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A different model of School District governance

By Susan Gobreski on Nov 18, 2014 03:23 PM

There is a conversation happening in the city about the issue of local control of the School District of Philadelphia and moving away from a state-run district.

It is virtually inarguable that the state-controlled School Reform Commission has not solved the issues of the District. Indeed, one could argue that the premise that governance was the problem has been proven false. Clearly, the citizens of Philadelphia must have more to say, while still ensuring that those who allocate funding are directly engaged with the decision-making.

Local control most likely means either an elected board or mayoral control, each presenting challenges. There are numerous troubling issues with mayoral control: It has been trendy, but it is not a proven improvement strategy, and people should be wary of it. Furthermore, it is not substantially different from the SRC in that a handful of appointments are made, insulated from the public and other elected officials.

Headed into an election year, voters should be skeptical at best about people who want to be handed the only set of keys to the District.

Caucus of teachers' union focused on social justice holds first conference

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 18, 2014 11:17 AM

This past spring, a caucus formed within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with the goal of energizing the union's ranks and re-engaging members in pressing issues of social justice in education.

On Nov. 8, the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) held its first annual convention at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, where more than 125 teachers, counselors, and education advocates from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey came to learn more about strategizing and organizing.

Fair on Wednesday to focus on historically Black colleges

By Shannon Nolan on Nov 18, 2014 10:04 AM

A free college fair hosting historically black colleges and universities will be held at School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., on Wednesday, Nov. 19. It's open to all college-bound students and their families.

The Malcolm Bernard Historically Black College and Universities College Fair will bring more than 40 college admissions professionals who are interested in recruiting students from high schools and community colleges. The fair will run from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

“[This] College Fair is very important because students and parents can learn how HBCUs have educational programs, financial packages, and scholarships that fit the need of students from diverse ethnic, economic, and academic backgrounds,” said Barbara Bernard, executive director of the Malcolm Bernard HBCU College Fair Inc.

District will review applications for 40 new charter schools

By the Notebook on Nov 17, 2014 04:57 PM

The School District said Monday that it has received applications for 40 new charter schools.

In Philadelphia, applications for new charter schools haven't been considered by the School Reform Commission in seven years.

But in passing the law approving Philadelphia's $2-per-pack cigarette tax, state legislators included a provision that requires the School District of Philadelphia to open itself to new charter applications annually, while giving rejected applicants the chance to appeal decisions through a state board.

Now that the deadline for submitting applications has passed, the District's Charter Schools Office will start its process for reviewing each of the applications.

According to a District release, that process will consist of three phases.

Cyber charters again get low marks on Pa. tests

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 17, 2014 04:35 PM

A new study by Research for Action has found that Pennsylvania's cyber-charter sector continues to yield subpar results on the state's standardized tests.

Using the state's recently released school performance profile data for 2013-14, RFA found the average School Performance Profile score for the cyber-charter sector was 48.9 – well below the averages for the state's brick-and-mortar charters and traditional public schools.

Groups plan actions for when education funding body meets in Philly

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 16, 2014 11:55 AM

The Pennsylvania legislature's Basic Education Funding Commission is coming to Philadelphia for hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and two advocacy groups have announced plans to make sure that its members hear from the public whether they want to or not.

Philly Keystone results show big need for improvement

By David Limm and Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 14, 2014 12:50 PM

Updated | Nov. 17 

Beginning with the class of 2017 -- this year's sophomores -- high school students will have to pass three Keystone Exams before they can don caps and gowns for graduation. 

Philadelphia's scores for the last school year, the second time the tests were given, indicate that the vast majority of schools have a long way to go if most of their students are to graduate by passing the test.

In some city schools, pass rates are in the single digits and low double-digits for all three subjects -- Algebra I, Literature, and Biology. Biology scores were the lowest; in only seven schools did at least half the students pass the biology exam. Pass rates were low, even in some highly selective schools.

From the archives: Edison: way down -- but not yet out

By the Notebook on Nov 14, 2014 10:30 AM

The Notebook launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first publication earlier this year. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

This piece is from the Summer 2002 print edition:

by Paul Socolar

Uncertainty continues to surround the role of Edison Schools Inc. in Philadelphia's school privatization experiment. With the company facing a financial debacle, many are questioning its capacity to run schools here this fall. But Edison is still lobbying to take on more schools.

How Philadelphia's District schools fared on the PSSA exams

By David Limm on Nov 13, 2014 03:08 PM

In late September, addressing last spring's results on the state's annual standardized tests, Superintendent William Hite said that, districtwide, students performed at a level similar to the previous year.

That was after a year of a thousand cuts, and in the early months of 2013-14, District schools were running short on staff after the loss of teachers, nurses, counselors, aides, and other support professionals. Students were learning in spartan conditions.  

Hite took a rosy view of the scores, saying he was "surprised we didn't see a more significant decline, considering how we started the year."

Reactivating vacant schools: Design group takes collaborative approach

By NewsWorks staff on Nov 13, 2014 02:26 PM

The Community Design Collaborative, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Philadelphia, and AIA Philadelphia will host a design charrette Friday to explore reuse strategies for two closed public schools.

Roxborough senior to be named 'Rising Star' at tonight's EDDY Awards

By Neema Roshania for NewsWorks on Nov 13, 2014 10:19 AM

Justina McMinn says she left C.W. Henry School nearly four years ago with "straight Fs."

Today, the Roxborough High School senior gets all As, plans to go to college and hopes to eventually work at a nonprofit that combats human trafficking.

And at a ceremony this evening, she'll be named the Philadelphia Education Fund's "Rising Star," an award that comes with scholarship money, networking opportunities and support throughout college.

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