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Penn students press for PILOTs to support Philly schools

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Dec 10, 2014 06:13 PM

Students at the University of Pennsylvania are pushing for the private institution to contribute more than $6 million to Philadelphia and its struggling public schools.

Like other nonprofits in the city, Penn only pays property taxes on a small portion of the land it owns. As a result, students argue, the school should pay what are known as PILOTs, payments in lieu of taxes.

State appeal board upholds decision to close Truebright Academy charter

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 9, 2014 06:25 PM

The state Charter Appeal Board has upheld the decision of the School Reform Commission to close Truebright Science Academy Charter School.

School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the decision of the seven-member board was unanimous. Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, confirmed the action.

As school selection deadline nears, free help offered to families

By Shannon Nolan on Dec 9, 2014 04:11 PM

The deadline for students applying to Philadelphia School District schools that are not their neighborhood schools is 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12. This year, for the first time, the School District's application process is entirely online.

Philadelphia families and students interested in receiving online high school application help can attend Free High School Application Night on Wednesday, Dec. 10, at one of eight locations around the city.

This free event will bring teachers, administrators, and volunteers together from 6 to 8 p.m. to help students complete their applications and provide them access to computers.

Germantown makes its pitch for community charter school

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Dec 9, 2014 12:17 PM

In kelly green T-shirts, they linked hands and prayed for a neighborhood.

"Germantown is a place with many seeds that are ready to swell," said the Rev. Lorelei Toombs, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. "As the sun shines down on us today ... show us the beauty of the spring that is to come."

Long-awaited hearings on new charter school hopefuls begin

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Dec 8, 2014 08:19 PM

For the first time since 2007, the Philadelphia School District heard applications for new charter schools Monday.

For years, citing the costs of growing the charter sector, the District has imposed a moratorium on new charter expansion. That changed this year because of an amendment written by Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) that was added to the state cigarette tax authorization bill.

During the moratorium, the District has opened Renaissance charters, where operators are required to serve all students within defined neighborhood boundaries.

'Mystery parents' test charters' responses to special ed and ELL students

By Arianna Prothero for Education Week on Dec 8, 2014 01:40 PM

Fielding phone calls from parents asking about enrollment is part of everyday business for schools, but for some charter schools, the person on the other end of the line may only be posing as a parent.

Modeled after “mystery shopper” or “secret shopper” services used in retail, authorizers in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts are using a similar tactic to make sure the charter schools they oversee are not turning away students with more specialized needs, such as children with disabilities or who are still learning English.

This issue has long dogged the charter sector, which nationally, some studies show, enrolls a lower percentage of students with disabilities compared to regular public schools. The discrepancy, some charter critics say, comes from the publicly funded but independently run schools turning away such students in order to improve test scores.

Students hold 'die-in' to protest grand jury decisions in Brown, Garner deaths

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Dec 5, 2014 05:06 PM

The grassroots outrage in Philadelphia continues after the non-indictments in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., and the Eric Garner case in Staten Island, N.Y.

On Friday, students at three of the Philadelphia School District's top-performing high schools staged protests of what they see as miscarriages of justice.

Germantown group readies pitch for new charter school

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Dec 5, 2014 12:39 PM

It's all come down to a pair of hearings.

On Monday, members of the Germantown Community Charter School Coalition will head to School District headquarters on North Broad Street to publicly present details of the group's application for a new independent charter school in the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood.

Author Elizabeth Green speaks in Philadelphia about teaching

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 5, 2014 11:41 AM

Journalist and author Elizabeth Green came to Philadelphia this week and made the case that good teachers are made, not born.

Once you accept that, Green said, then it becomes obvious why school districts, higher education, all levels of government and the private sector should be developing policies and practices that will better support the people in the nation's largest profession.  

Green, who is also the editor-in-chief of the education news outlet Chalkbeat, appeared at the Notebook's annual member appreciation event Wednesday. That was also the day that her book, Building a Better Teacher, was named one of 100 notable books of 2014 by the New York Times.

From the archives: Zero tolerance kicks in

By the Notebook on Dec 5, 2014 11:30 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 about the introduction of zero-tolerance policies in Philadelphia schools is from the Winter 2002 print edition:

by Paul Socolar

 Enrollment in the District's alternative discipline schools has swelled to over 2,000, and more privately run alternative schools are in the works.

 With principals ordered to report all serious incidents, assaults are being reported at a rate double that of last year.

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