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Philly "c"elebrity teachers welcome Tony Danza

By Samuel Reed III on Sep 14, 2009 11:54 AM

There are critics who say that cameras will disrupt the education of students in Northeast High School, where Tony Danza, a former talk show host and sitcom star will co–teach with a certified Philadelphia School District teacher. 

This post is not going to argue the merits of having cameras in the classroom. Maybe the resigning School Reform Commissioner, Heidi A. Ramirez , could do a better job than me arguing against it; she was the only commissioner who voted not to approve the filming of the reality show.

Mr. Danza presumably made it through his first week without resigning. He is blogging on his Web site Daily Danza, during the production of 13 episodes for the Arts and Entertainment Cable network reality show “Teach.”

Notes from the news, Sept. 14

By Erika Owens on Sep 14, 2009 12:11 AM

Notes from over the weekend:

Notes from today:

  • The Philadelphia relief budget is now for the state Senate to decide. Unless the bill passes, Philly will have to shut down many city services including the libraries.
  • Local ed policy research group Research for Action named a new executive director. Dr. Kathleen Shaw was Deputy Secretary of Postsecondary and Higher Education in the Rendell Administration's Department of Education. She will assume the position Dec. 1.
  • Tomorrow there will be a “What it Takes 2” forum presented by Urban Youth Racing School and the School District of Philadelphia Office of High School Reform. It's at 3:30 at 440 N. Broad and the focus is part of an effort to reengage minority male youth. High school boys must register at roboticsevents@gmail.com, including name, grade, and school.

Blowing a huge hole in the District budget

By Paul Socolar on Sep 12, 2009 09:38 PM

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Dan Hardy writes Saturday that with the proposed Harrisburg budget agreement, the Philadelphia school district will fall at least $144 million short in state aid this year compared to what was in the budget plan of Gov. Rendell. The governor is still threatening to veto the proposed agreement.

Empowerment School list grows to 95

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 11, 2009 05:05 PM

The School District released its list of Empowerment Schools Friday, and a quick review indicates that no schools (except for one that closed) were removed from last year's list of 85 while 11 were added.

That makes 95 such schools, all designated as "low-performing" and targeted for intensive interventions.

Teaching Hope

By Molly Thacker on Sep 11, 2009 01:01 PM

I find teachers inspiring. And I’m not just saying that because I am one. As anyone who has spent any time in the classroom knows, the description “challenging yet rewarding” does not quite do it justice.

Teaching is life altering, worldview changing, and all consuming. It can be hilarious, heartbreaking, invigorating, emotionally draining, physically taxing, and enriching beyond belief – all in the same day. In short, it is a roller coaster that lasts nine months. There are really high highs and some pretty low lows. And in order to make it until the ride comes safely to a halt in June, one definitely needs a safety belt.

The secret weapon of all teachers everywhere – from the first year twenty-something shakily standing beside their classroom expectations poster, to the experienced veteran making final changes to a finely tuned syllabus – is hope.

Notes from the news, Sept. 11

By Erika Owens on Sep 11, 2009 11:19 AM

The news from today:

Notes from the news, Sept. 10

By Erika Owens on Sep 10, 2009 10:35 AM

News from the past day:

And now the responsibility rests with students

By Erika Owens on Sep 9, 2009 03:31 PM

President Obama kicked up quite the storm with his speech to schools on Tuesday and the suggested lesson plans. In the cacophony of complaints, people questioned taking time out of the school day and his presumed desire to indoctrinate students in socialist politics, but there was relatively little discussion about the content of the speech. Again President Obama went back to his refrain about personal responsibility, but this time, instead of targeting parents, he spoke to his student audience.

Luckily, some people are taking a critical look at his speech itself.* The Washington Post's new ed blogger Valerie Strauss discussed the speech with Jay Mathews. Strauss zeroed in on one facet of this focus on personal responsibility--Obama called for students to develop creativity and ingenuity, but there are forces out of the students control that dictate the curriculum those students encounter.

