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Engaging students in school reform

By Eric Braxton on Aug 6, 2009 01:18 PM

Often when we talk about engaging stakeholders in school reform we include teachers, parents, and even community and business leaders. Unfortunately, students, who are the most direct stakeholders of all, are often left out of the mix. 

I believe that if we are really going to turn around our high schools, we can no longer view students as passive beneficiaries of education. We must start to see them as active participants in creating change.   

Does Army junket violate guidance counselor ethics?

By Helen Gym on Aug 6, 2009 10:43 AM

Imagine if Walmart paid for your high school’s guidance counselor to take a four-day paid trip to “Walmart Land” where your guidance counselor got to engage in fun team-building exercises, toured the Walmart History Museum, and then to top it all off, took a bungee jump–the first of their life off--the Walmart Tower.

There would be day-long presentations and lectures on Walmart’s contributions, conveniently omitting key issues like say, oh, pay scale, perhaps, or the fact that bungee jumping has nothing to do with the typical Wal-mart’s worker’s actual responsibilities.

Afterward, the Walmart Recruiter says, “We hope you’ll take back to your school what you learned. We planned this trip because Walmart hasn’t seen enough prospective employees from your schools. We hope this visit will change that.”

What the Notebook has for you

By thenotebook on Aug 5, 2009 01:13 AM

With a print edition, daily updated blog, and e-newsletter, the Notebook publishes a lot of information. Here's a rundown of ways to use all that we offer.

Ways to learn:

Starting with the 2009-20 school year you can pick up a copy of the print edition six times a year, instead of four. In every edition you'll find the following:

Research bears out 'wishful thinking' on turnarounds

By Anonymous on Aug 4, 2009 10:33 PM

Ed Week has a (free!) piece about the (lack of) research around turnaround programs for underperforming schools. Part of it echoes the editorial from our Spring edition:

"Turnaround is meant to quick-start a culture change, and there are those specially trained to do this. Using their expertise makes sense; but assuming that there are managers for hire who will resolve the deep-seated problems of struggling schools is wishful thinking."

Summer school: last chance or great advance?

By Alesha Jackson on Aug 3, 2009 06:15 AM

When I was a kid, summer school was a four-letter word.  Rumored to contain the toughest criminals or the hardcore slackers, public school in the summertime was the last stop on the loser train. 

Fast- forward to my years as a teacher in Harlem.  Adamantly refusing to teach during summer months, I had stopped in for some planning for the following year.

And boy, was I shocked!

Summer school was a serene, peaceful version of the regular school year.

In other words, it was like a different school.

In case you missed it, week of Jul. 26

By Anonymous on Jul 31, 2009 05:56 PM

The August NEWSFLASH from the Notebook came out this week. Read the transcript of the Notebook interview with superintendent Ackerman. It's sparked quite a conversation amongst commenters; for example: "An individual is not anti-child when they ask about proposals. I think it dangerous to claim any person or group is against you when they ask a question. These are children's lives and they deserve careful, rigorously debated courses of action." from Mr.Boyle.

This week Daily News reporter Mensah M. Dean, leaves the education beat. Congrats on your service covering the Philly schools since 1997, Mensah!

Mensah's final education article was about the budget standoff and its impact on schools that are waiting for state funding. Earlier in the week he also reported on the record PSSA scores. The PSSA results were also covered by the Inquirer and the Notebook.

Al Día had an interview with new SRC member Johnny Irizarry, en español. 

Public Citizens for Children and Youth's (PCCY) new blog, Childwatch!, had a post with tips on how you can help make sure our state budget is good for kids.

WHYY's It's Our City blog had a post about Philly as a center for "eds and meds" jobs.

Motown here I come

By Samuel Reed III on Jul 30, 2009 05:23 AM

Forget for a minute the shadow over the city of Detroit. I don’t want to focus on the auto industry crisis or the city’s political drama – Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame M. Kilpatrick,served prison time. I just want to go back to the time, when the Motown sound provided a soulful message and gave you a reason to clap your hands and dance to the beat.   

Can you believe Motown is celebrating its 50th anniversary?

