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City, District move to improve services for students involved with child welfare

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 10, 2014 03:31 PM

The city and School District are moving to provide more intense and coordinated services for nearly one in five city students -- 17 percent -- who have been involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice system, officials said Tuesday.

They plan to place 27 additional social workers in schools that serve high numbers of these students, work harder to coordinate community-based services for them and their families, and provide attendance officers to keep track of absentees, said Karyn Lynch, the School District's chief of student support services. 

The officials released a report showing that these students need special education services at much higher rates than their peers and that their outcomes -- attendance, test scores, grade promotion, and graduation rates -- are poorer.

However, it also found that students in these categories who attend more selective District schools or charters tend to do better, mirroring the outcomes of their peers in these schools.

"We're going to try to get them into the best placement for each individual student," Lynch said. "We don’t want them to take the default school -- we want them to be actively involved in selecting where they will attend. We are working together to identify a system and processes that will do just that."

The report found that these students are geographically dispersed across the city, but are concentrated now in neighborhood high schools and alternative schools, rather than special admission schools or charters. 

Nearly half the city's high schools, or 47 percent, have either at least 100 of these students, or have more than 20 percent of their students in this category. For some smaller schools, both are true. 

This creates "urgent challenges" for these schools.

"It is important to point out that it is also possible that the resources of such schools fall short of what is available in many Traditional Charter, Special Admission, and Citywide Schools, thus enhancing the risk for continued disparity in educational achievement," the report notes. "Regardless of the underlying causes, understanding and acknowledging this disparity can allow [the Department of Human Services] and [the School District] to effectively provide resources to meet the needs of students with child welfare and juvenile justice histories."

The report studied several thousand students during the 2011-12 school year and did a more thorough follow-up, called a "quality service review," with 11 of them to delve deeper into their histories and the factors that effected their outcomes. It was jointly produced by the District, DHS, the Philadelphia Youth Network and the Policy Lab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Poor educational outcomes of youth involved with these systems can be due to many factors, but are likely influenced by exposure to adverse childhood experiences including poverty, toxic stress, and trauma," the report said. "Given the complex needs of youth involved with various public systems, it is imperative for information sharing to take place among professionals serving these youth to ensure that services are aligned, adequate, and appropriate."

The report notes that there has been some improvement over the years in the continuing effort to improve communication and coordination between different systems and agencies in order to improve services, but concludes that "due to barriers such as limitations in capacity, inconsistent levels of knowledge regarding policies and procedures, and concerns about privacy, cross-system information sharing often does not occur."

The report found that as students get older, the likelihood of coming into contact with these systems increases. Fully 20 percent of high school students have had DHS or juvenile justice involvement, the report found.

For both students who have never been involved and those who have been involved in these systems, proficiency rates on the PSSA test decline between 8th and 11th grade. But for students with DHS or juvenile justice contact who attend traditional charter schools, proficiency rates increase between those two grades, bucking the trend. 

But relatively few students with this background attend charters or special admission District schools.

This effort will "place services where needed to serve the largest number of students," said Lynch, "but also individualize the process for students so that they know their opportunities and are seeking the best opportunities" for K-12 education.

 

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Comments (18)