More democracy equals a stronger union

By Ron Whitehorne on Sep 9, 2009 12:21 PM

The most frequent question asked of PFT building reps over the years is undoubtedly, “What’s the union going to do about this?”

The way this question is formulated tells you a lot about what’s wrong with unions today. 

The questioner sees the union, not as a group of workers to which he or she belongs, but as an outside agency that has the responsibility to fix the problem. The individual member pays dues and, in exchange,  expects to receive services.  This is the essence of modern, bureaucratic unionism.

Democracy, in the sense used here, is much more than rules and procedures.  

Notes from the news, Sept. 9

By Erika Owens on Sep 9, 2009 10:35 AM

The news from today:

Notes from the news, Sept. 8

By Erika Owens on Sep 8, 2009 10:32 AM

Welcome to the new school year and a new feature on the blog. Check here every day for a list of what's in the news in the Philly education world.

Also, just in: SRC meetings have been postponed for two weeks. Check back soon for details on why.

Sports, media, and youth culture at Temple University

By Samuel Reed III on Sep 8, 2009 12:15 AM

If your class is anything like mine, you have some students who are typically disengaged with traditional academic work. But you mention sports or bring in a Sport Illustrated Magazine and you might just see some sparks. Don’t dare try to take away gym from this group of students!

What is it about sports that enthralls many young people? Is it the competition? What about sports figures as role models? Charles Barkley says he's not a role model. Why is it acceptable for Kevin Garnett to cry after winning a NBA championship, but typically men are not suppose to cry? What is it about sports and media that exaggerate the lifestyles of sports figures? How can sports be used a vehicle to talk about issues of health, gender, and identity?

Corrective action, 7th (70th, 700th) year?

By Paul Socolar on Sep 6, 2009 05:03 PM

Now part of the back-to-school, end-of-summer routine, the state's 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results for schools were released last week.

The number of District schools meeting their AYP targets was 118, compared to 113 last year. Also up slightly was the number in Corrective Action II status (for five or more years of missing targets) - 76, eight more than last year. Charter schools did significantly better than District schools this year, with almost three-fourths meeting their targets.

One story that hasn't been written is that the District and 16 of its schools are now categorized by the state as in "Corrective Action II, 7th year."

September events and school calendar

By thenotebook on Sep 4, 2009 03:10 PM

Every month the Notebook publishes a list of education events in Philadelphia. Check here for the list of events in September. At the bottom is the school calendar for September as well.

The full 2009-10 school year calendar is available at www.thenotebook.org/content/calendar-2009-10. It is also available in Spanish at www.thenotebook.org/content/calendario-2009-10.

Have an event you'd like to put on the list? Email us. Have any suggestions on other events the Notebook should be at? Please let me know. We're particularly interested in opportunities for getting the Fall Guide out to middle grades students and their families because of its focus on choosing a high school.

Setting the record straight on Ramirez' SRC tenure

By Helen Gym on Sep 3, 2009 10:50 AM

In reading the recent spate of stories in the media about the resignation of Heidi Ramirez, one might have thought Ramirez – who’s been described in the media as “outspoken” and “persistent” – was constantly at odds with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

In fact, a review of the existing public record shows that Ramirez voted in concert with the CEO in all but a handful of instances. 

(There is no formal, public record of SRC votes, but I used first-hand information and news reports and checked with other sources to substantiate my count.)

During her 17-month tenure, Ramirez accepted the Superintendent’s recommendation on nearly every District initiative, including reforms to the alternative education and disciplinary school contracts and an effort to recruit more teachers of color to the District. In the few times Ramirez voted against the CEO’s recommendation, she articulated concerns focused on needs-based assessment, actual costs, evidence-based results, process, and performance measures.

In other words, her questions were the stuff of oversight – not micromanagement or personality disagreements: Is this what the District needs? How much does it cost? What’s the record of success? How will we know when we’ve met our goals?

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