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Poverty is no excuse, but it should never be overlooked

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:59 Posted in Commentary | Permalink

One of my granddaughter’s favorite requests to her parents is "read to me." My son and his wife read three books to their children each night before bedtime and make weekly trips to the public library. At 5 years old, one child can explain the word “symmetry.” Their 3-year-old uses words like “specific” in context.  

A high school English teacher I know once asked in each of his five classes how many of his students had parents who read to them when they were little. Not one student raised a hand.

Most of these students had caring parents. Most had loving parents. However, in just about every case, each student had parents who worked too hard at low-paying jobs and were gone early in the morning until late at night. Aside from time dedicated to daily chores, there simply was no money, no time, and no energy to buy books or go to the library and then read. Reading to their children is a luxury the families can’t afford. 

Parents learn how to turn kids into confident readers

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 12:53 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Connie Langland

On a March afternoon, 8-year-old Jakai Rhoades and his mother, Ebony Wilkie, began tackling his homework. 

“What does this word look like?” Wilkie asked her son, a 3rd grader at nearby Blaine Elementary School. “It’s a compound word—two words together. Do you see?”

“Spaceship,” he answered, correctly.

“Rumble … rumble … ROOAAARRRR,” read Jakai. “The rocket goes up into …” He stumbled on the next word. But his mom was at the ready, pointing upwards again and again, offering Jakai a really big hint.

SRC approves building sales, ratifies principals' contract

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 22:04 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission approved the sales of six vacant properties Thursday night, most of them schools that were closed within the last two years.

It also ratified a contract with the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, which represents principals and assistant principals, who will reduce their work year and see lower salaries. 

The properties will be sold for a total of $37 million under the current agreements, but the District will net $25.8 million after closing costs and other costs are taken out, said Fran Burns, the District's operations manager.

Students ask SRC for fresher lunch food

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 19:50 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Student activists from Youth United for Change pressed their case Thursday with the School Reform Commission to change lunch vendors to one that serves more fresh and appealing food.

The District "has the opportunity to become a national leader in the campaign to change the way how children eat in school," said Daniel Frye of YUC, a senior at Kensington Urban Education Academy.

How do demographics affect performance at public high schools?

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 14:45 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry at NewsWorks

Last week, I wrote a story about Chrislie Dor, a Philadelphia School District student who applied to two District-run magnet high schools.

If accepted, she said, she would attend one of those schools. If not, she said, she'd enroll in a high school run by a charter organization.

SRC to vote Thursday on sale of 7 recently closed school buildings

Submitted by David Limm on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 15:32 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The District is set to sell seven of its shuttered school buildings for a total of $37 million. The School Reform Commission will vote on resolutions to approve the proposed sales to six buyers at a meeting Thursday night.

Should the SRC approve the sale of all the properties to their proposed buyers, the District would come within $24 million of its stated revenue goal from real estate sales for this fiscal year. 

KIPP: Making the most of extra time

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 13:56 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Paul Jablow

It’s 3 p.m. on a Monday, and all around the city – or the country for that matter – kids are filing out of school, headed for waiting parents or the bus.

Not, however, at the KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School. Here, teacher Josie Santiago walks about a room with a dozen 7th and 8th graders, helping them with homework in Spanish, history, math, or other subjects, or with life in general.

“Make eye contact with me,” she tells one student as part of a mini-lecture on slacking off.

New innovative high school gets $2 million from Philadelphia School Partnership

Submitted by thenotebook on Tue, 03/18/2014 - 12:23 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Updated | 3:50 p.m.

The Philadelphia School Partnership announced Tuesday that it will donate $2.6 million in grant funding in the hopes of aiding the creation of 850 new seats in what it deems high-performing District, charter, and Catholic-run schools.

Building 21, a new District-run high school opening in the fall, will receive most of the funding: $2 million in startup cash over four years.

As a non-selective-admission high school, Building 21 will enroll 150 students into its 9th grade in the fall.

Principals ratify contract that includes big salary and health-care concessions

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/17/2014 - 17:18 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Members of the union representing Philadelphia School District principals have ratified a new three-year contract that includes significant salary and health-care concessions.

The deal will save the District $20 million over the life of the agreement.

Of members who cast ballots, 83 percent voted to ratify.

The new contract will take most District administrators from a 12-month schedule to a 10-month schedule, cutting their base salaries by about 16 percent.

SRC meeting on English language learners

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/17/2014 - 16:11 | Permalink

The topic of tonight's public policy meeting of the School Reform Commission is English language learners. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

The District reports that it serves 12,000 ELL students in grades preK-12.

The District has made available on its website various materials related to ELL programs and procedures. They include a chart of District schools showing numbers of ELL students and their English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and bilingual services, as well as an ELL handbook that describes programs, policies and procedures. Parents and others can review the information in those resources before attending tonight's meeting, which will take the form of District-facilitated roundtable discussions. 

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