few actually read the BCG's summary proposal posted on the SDP's website. Obviously, closing schools was downsizing - there was no way to disguise that. The FMP even stated that "unused capacity" included personnel. Finally, I understand how seniority protects level of pay, but there must be a better way to do this. Right now, if you have a junior teacher who is putting more into his/her work than a senior one, and you have declining enrollment in addition (which is what is not taken into account in the State law), then you will lose the junior teacher to the detriment of the students. Also, how cynical to believe that teachers are hired based solely on their salary cost to a school. Perhaps in a system where there's no reliable way to evaluate a teacher, but here's where private/true competition would prove that belief wrong. A good teacher is worth "his/her weight in gold". Students of private music and dance teachers know this well. You've got this hiring proposal in writing then- I would keep a record of it.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 19, 2014 9:26 pm
Ms. Cheng, Could you provide a link to the BCG report or a place where I could find it? I don't dispute your contention that the report mentioned teacher-led achievement networks. I have a hard time understanding how this would have worked logistically. I would think that there would have to be an administrator who is ultimately in charge of an achievement network, just as an Assistant Superintendent is in charge of each of the District's Learning Networks. EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 19, 2014 9:47 pm
HOW CAN THE PSP SAY THAT BUILDING 21 IS A SCHOOL WITH "HIGH-PERFORMING SEATS" WHEN THE SCHOOL ISN'T EVEN OPEN YET? Another question I have is how this school will accommodate students with IEPs. Will this school be set up to serve students who receive Emotional Support, Autistic Support, Life Skills Support, and/or Multiple Disabilities Support services? Will there be services for students who need Hearing Support services or Vision Support services? Or will the aforementioned students with IEPs who require a higher level of services continue to be served primarily in neighborhood high schools?

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