So what better place to have this year’s annual National Association Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) conference, but Detroit, MI (August 1- 4)?

Another free pass on the Parking Authority

By Helen Gym on Jul 29, 2009 03:44 PM

It’s hard to imagine the City of Philadelphia and our schools in more dire financial straits than now.

On the line are thousands of jobs, potential increases in taxes for residents, closure and reduction of city services, the threat of an austere senate bill that will strip away millions of dollars from public schools, and the elimination of a historic school funding formula. You get the picture.

And then there’s one agency that’s just rolling in money – the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which has seen revenues double over the past few years and anticipates even more of a windfall with the obnoxious new parking meter rates throughout the city.

Can we help out Jay Mathews?

By Anonymous on Jul 28, 2009 12:10 AM

In a column over on the Washington Post's site, Jay Mathews asks if anyone knows of any high achieving students who were kept away from college because of money. Can we help him out? Do you know of anyone?

PSSA scores in PA up across the board -- coincidence?

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 27, 2009 04:26 PM

The state Department of Education announced Monday that PSSA scores statewide in 2008-09 rose in every grade and in every subject for the first time ever.

Coincidence that this achievement coincides with the record increases in education spending last year that set the state on the course of closing the "adequacy gap" among Pennsylvania school districts?

PDE certainly doesn't think so.

These results show "that the strategic investments that have been made are paying off," said PDE spokesman Michael Race in releasing the PSSA results during a conference call with reporters.

Critical days for the state budget

By Paul Socolar on Jul 24, 2009 04:33 PM

Governor Rendell is hopeful for action by early next week on the long-delayed state budget, with as much as $300 million in state aid for Philadelphia schools hanging in the balance. Informal legislative negotiations are underway, with a House-Senate conference committee slated to form on Monday.

More pressure to reform teacher pay

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 23, 2009 07:46 PM

UPDATE: President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan announced the criteria for $4.35 billion in "race to the top" money Friday, and among them is tying teacher pay to student performance. Another criterion is an aggressive school turnaround strategy.

Here is a link to the president's interview with the Washington Post, and one to the U.S. Department of Education Web site that includes a link to Duncan's speech.

------------

With the teacher contract talks presumably heating up, and pressure for changing teachers' pay structures growing, I wanted to draw your attention to two things that happened this week. 

The Center for American Progress and the Center for Reinventing Public Education released a report concluding that money paid by school districts to teachers for acquiring master's degrees -- especially in education rather than a content area -- is largely wasted. It urges a halt to the practice -- which forms the bedrock of most teacher contracts that base pay scales on level of education and years of experience.

A culture of collaboration

By Molly Thacker on Jul 23, 2009 02:12 AM

When I first began teaching, I was shocked to learn what an isolating profession it really can be. 

If I wanted to, I could go all day without seeing another adult in my building, aside from the attendance secretary with which I would exchange pleasantries in the morning while signing in. I know teachers who would walk the halls during their prep periods, with the hopes of catching an adult conversation, and others who would eat their lunches at their desk every day, for lack of a teacher’s lounge or space. 

It has been shown that collaboration and cooperative learning strategies are effective to use with our students, so why do we not apply the rule to ourselves?

Getting parents involved

By Eric Braxton on Jul 22, 2009 05:03 PM

Over the summer I have been thinking a lot about parent involvement in high school reform. 

I continue to believe that involving more parents in multiple ways is critical to turning our schools around. Parents need to be not only supporting their own children, but also holding schools accountable for providing quality education.

Teachable moment: Private swim club vs. day camp

By Samuel Reed III on Jul 21, 2009 01:58 PM

Like it or not, the Huntingdon Valley Swim Club debacle provided some in the mainstream media and blogosphere an alternative to the over-coverage of the King of Pop post-mortem.

When I first heard the news on the earlier broadcasts, I told myself that the media likes to blow things out of proportion - that's how they increase viewers and attract advertisers. As my big sister says, “There's always 3 sides to a story.”  I didn't want to pass judgment. I wanted to hear the facts to make sense of the case.

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