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Five Philly schools make Pa. 'high progress' list for low-income schools

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jan 13, 2015 09:35 AM

Five schools in Philadelphia made the cut for a "high progress" designation, based on increases in achievement in math and reading assessments across all students in the schools.

Four Philadelphia District schools – Lankenau High School, Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson, Juniata Park Academy and Eliza B. Kirkbride School – earned spots along with one charter school, Freire Charter School in Center City. Across the state, 16 schools made the "high progress" list.

Obama administration doubling down on K-12 priorities, Duncan declares

By Alyson Klein for Education Week on Jan 12, 2015 03:02 PM

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is using a speech in Washington on Monday to assert that the Obama administration is not backing off on K-12 policies it has pushed for the past six years, even as Republicans in Congress are poised to release proposals to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would significantly scale back the federal footprint in education.

Instead, according to prepared remarks circulated before the speech, Duncan is calling for an additional $2.7 billion for education. He also wants any ESEA rewrite to continue teacher evaluations through student outcomes, the targeting of resources to the lowest-performing schools, and — most relevant to the current debate over updating the law — the law's current system of annual, statewide assessments.

What Philly teachers want from the new governor

By Mark Dent for Billy Penn on Jan 12, 2015 12:43 PM

Tom Wolf takes over as governor next week, and he’ll replace a man who presided over substantial budget cuts to state education from elementary schools all the way to colleges. The total amount of money for public education in Pennsylvania fell by $1 billion during Tom Corbett’s tenure.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s education crisis is particularly acute, with shortfall after shortfall the last several years and the closing of over 30 schools since 2012. In 2014, weeks before the gubernatorial election, the government-appointed School Reform Commission canceled its contract with Philly teachers, ending their health care plans. Teachers and students responded with protests in Philly and Harrisburg.

Obama’s community college plan could cause 15% jump in Philly enrollment

By Anna Orso for Billy Penn on Jan 9, 2015 04:31 PM

In a move that could change the way the nation views higher education, President Obama today announced details for a proposal that would use federal dollars to subsidize two years of community college for Americans “willing to work for it.” AKA, free college for lots of people.

Leaders here say the plan could allow thousands of Philadelphians to attend community college — people who wouldn’t have attended before because they couldn’t afford it. Donald Generals, president of the Community College of Philadelphia, said Friday that the school’s enrollment could increase by 15 percent, and that’s a “conservative” estimate.

Report finds that Pa. lags in early childhood education access and equity

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jan 9, 2015 11:13 AM

A new report finds that Pennsylvania ranks 41st nationally in early childhood education, lagging behind New Jersey, Delaware, 37 other states, and the District of Columbia.

This week, the nonprofit Education Week Research Center released its annual Quality Counts report on state-by-state school performance for grades K-12.  For the first time, the report also looked at preschool and kindergarten numbers, using information from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pa. releases some recent test results in an accessible format

By David Limm on Jan 9, 2015 11:05 AM

Say you're someone who's curious about taking a detailed look at how Pennsylvania's schools, districts, and students performed over the past few years. As a researcher, policymaker, journalist -- or anyone with an interest in exploring the data -- it would be reasonable to expect test-score results to be made available in a similar format each year, in a spreadsheet form that can be easily sorted and manipulated.

Until two years ago, anyone could download the same Excel spreadsheets containing data sets of PSSA scores from the Pennsylvania Department of Education's website -- all in the same, easy-to-mine, easy-to-compare format. Test results as far back as 1995 were all available via one web page.

Teaching math and science through art and a neural net (made of children)

By Peter Crimmins for NewsWorks on Jan 9, 2015 09:10 AM


In the fall of 2013, Ben Volta arrived at Morton McMichael School with no ideas. He had just been hired by the school in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, in partnership with Mural Arts Program, to develop a mural with the students.

He had no lesson plan, no vision of what the mural would be. He came on the first day of class, sat down with the 7th graders, and listened to the teacher.

"I remember them doing a lot of long division," said Volta. "I don't remember how to do that, and I was trying to figure it out as they go."

Co-chair Pedro Rivera talks about Wolf's education transition team

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 8, 2015 06:19 PM

Longtime Philadelphia teacher and administrator Pedro Rivera, who is now the Lancaster superintendent, is the co-chair of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's transition committee for education. 

Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia, spent 13 years in the Philadelphia system, and has led Lancaster schools since 2008. He said in a Thursday interview that the committee is working on finding the people who can best engineer a "transformation" of the Department of Education and carry out Wolf's education priorities.

Changing world demands that teachers have more specialization in early grades

By Bill Davidson on Jan 8, 2015 04:58 PM

American teenagers dipped in all major subject categories as measured by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development between 2009 and 2012, sliding in the global rankings from 10th to 20th in reading, 19th to 23rd in science, and 24th to 30th in math.

In order for this trend to reverse, elementary schools, where the foundation of each subject is established, need to adjust to the increasing demands of a changing educational landscape.

During the Great Depression era, only half of all 13- to 17-year-olds attended high school, and many of them didn’t graduate. A select few pursued advanced degrees. In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68 percent of high school graduates immediately enrolled in college.

Although our students’ academic expectations are drastically higher now than they were in the 1920s and '30s, little has changed in the model used for their instruction.

Real estate agents tour schools in Northwest

By Kiarra Solomon for NewsWorks on Jan 8, 2015 10:20 AM

Warm smiles and decorated hallways were a welcome surprise to realtors who expected a much different picture on a tour of neighborhood schools Wednesday afternoon.

"This exceeded my expectations," said one realtor.

The Mount Airy Schools Coalition and Elfant Wissahickon Realtors organized a public school tour in an effort to show local real estate agents that public schools can be a solid option for many families looking to move to the area despite the School District of Philadelphia's ongoing budget crisis.

Former principal now eighth educator charged in cheating probe

By David Limm on Jan 7, 2015 01:43 PM

Another former Philadelphia school principal was arrested today, making her the eighth educator charged in the state's probe into adult cheating on state standardized tests, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced.

A grand jury found that, while principal at Alain Locke Elementary between 2009 and 2011, Lolamarie Davis-O'Rourke "created an environment ripe for cheating" by "proctoring students to change answers from wrong-to-right, directing teachers to help students switch answers and rewrite written responses, and changing the locks to a storage room so that only she and the building engineer could access stored test booklets," said a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

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