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A lesson in empathy: Freire charter students 'Take Back the City'

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 10:02 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Discussions about Philadelphia public schools often get bogged down in the seemingly never-ending back-and-forth over funding and the hyper-focus things that are easy to measure, such as standardized-test scores.

But for the 200,000-plus students attending public school in the city, these issues often take a back seat to the heartache and stress that many wrestle with in their personal lives.

Steel, Muñoz-Marin elementaries chosen for possible Renaissance charter conversion

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Tue, 04/01/2014 - 18:00 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Updated | April 2, 4:49 p.m. 

The Philadelphia School District is proposing handing over two additional elementary schools to charter operators, assigning Muñoz-Marin to ASPIRA and Edward Steel to Mastery.

If the school communities approve, the two will be the 21st and 22nd low-performing District schools to be converted to charters under the Renaissance turnaround initiative.

Teachers who police their own — an argument against eliminating seniority

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 17:30 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Last week, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite announced that the District intends to suspend the state school code and eliminate seniority as the predominant factor in all staffing decisions for the 2014-15 school year. The District has filed a motion asking the state Supreme Court to judge whether this unilateral decision is legal.

[Listen to two veteran Philadelphia teachers offer their perspective on seniority and teacher quality in the interview above.]

Pa. receives poor mark for not mandating curricula about civil rights movement

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 17:16 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

In the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision turns 60, a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says that states too often omit the civil rights movement from officially mandated school curricula.

In "Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States," the center has assigned grades to each state based on the depth and breadth of their coverage of the subject.

On 'Radio Times,' a discussion of racial disparities in school discipline

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 09:43 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

On the first hour of WHYY's Radio Times this morning, guests Harold Jordan of the ACLU (and the Notebook's board chair), Deborah Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Matthew Steinberg, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania discussed racial disparities in school discipline in light of new data released by the Department of Education. 

Desperate times for schools in the City of Brotherly Love

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 03/28/2014 - 14:55 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Benjamin Herold for Education Week

Balloons rained down from the balcony. The 11th graders gathered in the auditorium screamed in delight.

And I couldn't help but feel profoundly sad.

Such is life in Philadelphia, my adopted hometown and former professional stomping grounds, where hundreds of public schools and tens of thousands of children have been left largely on their own to forage and fundraise for the basics of modern education.

Lump sum budget counts on $440 million not yet secured; principals storm Council

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 22:27 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a $2.8 billion “lump sum” budget for fiscal 2015 that counts on receiving $440 million more in revenue than it currently has secured.

It did so shortly after an unprecedented scene in City Hall, when a few dozen school principals clogged the corridors to dramatize the appalling conditions in their schools and ask Council members for more funds.

And State Sen. Vincent Hughes addressed the SRC directly after holding a rally on the District’s steps in which he called for taxing Marcellus Shale extraction – Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that doesn’t do so – to raise money for education.

Helen Gym among 10 in country honored by White House for community organizing work

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 12:07 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Helen Gym, a staunch public education advocate and founder of Parents United for Public Education, will be one of 10 community leaders to be honored by the White House as a Cesar E. Chavez Champion of Change. 

Named after the Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist, the honor goes to those "who have committed themselves to improving the lives of others in their communities and across the country. At the core, all of our honorees represent the values and steadfast determination of Cesar Chavez to organize ourselves for a more just tomorrow," said a White House release.

What do you think about the staffing policy changes being imposed by the District?

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 03/26/2014 - 16:31 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

With teachers' contract negotiations stalled, the School District announced earlier this week that it would be unilaterally making changes to a range of work rules that govern staffing in schools, while asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to affirm the District's power to do so. 

Chief among those changes is the issue of seniority, which in the fall, the District says, will no longer be a deciding factor in where teachers are placed. Instead, principals, with help from a school-based "site selection" team, will have decision-making power in the hiring of teachers and other staff. The District also said that seniority will not be the deciding factor in layoffs and recalls.

The Notebook invited written reactions from key education stakeholders to the news that the District would be enforcing changes to staffing policies. We received the following responses.

Baseball equipment donated to dozens of schools

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 03/26/2014 - 16:07 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Dan Hampton

Thirty-seven Philadelphia schools received nearly $100,000 worth of baseball and softball equipment from the Harleysville, Pa.-based nonprofit, Pitch In for Baseball (PIFB).

The organization, which makes donations to underserved communities worldwide, gave away boxes of new and gently used baseball and softball equipment to an eager crowd of coaches and players at District headquarters Monday afternoon. Players walked away with gloves, bats, helmets, balls, catchers’ gear, bases, batting tees, and equipment bags.

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