This article will appear in our forthcoming print edition focusing on expanded learning time, which comes out at the end of next week.
by Connie Langland
Jennifer Graham says she's well aware of what researchers and educators have come to call "summer learning loss," but she's not concerned. Graham has made sure her daughter is in camp.
Are we in a financial crisis? For the thousands of students who organized a massive walk-out today, yes. But not for a certain sector of contractors who are benefiting from the School Reform Commission’s decisions lately.
The same day that elementary school parents flooded City Council to rally for school funding and a sizeable crowd attended a panel on the destructive impact of high-stakes testing, the SRC on Wednesday approved nearly $1.3 million in contracts related to assessment and accountability, including a million-dollar contract to Pearson for high-stakes teacher and principal evaluations.
On the 59th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, thousands of Philadelphia students, fighting against the prospect of ruinous budget cuts, have staged a walkout that began at noon at District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., followed by a march to City Hall.
You can follow the action on Twitter using the hashtag #walkout215.
Forum takes on standardized testing. Notebook
by Benjamin Herold and Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
On Wednesday, Mayor Nutter announced his plan to raise $95 million for Philadelphia's struggling School District, mostly through tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol.
But even if that money comes through, city schools will still be looking for an additional $120 million from Harrisburg and $133 million in givebacks from the local teachers' union.
Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), who chairs the Senate's education committee, said the unions have to go first.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
About one in four District schools will open with new principals next year, according to the latest District calculations.
At least 41 of the 218 schools that will be open next year have vacancies, and the District has already made appointments in 12 others -- making a total of more than 50 schools with new leadership.
The Young Artists exhibition, which opened earlier this week in the atrium of School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., proudly displays over 1,500 pieces of artwork by students from more than 150 schools across Philadelphia. The exhibition, one of the largest of its kind in the country, runs through Aug. 30.
All photos by Harvey Finkle
Two icons of the progressive education movement spoke in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to decry standardized testing and urge that a “justice-oriented framework” drive school reform instead.
“Test score gaps are used to label schools as failures without providing resources or strategies to eliminate the gap,” said Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools, an education journal and publisher.
See also: SRC to shut down Imani charter. Inquirer
Nutter wants new cigarette tax, liquor tax hike to help fund schools. Notebook/NewsWorks
See also: Mayor talks tax proposals to help fund schools. NBC10
Community schools: small Investments, big returns. Our City, Our Schools
[Updated 12:59 a.m.]
The School Reform Commission approved staff recommendations Wednesday night, voting to renew five charter schools and beginning the non-renewal process for one, Imani Education Circle in Germantown. Late in a six-hour meeting, the commission also approved providers for two new Renaissance charters.
Although 16 Philadelphia charter schools have applied for renewal this year, only six of those came up for a vote Wednesday.
The five renewed are: Antonia Pantoja, Christopher Columbus, Eugenio de Hostos, Maritime Academy, and Universal Institute charters. One thing these five schools have in common is that they have all agreed to abide by an enrollment cap throughout the duration of the five-year charter. District officials have explained that it is impossible to manage its budget crisis without predictable enrollment at charter schools.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
[Updated: 7:07 p.m.]
Your next debaucherous night of drinking and smoking might help close the Philadelphia School District's enormous budget gap.
Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter is proposing to increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax and create a brand-new $2 tax on every pack of cigarettes in order to help fund the schools.
The School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote tonight on charter renewals. Sixteen schools in all are seeking to renew their charters but only six are on the final agenda for a vote. Two schools, Discovery and Imani, were recommended by the District for charter revocation. But Discovery has reportedly struck a deal to resolve its dispute with the District, prompting the District to withdraw its non-renewal recommendation.
Parents and students from Powel, Henry, Penn Alexander and Masterman schools came to City Hall on Wednesday morning to protest proposed District budget cuts, converging in a staircase up to the second floor.
Mayor Nutter walked through the chanting crowd right after he had announced with Superintendent William Hite that he was proposing a package to raise $95 million in new revenue for the District, which is $35 million more than the School Reform Commission had requested.
The money would come from a new $2 city tax on a pack of cigarettes and a hike in the liquor-by-the-drink tax. For both measures, the District needs enabling legislation from Harrisburg that has been introduced and that Nutter and state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams said has support. Nutter also announced that the city expects to step up property tax collections to raise $28 million in additional funds next year for the District, which faces a $304 million budget gap.
Ronald Tomalis will step down as Pennysylvania's education secretary at the end of the month, Gov. Corbett announced today in a statement. He is to be replaced by Cumberland Valley schools chief William Harner.
Tomalis, who served as the state's top education official for two years, will become a special adviser to the governor on higher education. Harner previously served briefly as a special assistant to Paul Vallas during his tenure as Philadelphia schools superintendent, and then again worked under Vallas in New Orleans as his deputy superintendent.
Read the full statement below.
by Tom Vernon and Shelly Yanoff
Sometimes we fail to look for causes in conspicuous places. As we seek out reasons why our children are having trouble learning in school, tens of thousands of our kids’ futures are being cut down because, in their younger years, they were exposed to lead.
For at least two decades, neurological and epidemiological research has told us that lead affects academic performance, classroom behavior, and the rest of life. We know so much more today from more recent research. Now we know that even low levels of lead can cause serious damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bleakly states: “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”