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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.

In case you missed it, week of Jun. 21

By Erika Owens on Jun 28, 2009 01:41 AM

Big surprise at this week's SRC meeting. As Dale Mezzacappa reported on our blog, Superintendent Ackerman reversed course and recommended that the SRC table the resolution to close William Penn HS. The SRC agreed.

Getting beyond the blame game

By Eric Braxton on Jun 26, 2009 11:24 AM

There has been a lot of talk recently about how to improve teaching quality and ensure equitable distribution of qualified teachers in Philadelphia.

The issue is hot right now for good reasons: the PFT contract negotiations are getting contentious and group of community organizations have created a Teaching Quality and Equity Platform.

Blogger on the radio

By thenotebook on Jun 25, 2009 11:31 PM

If you're listening to WHYY Friday morning, you may hear from one of our new bloggers, Samuel Reed. You can listen to WHYY live online. Tune in at 6:30 and 8:30AM to hear Samuel speaking with reporter Stephanie Marudas about teaching and classroom stresses.

Are we passing failing students? Chime in with your view.

By thenotebook on Jun 25, 2009 11:07 AM

Samuel Reed's post about passing failing students has sparked quite a conversation.

Poster Philly HS teacher has a detailed comment about his/her experience with students who "must pass."

"Unlike what Sam is advocating - students, parents and teacher each meeting half way - the CSAP process puts 95%+ on the teacher.

Court rules student strip search illegal

By Erika Owens on Jun 25, 2009 10:50 AM

Thursday the Supreme Court ruled that the strip search of a teenage girl, who was suspected of having ibuprofen, was illegal. The ruling was an 8-1 verdict that school officials violated the law, but the Court kicked back to lower courts the issue of if the school officials can be held liable in a lawsuit. Justice Ginsburg dissented from that second point, along with Justice Stevens, stating "Wilson's treatment of Redding was abusive and it was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted it."

Len Rieser blogged about the case when it was heard at the Court in April. Check back soon for more about this case and other education law cases being decided by the Court.

ETA: The article now also includes a reference to Horne v. Flores, a case from Arizona about English language learning education. In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that a federal court's supervision of ELL services overstepped the court's bounds. Len also blogged about this case in his post from April. CNN has a more involved look at this decision.

One for the Community

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 24, 2009 10:14 PM

A remarkable thing happened at the School Reform Commission Wednesday -- impassioned community pleas actually had an impact.

My take on it is that Ruth Hayre was pulling strings from above.

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