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Do we need a longer school day?

By Ron Whitehorne on Sep 23, 2009 10:48 AM

From President Obama to Arlene Ackerman, the the call for a longer school day has been raised as a component of school reform. It’s an issue in contract negotiations here and across the country.  

I don’t know about you, but when that last bell rings my tank is pretty much empty. And my 8th graders, who suffered from post-lunch attention deficit syndrome, weren’t exactly in high learning mode either. Still, given the clear needs of so many of our students, I’m open to any argument that promises to improve student learning.  

Notes from the news, Sept. 23

By Erika Owens on Sep 23, 2009 10:07 AM

The 'What were they thinking?' deficit The Notebook blog
Unlike a "surprise" deficit a few years ago, the $160 million deficit the District now faces was easy for anyone to foresee as budget talks dragged out for months. How did we get to this point, and what can we do to keep it from happening again?

See also: Phila. Public Schools Prepare for $160 Million in Cuts KYW

Another reason to resist the arts tax Daily News (opinion)
This piece laments the proposed sales tax on arts and cultural events. Harrisburg has funded 73 new arts teachers in the Philly schools, but this tax could end up hurting other arts programs' ability to do education outreach.

See also: Pa.'s Budget Deal Faces Another Roadblock KYW

Panel member targets BRT workers on school payroll The Inquirer
SRC Commissioner Johnny Irizarry says that he will raise the issue of BRT patronage positions on the District payroll at an SRC meeting this month.

See also: The BRT test The Notebook blog

Cozen O'Connor forms lobbying group The Inquirer
David F. Girard-diCarlo, who has been nominated to the SRC, will be on the leadership team of a new lobbying and government relations group.

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news. Thanks!

The 'What were they thinking?' deficit

By Paul Socolar on Sep 22, 2009 09:51 PM

It's been almost three years since the story broke in 2006 that the District had overspent and was facing an unexpected $73 million deficit.

It's still referred to as the "surprise deficit." It set off major turmoil during the months of budget cuts and layoffs that followed. There were lots of recriminations all around, with CEO Vallas, the chief financial officer (CFO), and the School Reform Commission all accused of dereliction of duty.

This time round, the District's budget crisis is far from a surprise.

The BRT test

By Helen Gym on Sep 22, 2009 07:36 PM

Whatever you think about the importance of the Bureau of Revision of Taxes, there’s no question that what the city, and perhaps most importantly the Mayor, does with this mess of an agency is a test of leadership and vision that’s under the public – re: media – scrutiny.

Notes from the news, Sept. 22

By Erika Owens on Sep 22, 2009 09:52 AM

Phila. schools prepare for cuts as they face budget shortfall The Inquirer
The state budget, and the $160 million shortfall it will be for Philadelphia schools, is big news today. The District will have to cut programs and account for this shortfall somehow. It looks like alternative education is the first area to get a cut.

See also: School district adjusts to state-budget realities Daily News
Schools Deficit Balloons: $160 million or more . . .Young Philly Politics

Another Public Service Appearance by Michael Vick KYW
New Eagles player Vick visited Pepper Middle School and advised students to "Do the right things."

COMING UP: Wednesday Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences will unveil a new water conversation system to help with its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Saul boasts one of the only CSAs in the country to be grown at a high school.

Public hearing of David F. Girard-diCarlo's nomination to the SRC

By thenotebook on Sep 21, 2009 11:29 AM

The Education Policy and Leadership Center linked to a video of the public hearing of David F. Girard-diCarlo from last week. (The video requires Windows Media Player.)

The hearing, before the Senate education committee, is part of the nomiation process for Girard-diCarlo to join the School Reform Commission.

Notes from the news, Sept. 21

By Erika Owens on Sep 21, 2009 09:53 AM

PA budget deal out, but few details on final changes The Notebook blog
Over the weekend, a budget deal was reached between Gov. Rendell and Republican lawmakers. While Rendell was positive about the increase in education funding the budget will provide, but that does not mean that the budget is filled with good news for funding of education in Philly.

Daniel Rubin: Budget's impact on one student The Inquirer
Rubin writes about the cut in funding for dropout programs in the wake of an uncertain budget through the eyes of one student.

Editorial: You can help raise them up The Inquirer
The editorial describes the "Raise Me Up" campaign, which begins this week in Philadelphia and seeks to raise awareness about kids in foster care and recruit foster parents as well as mentors and volunteers.

How Queen Arlene missed her chance The Inquirer (opinion)
New columnist Buzz Bissinger's first column criticizes Superintedent Arlene Ackerman as "autocratic, imperious, and paranoid about challenges to her power." The column suggests other celebrities to join Tony Danza at Northeast HS.

See also: What’s goin’ on: health care, what's not being taxed, Metcalfe's homophobia, and juvenile humor at the Inky Young Philly Politics

Adjudicating School Reform Center for American Progress
This article looks at teacher evaluation, retention, and placement together with the consent agreement that ended the 40 year desegregation case in Philadelphia, the current contract talks, and campaign for equitable distribution of teachers.

PA budget deal out, but few details on final changes

By Erika Owens on Sep 18, 2009 09:51 PM

A deal has been reached on the budget.