Submitted by Mayday (not verified) on June 10, 2014 4:44 pm
27 social workers and an unspecified number of "attendance officers" - and how exactly will they be paid? From the blood of the hundreds of teachers facing layoff? Oh, I see. Fewer teachers, fewer counselors, but more social workers and truancy workers. This is a reactive stance. Let's throw 40 kids in every class, further decimate the ranks of school counselors, and then pay social workers to figure out why these kids aren't succeeding. Eejits. I work with many young foster children. What they need most at school are caring teachers and counselors who are not too overburdened and harassed to give these students the individual attention and skill-building they require to overcome their circumstances and build resilience and self-esteem.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 6:20 pm
Really, hire attendance officers and 27 social workers? Many of the counselors Hite laid off last June ARE also social workers. The SDP administration reacts instead of being proactive. I hope they at least look into the credentials of the counselors that now have no jobs, and no unemployment benefits before they hire social workers. Just today another school shooting, this one in Oregon. We don't need counselors in our schools. Instead let's give Charters $100 million more than they need for Special Education services they are not providing. The SRC is the most EPIC fail in the SDP's history. SRC, you may be able to look yourself in the mirror someday if you resign now!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 10, 2014 9:57 pm
Why haven't there been more social workers or school counselors in schools? Are the attendance officers going to be like the School Improvement Support Liaisons (SISLs)? Are the social workers going to be contracted or be SDP employees?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 11, 2014 1:16 am
Well it's about time. Title I money really belongs to Social Service providers. Strategically place these kids too, and there's the answer to all the complaints about "creaming" and apartheid.
Submitted by Notebook reader (not verified) on June 11, 2014 8:44 am
"Default schools" (Lynch's term) -- is that what we're now calling our traditional neighborhood schools?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2014 9:49 am
So a California judge has ruled that teacher tenure is unconstitutional and hurts poor and minority students by keeping incompetent teachers on the job. Expect more challenges to tenure in other states. http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/10/justice/california-teacher-tenure-lawsuit/
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 11, 2014 10:43 am
Before we play whisper down the lane and misstate what the California Court said and the actual meaning of its ruling, we should try to understand that ruling. It will be misconstrued over and over again for political gain. I read the actual Court Opinion this morning. The California court DID NOT rule that teacher tenure is unconstitutional at all. It ruled that California's "Permanent Employment Statute" is unconstitutional because it does not provide adequate procedures to protect neither teacher rights nor student rights. It also ruled that its Dismissal Statute and its LIFO laws were similarly unconstitutional. It was based on California state law and is Not Applicable to any other state nor any federal forum. It is also not a very well reasoned or intellectually detailed opinion at all. It is obviously a politically based and politically influenced opinion. I find it scary because it relies, not on facts, but on questionable studies and the personal opinions of self acclaimed experts as if their singular personal opinions were fact. You can read the actual Opinion here: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/court-decision-in-verga...
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on June 11, 2014 3:27 pm
thank you for the clarification!
Submitted by Publius1788 (not verified) on June 11, 2014 6:54 pm
Dear Sir, I found Judge Rolf M. Trey’s ruling well-reasoned, detailed, and compelling. In thirty or forty years the Vergara ruling may be used in the same sentence or paragraph with the Brown v Board of Education ruling. This is just as much a civil rights case as “Brown” was. He wrote, “. . . both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily and for no legally cognizable reason (let alone a compelling one) disadvantaged by the current Permanent Employment Statute.” You are correct that the ruling did not say tenure was unconstitutional. He did rule that the current tenure rules are unconstitutional. He indicated that the California Legislature could address this by delaying tenure to after 5 years. (Based on expert testimony from the teachers union.) You are correct that this ruling applies only to California but many states have similar wording in their Constitutions and similar silly tenure rules in their schools; therefore, it is reasonable to believe similar challenges are in the future. I have personal experience with outrageous teacher protections in the State of California. Two of my children were subjected to incompetent teachers, protected by their union and the rules of the state. I had the resources to overcome this; many parents in Los Angeles and elsewhere (Philadelphia?) do not. Based on my seven years of experience with California educators, I find the honorable judge was correct when he wrote, “There is no dispute that there are significant numbers of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” In my mind this is child abuse and because it effects children of color more; it is a civil-rights case. Sincerely, Publius 1788
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 11, 2014 8:26 pm
