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Despite budget cuts, students reap essential lessons at Saul farm school

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Dec 4, 2014 04:52 PM

Isaiah Orellana's school day starts early, hours-before-dawn early.

"I get up at 5 o'clock. I shower. I clean up after my dogs, whatever mess they made, and then commute to school," he said.

It's a commute that would daunt many adults.

Leaving his Juniata Park home, Orellana catches the El to the Frankford Terminal and then begins a 60-minute ride aboard a bus specifically designed to shuttle North Philly kids to one of the Philadelphia School District's most unusual options: W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Roxborough.

Talking with students about Ferguson and racism

By Kathleen Melville on Dec 4, 2014 01:30 PM

I’ve been talking about race and racism with my students. We’ve been talking about Ferguson, Mo., critiquing the ways that various media have covered the case, identifying pernicious stereotypes about young people of color and seeking out ways to create media of our own.

Talking about race is not entirely new to my 9th-grade students, most of whom are Black, but it’s definitely not a comfortable topic, at least not at school. As I get to know my students at the beginning of the year, I notice how they tiptoe around the issue. One student uses the term “White people” and then immediately apologizes to me: “Sorry, Miss. No offense. I mean Caucasian.” Another student mentions the demographics of a neighborhood, saying there are a lot of White people, and someone else responds, “Oooh! Don’t say that! That’s racist!”

I also notice that most of my students conceive of racism as a thing of the past. I often hear the phrases “back in slavery times” or “back in racism times,” as if racism were an ancient artifact. Students are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of them credit him with ending racism, as if it were a disease for which he discovered a cure.

Lessons from history

By Wei Chen and Duong Ly on Dec 3, 2014 03:35 PM

Five years ago today, we were at South Philadelphia High School when it erupted in a day-long series of anti-Asian, anti-immigrant attacks. Dozens of students were assaulted, and 13 went to the hospital. Afterward, the School District's leaders refused to even acknowledge the issue of race and racism in our schools – until we filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice and won a consent decree in the case.

We will never forget that day and wanted to write about what lessons we’ve learned over the last five years.

Public hearings schedule for new charter school applications

By the Notebook on Dec 3, 2014 12:37 PM

The School District has officially released its whirlwind schedule for the four days of hearings next week, beginning Dec. 8, on prospective new charter schools -- including the process for public comment.

The District received 40 new applications by the Nov. 15 deadline. A law that legislators passed in September authorizing a new cigarette tax to raise money for city schools required the School Reform Commission to end a seven-year moratorium on new charters.

Nine nonprofits awarded $40K for building healthier communities

By Shannon Nolan on Dec 2, 2014 04:36 PM

Nine Philadelphia nonprofits have each been awarded $40,000 by GlaxoSmithKline for their contributions to building healthy communities.

The recipients were: After School Activities Partnership (ASAP); the Center for Grieving Children; Community Design Collaborative of Philadelphia; Gearing Up; Graduate! Philadelphia; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Philadelphia Youth Network Inc.; University City District; and YouthBuild Philly.

The double standard that charter supporters apply when judging school quality

By Susan DeJarnatt on Dec 2, 2014 02:41 PM

A commentary piece by charter school supporter Janine Yass, a founder of Boys' Latin Charter School (“The facts on charter schools,” Inquirer, Nov. 23, 2014), and statements by Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership apply a double standard in comparing traditional public schools and charters. While they cite the new state School Performance Profiles (SPPs) as a measure of school quality, they use the scores selectively to bolster their case. Most notably, they uniformly label low-scoring public schools as “failing,” but call many charters high-performing, even when they have low SPPs.

Yass and Gleason say they’re for “school choice,” but when you dig deeper, it seems they only support the choices they agree with. They favor choice when parents choose charters, but never when parents choose traditional public schools.

Analyzing enrollment trends in Philly schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Dec 1, 2014 09:42 AM

Between this school year and last, K-12 enrollment in the Philadelphia School District fell from roughly 132,000 students to 128,000.

District officials could not provide statistics for students in its alternative schools. In past years, the District educated roughly 4,000 students in these schools.

Enrollment in the city's brick-and-mortar charter schools grew from roughly 60,500 to 62,500.

Hearings start Dec. 8 for 40 new charter school applicants

By Kevin McCorry and Paul Socolar for NewsWorks and the Notebook on Nov 26, 2014 06:55 PM

For the first time in years, the Philadelphia School District is accepting applications to open new charter schools.

Many of the applicants, which are listed below, are already familiar names. KIPP proposes three new schools, String Theory seeks four, and Mastery wants two, as do American Paradigm and MaST.

There are also some interesting newcomers making pitches.

UPenn report finds Pa. schools need an additional $3.5 billion

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 26, 2014 04:52 PM

A new report from the University of Pennsylvania finds that the state's school districts need an additional $3.5 billion to educate all students to meet academic proficiency standards.

Education issues to consider in the mayoral race

By James Lytle on Nov 26, 2014 02:00 PM

Although the mayoral primary isn’t until May, prospective candidates for mayor are already testing their prospects. 

Four have already announced their intentions to run: former head of the city's Redevelopment Authority Terry Gillen, former City Solicitor Ken Trujillo, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. In the view of many Philadelphians, there is no more important issue than the future of public education in the city. And advocacy groups like the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools are already determining what issues to focus on and which candidates they might support.

In some respects the issues seem obvious: increased funding, local control, and restored services like libraries, counselors, and nurses. But the devil is in the details. What specifically would the candidates do? What is the candidate’s record on support for city schools? What experience does the candidate have in dealing with City Council and Harrisburg? 

Campaign for education funding draws broad support statewide

By Shannon Nolan on Nov 26, 2014 12:14 PM

More than 40 organizations joined forces in early October to launch a statewide campaign that calls for a fair school funding formula and access to quality education for all children, no matter where in Pennsylvania they live.

Known as the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, the coalition has a mission of ensuring that Pennsylvania adopts a K-12 public education funding system by 2016 that is “adequate and equitable,” with a focus on the importance of accuracy, stability for students and schools, shared responsibility, and strong accountability standards.

"Every child deserves a chance to succeed,” said campaign manager Kathy Manderino at the press conference announcing the effort. “We need a fair, sustainable and predictable method for funding public schools that recognizes the shared responsibility we all have – and the shared benefits we all receive – when every Pennsylvania child gets that opportunity."

Member organizations, including businesses and faith-based groups, educators, school district representatives and child advocates from across the state, agreed that sufficient resources are necessary so children can achieve success and that a collective effort is imperative, according to a campaign statement.

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