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District, Ackerman settled individual contract issue

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 15, 2009 02:58 PM

After a flurry of controversy, it seems that the PFT and the Ackerman administration have resolved the the issue of whether teachers are required to sign individual professional contracts. The PFT Web site reported the terms here.

NAEP report: Test score gap is wide in PA

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 14, 2009 07:11 PM

There's sobering data in the report released yesterday by the National Center on Education Statistics on the racial "achievement gap."

The study uses results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, given periodically to a sampling of students in each state since 1992. Pennsylvania has one of the largest gaps between White and African American students in fourth grade reading scores, a 33-point gap that has not narrowed much since 1992.

As parties cheer deseg settlement, union calls it fatally flawed

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 13, 2009 07:39 PM

Not everyone was cheering the end of the 40-year-old desegregation case in the courtroom presided over by Commonwealth Court Judge Doris Smith-Ribner on Monday morning. Leaders of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers sat silently as the parties urged adoption of an agreement that would significantly impact their collective bargaining agreement.

Very little busing for desegregation left in Philly

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 10, 2009 03:19 PM

As the School District and the courts prepare to put to rest the long-running legal battle over racial equity in schools, some statistics about school busing came to light that deserve a little more attention. Busing students for desegregation, which in the 1980s and 90s was the District's main avenue for parents to exercise school choice, has declined by almost 90 percent since then.

Instead of busing between District schools, students are now primarily bused around the city to attend charter schools.

Find the Notebook in your neighborhood

By thenotebook on Jul 9, 2009 12:40 PM

We just created another map. This one lets you see all the community sites around town where you can pick up a copy of the Notebook. It lists all the libaries, charter schools, and community organizations and businesses that carry copies of the Notebook.

View Philadelphia Public School Notebook distribution sites in a larger map

Is the desegregation case over, or has the hard part just begun?

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 8, 2009 09:08 PM

After nearly 40 years, it is over.

Or not quite.

On Wednesday the School Reform Commission voted to accept a consent agreement that will end a unique desegregation case that had its beginnings in October, 1970. That was when the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission first filed its complaint that the Philadelphia School District was “unlawfully segregated by race.”

Should we try small learning communities …again?

By Eric Braxton on Jul 7, 2009 11:40 AM

For the last several years, I have been a big advocate of breaking large comprehensive high schools into clusters of small schools on shared campuses as part of a strategy to transform our schools

The only examples I have seen where inner-city neighborhood high schools with graduation rates under 50% have turned into schools with graduation rates over 90% have been through small schools. That said, small school advocates in Philadelphia are beginning to feel like we have hit a brick wall. Dr. Ackerman has been clear that she does not support small schools.  For that reason, some of us have begun looking at other ways to meet the same goals, including small learning communities. Does that sound familiar?

Why can't we be friends?

By Anna Weiss on Jul 6, 2009 12:48 PM

I believe in the idea of quality public education. 

I believe that the opportunity to attend an amazing school should not be dictated by how much your family makes and where they can afford to live. 

I myself am a product of the Chicago suburbs' excellent public schools, kindergarten through high school.  When sticky divorce proceedings put a crunch on my parents' finances, my canny mother moved all over the suburbs, chasing after acclaimed school districts in the same way that Plains Indians tracked the buffalo. 

In case you missed it, week of Jun. 28

By Erika Owens on Jul 5, 2009 05:38 PM

Two charter school officials were charged this week. They had worked with Philadelphia Academy Charter School and last year the Inquirer reported on allegations of financial mismangement and conflicts of interest.

A near-consensus in the strip-search case

By Len Rieser on Jul 3, 2009 08:01 AM

“Strip search case splits court,” the Inquirer reported after the oral argument in Safford Unified School District v. Redding last April, noting that the justices had expressed “sharp differences” in their views. 

This, you might remember, was the case in which the assistant principal of Savana Redding’s middle school got a tip suggesting that she might be carrying ibuprofen. School officials searched Savana’s backpack and outer clothing; when they found nothing, they had her take off her clothes and “pull out” her bra and underwear -- after which, having still found nothing, they let her go.  (For more details, see my earlier blog on the case. )

But when the decision came out last week, it turned out that the Court had pretty much overcome its differences – at least on the question of whether the search violated Savana’s rights.  

'Everyone needs that access. It's not an option'

By Erika Owens on Jul 2, 2009 10:24 AM

The access is to broadband Internet and the speaker is Vice President Biden, who unveiled the rules for $7.2B in stimulus funds for broadband in Erie County, PA. The announcement was made in a rural part of the county, but the county is also home to the fourth-largest city in the state (and to my family - hello!).

Video of Biden shows him speaking about broadband access in the context of jobs and basic utilities like electricity, for people across the state.

R.I.P. MJ - A future media literacy project

By Samuel Reed III on Jul 1, 2009 12:22 AM


Last Thursday I turned in my classroom keys and told my teacher friends and colleagues to have a good summer break. Walking home, as I customarily do, I thought of my plans for the summer. More time at the gym, Latin dancing, attending few a media literacy conferences - the normal exciting stuff teachers do to reenergize ourselves for the next school year. When I finally got home, turned on the television, I saw the news flash that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital and died.

Camelot gets $15.8M, but are their students well-served?

By Erika Owens on Jun 30, 2009 03:38 PM

The SRC  voted last week to renew and increase Camelot's contract, now to serve 1,550 at a pricetag of $15.8 million.

The Times Picayune this week reported on a Camelot-run school in New Orleans, "Is Schwarz School a Safe Alternative?" Judging by the description of decaying facilities, a lack of physical safety for students, and an otherwise chaotic learning environment the answer is a resounding no.

When the School District of Lancaster visited a Camelot-run school in Philly in April, they were impressed with it. Lancaster votes this week on whether they will contract with Camelot to run an alternative-education school.

June 30: Rendell not budging on funding boost

By Paul Socolar on Jun 29, 2009 11:55 PM

While it doesn't always work this way, June 30 is the day by which Pennsylvania state government is supposed to adopt a budget. From this budget, school districts finally learn with certainty how much state aid will be available to them.

Teacher evaluation in the news

By Erika Owens on Jun 29, 2009 10:45 PM

As Philadelphia and several other major districts discuss new teachers' contracts, teacher evaluation is getting attention in the news. A Washington Post article looked at a peer review evaluation and support program in suburban Maryland. The DC teachers' union remains in talks about a new contract.

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