Just for the record, an attorney colleague of mine looked up some lawyer opinions of the quality of the judge from California. A few said he was a good judge and others said he was a lunatic. Expect the decision to be appealed. A lot of stupid decisions come out of LA. This case was financed by out of staters who have an agenda of destroying worker rights. As to incompetent teachers, in our state it is very easy to remove incompetent teachers. I have removed a few in my time, and counseled out many more. All in a very professional and dignified manner. One woman who I ushered out the door even said to me, "At least you do it humanely." I took that as a compliment. And I assure you that I had the full support of the teachers in the school. And the respect of the PFT leadership, too.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 11, 2014 10:24 pm
Rich, I know that the issue about the California law is off topic with regard to the child welfare services. However, I would appreciate your opinion as to why relations among administrators and teachers are often so combative and uncomfortable. - Is this a situation which has existed for decades? - Is it a relatively new phenomenon which started with the superintendency of Paul Vallas, whom you mention frequently? - Do you believe that the amount of teaching experience that an administrator has influences how he/she deals with teachers and other staff persons? I ask this because perhaps an administrator who has more experience teaching would have more empathy for teachers and other staff persons. EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 12, 2014 7:56 am
These are great questions, and of course I will try to give you an honest answer. There were always some autocratic administrators who created adversarial and combative relationships with teachers and some regional superintendents did so with principals, too. However prior to the mid 1990's, they were not the favored administrative style and that was not the prevalent culture within the district. Schools were considered families and if a large number of teachers left a school, it was widely considered a "problem with leadership." However, that began to change in the mid 1990's as the "culture of adversarialism" began to infect the district. In 2001, I wrote a position paper to Deidre Farmbry, the superintendent at that time prior to the state takeover, that we had become an "unhealthy organization" and she quoted me in several of her speeches thereafter. The "institutional illness" festered very badly under Vallas as he created a "toxic climate" within our district which permeated our schools. It soon became lethal and was worsened during the Ackerman era. I addressed the SRC in August of 2008 about the need to "change the administrative culture" of the school district as it had become so adversarial and destructive. I also gave the SRC and her a copy of my book which contains a couple of chapters addressing the issue of "toxicity in school climates" and the "inherent immorality of bureaucracy." I was ushered out the door by the district's senior administration shortly thereafter and was gone by the end of the summer of the next year, 2009. They had created a retaliatory culture. I believe that the best leadership teacher is extensive experience as a teacher, but that does not always change the "leadership style" of individuals. I stand firmly behind my speech of August 2008, and every word of my book. The school district is presently an "unhealthy organization" and the "administrative culture" needs to change if we are ever to become a first rate organization and school community.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2014 9:25 am
Then you can go study it for a few more years while everything collapses around us. Come up with some more position papers after it's over if that amuses you. Analysis Paralysis.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 12, 2014 10:02 am
Tamara Anderson, a colleague from the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools APPS, forwarded to me this link to Karen Lewis explaining the "Truth About Tenure." I advise everyone to read it as it explains that tenure is merely the "right to due process" and the need for teachers to be safeguarded against arbitrary and capricious firings based on improper and illegal motives. http://reclaimreform.com/2014/06/12/karen-lewis-explains-actual-tenure-a...
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on June 12, 2014 1:35 pm
If tenure is only the right to dues process, then why does it take 2-10 years and cost $50-450K to fire an incompetent teacher in California?
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 12, 2014 3:55 pm
That is absurd. If you read the case, the judge relies only on what a witness told him and not on any, in fact, real life case. He said according to the witness it "could" take that much time and money. That is absurd on its face. The U.S. Supreme Court said that U.S. Constitution only requires a very short and uncomplicated administrative hearing before a teacher can be dismissed. And that is necessary only if the employee requests one. That decision is one of the most absurd which I have read in a long long while, and as I said above, many California lawyers have said that the judge is a lunatic.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2014 12:03 pm
Hiring 27 social workers and an unspecified number of "attendance officers" is just another way for the PSD NOT to have or pay for school counselors, and to lay off more school counselor,s and NOT hire back the counselors that are still laid off. School counselors are the main person in each school who work with and support these children and their families. School counselors are also the people who address school truency. If every school had a full time counselor these students would be having their needs met. This is the first of many steps to get rid of all school counselors. Social workers should be in high needs schools but not at the expense of each school having a school counselor.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 12, 2014 12:26 pm
It isn't clear where the funds will be coming from. Likely it is not from the District's budget. A social worker has more authority/ability than a school counselor to improve a child's family circumstances, and to strategically move/place a child in a different school. Both these actions address causes, not just symptoms.

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