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Election near, but still no 2014 Pa. test scores; 2013 results showed a downward trend

By Dale Mezzacappa, Kevin McCorry, and Paul Socolar for the Notebook and NewsWorks on Oct 30, 2014 09:18 PM

Have standardized test scores declined for a third year in a row in Pennsylvania?

We’re not likely to find out before the gubernatorial election next week.

This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has waited longer than usual to publicly release any data on test scores or school performance.

Charter and District schools should not be at odds; my family relies on both

By Aja Beech for NewsWorks on Oct 30, 2014 03:52 PM

My education is, in part, a product of the best intentions of the School District of Philadelphia. In the early '90s, the elementary school I attended in my neighborhood, James Russell Lowell in Olney, could no longer accommodate students up to 8th grade, so at the age of 11, I began evaluations to attend a school outside of my neighborhood, something most Philadelphia public school students know about.

Of the hundreds of children having to transfer from Lowell that year, I think there were three or four of us chosen — all white — to attend Masterman magnet school in the Spring Garden neighborhood. Some of them I had never seen in Olney before. Some were from families who had come to live there to practice their religious convictions, my first experience with a kind of urban missionary. Others came from families who could afford to send their children to private schools.

A discussion on making Philly family friendly

By Shannon Nolan on Oct 29, 2014 11:48 AM

Millennials have been responsible for much of Philadelphia’s recent population growth. Tonight, Next City will hold a discussion on how the city can be improved for those already living here, while encouraging others to take up residence in the city.

The panel discussion is called “Making Philadelphia Family Friendly” and it is the first in a three-part series on topics chosen to help enhance Philadelphia’s future. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Moore College of Art & Design auditorium, 1916 Race St. An RSVP is required to attend.

The imbalance of leveling

By Eileen DiFranco on Oct 29, 2014 10:56 AM

By the middle of October in any given school year, students are situated into their routines, snug in their desks. They have finally committed their class schedules to memory. They know what their teachers expect of them. They have begun to know their classmates. Their notebooks are filled with notes.

This year, two weeks beyond the contracted deadline, the School District has used its leveling sledgehammer to collapse classes and smash to smithereens much of what students and teachers have worked so hard to accomplish. The schools become unhinged just as they were settling in. The cost is incalculable.

When leveling occurs, the District must reshuffle schools' staff to match their actual enrollments, and class rosters have to be remade. Children are often assigned to different teachers with different teaching styles or ones who are in a different place in the curriculum. Some subjects are eliminated, and the work done since September is lost.

Expelled for inappropriate cell phone use?

By Payne Schroeder on Oct 29, 2014 08:54 AM

In August, Youth United for Change members stood in protest when the School Reform Commission voted to approve changes to the student code of conduct. They were ultimately escorted from District headquarters for disrupting the meeting.

The group says that the new policy's changes to the severity of punishment for students who engage in the "inappropriate use of electronic devices" could lead to overdisciplining students for minor infractions and could push students out of school.

Parents spar angrily with founder of closing charter high school

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Oct 28, 2014 04:19 PM

Sparks flew at a meeting for parents on Monday night at Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter High School. The school's basement cafeteria became a battleground between the school's founder and a throng of incensed parents.

Many had learned only that morning that the high school program at the school's Tacony campus was permanently closing and that their children would have to find another school two months into the year.

"I'm frustrated with Walter Palmer. I'm frustrated with the District. I'm frustrated with everybody," said parent Courtney Dennis.

The Notebook has a new development director

By Wendy Harris on Oct 28, 2014 02:55 PM

The Notebook has hired a new development director, Lauren Wiley.  

Wiley’s responsibilities will include membership recruitment and management, as well as sponsorship and major donor solicitation. She will also manage special events, including the Notebook’s annual Turning the Page for Change celebration.

Wiley has more than 10 years of experience in fundraising, donor cultivation and management, and event planning. In her previous job, she was the first-ever development director at Clinical & Laboratory Standards Institute, a professional laboratory science organization. While there, she instituted an event sponsorship program, secured new government grants, and began the first-ever recruitment of corporate sponsors for the institute’s conferences and educational seminars.

Legal battle between SRC and PFT heads to Commonwealth Court

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 28, 2014 11:06 AM

Updated | 2:30 p.m.

The legal battle over whether the School Reform Commission can impose benefit changes on teachers has shifted to Commonwealth Court, which could hear arguments in the dispute as early as December.

On Monday, Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla made an injunction permanent that delays any benefit changes until the matter is resolved in court, and the District appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court. 

Both sides said they are pleased by the outcome of the latest legal maneuvers.

The District says that the legal proceedings will accelerate a final resolution in court of the extent of the SRC's powers. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers says the ruling points the parties back to the bargaining table, a move that the District says it remains open to. 

New data will help draw detailed portrait of city's out-of-school time programs

By Connie Langland on Oct 28, 2014 09:57 AM

A decade after he spent afternoons at a Mount Airy recreation center, Che Williams, 24, can still recall how much he enjoyed himself – and how he benefited from supervised homework and social time.

“I am a product of afterschool programs. They kept me out of trouble,” said Williams, who is a graphic designer and illustrator.

The program he attended included African dance lessons that were great fun and still memorable. “Those are the trouble hours, when school is out and your mom isn’t home yet,” he said.

Germantown residents discuss plan to turn GHS property into a community charter school

By Daniel Pasquarello for NewsWorks on Oct 28, 2014 08:35 AM

More than 20 Germantown residents gathered Saturday at the Daniel E. Rumph II Recreation Center to learn more about the proposal to turn the now-empty Germantown High School site into a community charter school.

Julie Stapleton-Carroll, who would serve as Germantown Community Charter School principal should the idea gain Charter School Office approval, led the meeting.

Hundreds of students displaced as Walter Palmer Charter shuts its high school

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Oct 27, 2014 01:30 PM

Two months into the school year, Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter has shuttered its high school — displacing the 286 students who attended the Tacony campus in what the school's founder called a "human tragedy."

The scene on Harbison Avenue was the latest development in the charter's years-long scuffle with the Philadelphia School District regarding enrollment caps. Students arrived for classes Monday morning only to be told to head home.

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