Gov. Rendell said that he would only sign a budget that did not have any further cuts in education, health care, and economic development and that has enough revenue to balance this year's and next year's budgets. Gov. Rendell said those conditions were met and a budget was decided in "a fair and responsible way."  The Republican Senate Appropriations Committee chair, Jake Corman, stressed the budget's strong investments in education.

Unfortunately, the additional funding for Philadelphia from the state for education is still expected to fall as much as $150 million short of what the District had anticipated and budgeted.

Coming soon: Notebook Fall edition on early education

By Erika Owens on Sep 18, 2009 01:00 PM

Keep an eye out at the end of September for the Notebook's Fall edition on early childhood education. We're wrapping up the edition now and you'll be able to find stories about the funding situation, immigrant and English language learning options, another installment of the No Easy Road series, and much more.

Now is the time to ensure effective teaching for all children

By Eric Braxton on Sep 18, 2009 11:10 AM

One of the largest problems facing Philadelphia’s public schools is the inequitable distribution of qualified teachers. While some gains have been made in recent years, high poverty schools continue to have the least experienced teachers and the most staff turnover. We will not be able to resolve the achievement gap until we can ensure that qualified teachers go to the students that need them most. 

Notes from the news, Sept. 18

By Erika Owens on Sep 18, 2009 09:51 AM

Pa. official: Vacancy hurts Phila. schools The Inquirer
Philadelphia's Office of the Safe Schools Advocate is back in the news as the state's auditor general says the office must be restored.

See also: Pa. Education Department job cut called illegal AP
Pa. Official Wants Safe Schools Advocate Office to Reopen KYW

Get junk food out of schools The Inquirer (opinion)
Two leaders in the Philadelphia health and food worlds write about how "once we get the junk food out of schools, we can start concentrating on getting fresh fruits and vegetables in."

One Crisis Down, Next Up: The School District budget meltdown YoungPhillyPolitics.com
Helen Gym blogs about the next doomsday budget, the one for the School District.

See also: Back to the drawing board: huge deficit means it's time to re-engage the public, re-establish priorities The Notebook blog

A Kensington Middle School Thanks Cole Hamels for His Donation KYW
Philies pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife Heidi Hamels toured Stetson Middle School to see how the school used the $50,000 their foundation donated to it in May.

See also: Hamelses hit a homer at W. Kensington school The Inquirer
Assist by pitcher Cole & Heidi Hamels is a hit at Stetson school Daily News

Stars in sports and business motivate young boys Philadelphia Tribune
The dropout prevention event earlier this week, Whatever It Takes, for minority boys showed them a "glimpse of life as a hero."

Back to the drawing board: huge deficit means it's time to re-engage the public, re-establish priorities

By Helen Gym on Sep 17, 2009 10:54 AM

And so we’re here again.

One week into school and we’re facing an almost certain $150 million budget deficit and counting. I say “we” because $150 million is not a number accountants and creative bookkeeping can make disappear. It’s a number that’s likely to touch every school, and possibly be felt in every classroom in the city.

It’s a situation the School District ignored as it signed off on millions of dollars in contracts for the past five months – despite appeals that contracts should be prioritized or even held off until the state budget came through. It’s a situation the School District steadfastly refused to acknowledge even when the governor’s budget was clearly dead in the water. It’s a situation that the School District’s only apparent preparation for was a “doomsday budget” in the event of a worst-case scenario.

But it looks like something very close to a worst case scenario is at hand.

Notes from the news, Sept. 17

By Erika Owens on Sep 17, 2009 09:55 AM

On the Side: Stalking the corner-store school snacks Inquirer
Inky food columnist Rick Nichols looks at the impact of corner stores, where students get an average of 360 calories of food on each trip, on student health.

Pa. budget stalemate is killing social services Inquirer
From the perspective of Caring People Alliance CEO Arlene Bell: "We won't be around to talk about early-childhood education in a couple months," she said. "There's not going to be anybody left to provide that sort of thing."

See also: Pa. Lawmakers May Be Close to a Budget Deal KYW
Budget Impasse Impacts Student Supplies MyFoxPhilly.com

Elementary School Dropout Philadelphia Weekly
Philadelphia Student Union gets a shout out in the opening paragraph of this first-person account from a TFA teacher who left the classroom.

Academic rewards South Philly Review
50 students at James Alcorn Elementary School received bookbags from Tackling Together, a Cherry Hill nonprofit. Former Eagles player Barrett Brooks also visited the school.

Notes from the news, Sept. 16

By Erika Owens on Sep 16, 2009 10:03 AM

Notes from the day:

Charters outpace District schools: Let's give ALL schools more flexibility

By Eric Braxton on Sep 15, 2009 08:36 AM

School-by-school PSSA scores were released recently. The Inquirer reported that 73% of Philadelphia’s charter schools made AYP compared to only 41% of District schools

Some of this may be attributed to the fact that charters have a tendency to attract families that have it together enough to search for the best schools for their children, and some concerns have been raised about whether charters push out students they do not want. There is a lot of debate about whether charters engage in this kind of “creaming.” 

Putting that aside for the moment, I think the main reason that many charters are successful is that they have much more flexibility to do innovative things and to make decisions that work best for their students and staff than District schools. 

The real question we should be asking ourselves is how do we get that flexibility for all schools? 

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