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District sued over translation services for families of students with disabilities

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 24, 2015 05:12 PM

The School District of Philadelphia is facing a lawsuit alleging that thousands of children are denied special education services due to a lack of translation and interpretation services for families that don’t speak English.

To acquaint youth with racial issues, try these books

By Becky Shaknovich on Aug 21, 2015 12:10 PM

Race and racism have been major topics in the news lately. From the murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, to controversy over the Confederate flag, to the death of young Tamir Rice at the hands of the police, young people may have questions and need to process their feelings.

One way to help them understand the present is to look to the past.

10 years after Katrina, New Orleans offers lessons about childhood trauma

By Laine Kaplan-Levenson for NewsWorks on Aug 21, 2015 11:45 AM

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, much of the physical damage the storm caused in the city of New Orleans has been repaired. Neighborhoods and communities have been rebuilt. Schools, hospitals, businesses, and restaurants have re-opened.

But a deeper, invisible wound brought by the storm remains. Thousands of residents, and especially children, were traumatized by the storm and the displacement and struggle that followed.

My first year at a teacher-led school

By Kathleen Melville for Education Week on Aug 21, 2015 10:08 AM

I thought my first year at a "teacher-powered" school would be the perfect dream. After 10 years of teaching in fairly traditional settings, I was butting heads with my principal, chafing against school policies that didn’t seem right for my students or me, and itching for a new challenge. After several years of advocating for teacher leadership, I imagined myself gliding right into place at a school collectively led by teachers.

My first year has definitely been transforming, but it has also been a little unsettling. I’ve learned that a school powered by teachers is radically different from most schools. My school, the Workshop School in Philadelphia, was founded by teachers, and their vision for teaching and learning emphasizes relationships instead of content, projects instead of classes, and real-world problems instead of standard curriculum. Putting teachers in control doesn’t just change staff meetings: It changes everything.

SRC rejects Esperanza's charter application, OKs $22M revamp of student info system

By Dale Mezzacappa and Fabiola Cineas on Aug 20, 2015 10:49 PM

The School Reform Commission rejected a bid Thursday by Esperanza to open a K-5 elementary school, which would have given the faith-based organization a full K-12 feeder pattern in its North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Esperanza submitted a revised application after being denied in February, when the SRC approved just five of 38 applications for new charters.

School districts brace for prolonged Pa. budget battle

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Aug 20, 2015 06:15 PM

The school year is soon to begin, and districts across the state of Pennsylvania are faced with a troubling proposition: How do you stay afloat when a very large chunk of your budget is nonexistent?

School leaders face this question as Gov. Wolf, a Democrat in the first year of his term, and leaders of the Republican-held state House and Senate continue to disagree about how to frame the state's spending plan.

As the first day of classes draws near, districts have not received any of the state aid that would typically begin flowing in August.

Funding and accountability – finding the right balance

By Elizabeth Schwartz on Aug 20, 2015 12:50 PM

School funding has played a central role in the state budget impasse and has shaped arguments from both sides of the aisle. For his part, Gov. Wolf has proposed adding $400 million to basic education spending to restore cuts enacted since 2010. But in exchange for greater state contributions to districts, some legislators and education organizations are calling for increased measures of school accountability, including the creation of an "accountability school district."

According to PennCAN founding executive director Jonathan Cetel, “The path forward seems as obvious as it is important: Combine more money for schools with more accountability.”

Reforms like accountability school districts have been gaining momentum across the country, with Tennessee, Louisiana, and Massachusetts often cited as examples. But before considering increased accountability, it is important to stress why funding should be the primary focus for state lawmakers.

SRC meeting today: Mastery coaches, calendar changes, school sales

By the Notebook on Aug 20, 2015 11:51 AM

It's back to business for the members of the School Reform Commission tonight. As the District prepares to open school doors next month, the SRC will convene for the first meeting of the 2015-16 school year. A draft of the meeting resolutions shows they will have many items to attend to, including an assortment of contracts, grant acceptance, and a whole lot of donations. 

Some items of interest have been noted below, but you can also look through the resolutions and their summaries here. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

Lower PSSA scores spur some school districts to call for less testing

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Aug 19, 2015 09:28 PM

Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Education shared preliminary test data for its new, Common Core-aligned tests -- and the results weren't pretty.

As a result, some area school districts are lobbying Harrisburg to dial back the number and consequences of standardized tests, sooner rather than later.

Offers, counteroffers in Pa. budget talks

By Mary Wilson for NewsWorks on Aug 19, 2015 09:19 PM

The pace of talks over Pennsylvania's budget may be picking up, with each side trading proposals over the last week.

The latest offer came Wednesday: Republicans asked Democratic Gov. Wolf to support ending the traditional pension for future state and school workers. In return, they said, they would vote for the governor's proposed $400 million funding increase for schools.

Preparing an entire city to respond to mental health emergencies

By Paul Jablow on Aug 19, 2015 02:39 PM

Jason Palaia, director of elementary and special education in the Coatesville Area School District in Chester County, recalls interrupting his walk across a high school campus to talk to a youth sitting on a curb who was obviously very distraught.

James Hills, a school board member who volunteers at an afterschool program in Coatesville, remembers counselors there overhearing two youths talking about possible suicide.

At workshops, students use art to find passion, help community

By Fabiola Cineas on Aug 19, 2015 02:07 PM

After standing in the circle for nearly 10 minutes, Jabari Patterson finally stepped forward and timidly said, “I am sick when I do look on thee!”

His effort was inaudible, so he said it again, a little better.

Then, with encouragement from the crowd, he belted out the line, spoken by one of the lovers in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“I am sick when I do look on thee!”

The onlookers could feel his presence.

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