Just hours before the School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote on Imagine 2014, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s five-year blueprint for the School District, officials finally revealed and put a price tag on their first-year priorities -- $126 million.
In a recent visit to a school, I watched an eighth-grade math teacher move with his students through a lesson on quadratic equations. About halfway through, he called on a student to answer. That student then selected the next participant, and so on. It was a fun way to keep the class on their toes, because no kid knew if he would be called on next. After watching the entire class, I inquired about how the teacher had come up with the system.
The mayor’s Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr, has told the Notebook she has been assured by District Chief Business Officer Michael Masch that the District can afford to implement the Imagine 2014 plan “if we have adequacy in state funding.” She and the mayor are supporting approval of the plan.
But that’s a big “if.”
Yesterday I was listening to "Radio Times" on WHYY discuss property tax abatements, which are coming to the end of their 10-year term. One strand largely absent in the dialogue was the impact of property tax abatements on school district financing.
Eric Braxton’s blog about the lack of public discussion, among SRC members at this week's meeting, of something that's a huge deal for Philadelphia families – the five-year “strategic plan” -- is on target. How could three of four SRC members have had so little to say on something so important?
Yesterday was an important meeting for the School Reform Commission. It was the first meeting for new chairman Robert Archie and new member Johnny Irizarry. It was also the presentation of the final draft of the District’s new strategic plan, Imagine 2014. I don’t want to rush to judgment too soon, but I hope we will see more engagement from SRC members in the future.
The long awaited revision of the Imagine 2014 strategic plan is out, described on the District Web site as “the final version of the plan.” This is the document that Superintendent Ackerman and the School Reform Commission intend to bring to a vote on April 22.
Two unusual decisions emerged from the federal courts in the last couple of weeks. Both dealt (at least in part) with students’ constitutional rights, though their subject matter couldn’t have been more different. The first, from northeastern Pennsylvania, was about “sexting,” while the other involved the decision of the Miami-Dade School Board to ban a book entitled “Vamos a Cuba” from school libraries.
This week a study of private management in the Philadelphia schools was released. It found that from 1997-2006, 45 privately-managed schools did not "keep pace" with District-run schools.
I am ashamed to admit I did not join the fight against casinos until a location on the front steps of Chinatown was proposed. Either location for Foxwoods at this point threatens the community – the Gallery site is 50 feet from the nearest resident, the Strawbridge’s site is less than 200 feet from one of our daycare centers. But now that I’ve learned more, my passion against the casino plan is fueled by much more than the threat to my community.
I recently worked with a group of new teachers at a large Philadelphia high school. We were discussing risk taking as part of lesson planning, but our talk wasn’t going very well. I’d hoped to get a dialogue going that might encourage them to think about the differences between merely “getting through the lesson” and really structuring time where students could connect personally with the work.
The state updated its projections last week of how much money each school district will receive from the federal economic stimulus. Philadelphia stands to receive $35 million less than previously projected - due to a reallocation of the one-time pot of money described as "state fiscal stabilization grants."