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Upcoming meetings on District's school redesign initiative

By Marilyn Vaccaro on Jul 30, 2014 05:14 PM

The School District is planning a series of meetings and discussions about its new school redesign initiative, which was announced last week.

Two informational sessions will be held, one tomorrow evening and the second on Aug. 12. Those who participate will be able to learn more about the application process and the specifics of the initiative itself. 

Through the initiative, the District is calling on teams of educators, parents, community groups, and other outside organizations to propose their own school turnaround plans. Ten winning design teams will be chosen in October and will receive grants of $30,000 to support planning costs.

Micro-grant sparks vibrant clean-up effort on GHS property

By Daniel Pasquarello for NewsWorks on Jul 30, 2014 01:00 PM

Their community mainstay may be shuttered, but locals want to ensure that it doesn't become an eyesore.

So more than 30 members of the "Legends of Germantown" Facebook group helped spruce up the land surrounding Germantown High School on Sunday afternoon.

What began with sweeping and weeding the walkways turned into a more concerted raking and trash-collecting effort to prepare the larger expanses of grass for mowing.

Temple joins growing list of schools making standardized tests optional

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 29, 2014 05:36 PM

Nervous test-takers, fear not. Temple University announced Tuesday it will join the growing list of colleges ditching the SAT as an entrance requirement.

The university calls it the "Temple Option," describing it as "an admissions path for talented students who show great potential for success but don't perform well on standardized tests."

Activist requests investigation into Pa. education adviser's work situation

By Mary Wilson for NewsWorks on Jul 29, 2014 04:34 PM

A government reform activist is trying to get Pennsylvania's Ethics Commission to investigate a special adviser to Gov. Corbett.

The ethics complaint calls for an investigation into Ron Tomalis, an adviser on higher education and a former state education secretary.

Campaign ad returns Pa. focus to education spending

By Mary Wilson for NewsWorks on Jul 29, 2014 04:06 PM

Education funding cuts are front and center once again in a tiff between Pennsylvania's candidates for governor.

A television attack ad that surfaced last week highlights the issue, which has dogged Republican incumbent Gov. Corbett in the polls for years.

New SRC member Marjorie Neff plans to advocate from the inside

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 29, 2014 03:12 PM
Marjorie Neff (center) at a District press conference in June, when Superintendent William Hite, with the support of many principals, called for more funding.

Marjorie Neff was looking forward to retirement after nearly 40 years as an educator when Mayor Nutter surprised her by asking if she would serve on the School Reform Commission.

"I was intending to do advocacy work, and when the mayor asked me, I thought this might be one way to continue that from the inside rather than from the outside," said Neff, who just retired after eight years as principal of Masterman School.

Neff, speaking by telephone during a summer respite at the Shore, frankly acknowledged that she wasn't quite sure what she was getting into. But when she thought about it, she said, declining the offer wasn't an option at this watershed moment.

More than just in Philadelphia, she said, there is a "national trend" toward "an abandonment of public education." 

Bonds of mentorship help student defy culture of low expectations

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 28, 2014 04:58 PM

According to the most recent longitudinal study of Philadelphia graduation rates, just 10 percent of students who begin 9th grade in Philadelphia public schools manage to persist all the way through to college graduation.

To raise achievement levels, the city and state have restructured public education in Philadelphia over the last 15 years, rapidly expanding both District and charter options – with mixed results.

The path forward: Q&A with Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 28, 2014 04:25 PM

Equitable education funding has long been one of Donna Cooper’s top priorities. As Gov. Ed Rendell’s chief of policy, she was instrumental in 2008 in establishing the state’s most recent stab at creating a workable and predictable education funding formula.

That formula didn’t survive the arrival of Gov. Corbett. But Cooper, now in her second year at the helm of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, believes that with the right political pressure, another version might not be too far off.

“A school funding formula is not brain surgery,” she says. “If the legislature feels the heat … they’ll do it.”

But creating a formula is one thing; getting the funds to support it is another. We asked Cooper to reflect on this year’s budget process, the strategic approach that could establish a fully funded formula, and the prospects of long-term stability for Philadelphia’s schools.

Reading program hopes to help Philly kids give 'summer slide' the slip

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 28, 2014 09:58 AM

Education experts have long advocated for parents to keep their kids engaged in learning over the summer – when skills picked up during the school year can get rusty.

That "summer slide" can be especially tough on students from families who can't afford high-quality summer programs. To combat this loss, State Sen. Vincent Hughes has organized the Save Our Skills summer reading program – a free, four-week literacy program where students receive a free breakfast and lunch while sharpening their skills with certified teachers.

At institute, educators explore what teacher leadership looks like

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 25, 2014 03:40 PM

As the School District announced that it wanted teams of educators and others to submit plans for school overhaul, a group of young Philadelphia teachers was holding a summer institute on teacher leadership.

For three days this week, 18 of them met under the auspices of Teachers Lead Philly on the campus of Swarthmore College to discuss their challenges, draw from the wisdom of veterans, tell their stories and work on skills including mentoring, curriculum design, and writing for publication.

The path forward: Q&A with Chamber of Commerce's Rob Wonderling

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 25, 2014 01:08 PM

As president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Rob Wonderling says that improving public education has become one of his group’s “top priorities.”

Where the chamber once focused primarily on things like summer internships and literacy programs, it is increasingly engaged with questions of leadership and finance. Wonderling served on the search committee that brought Superintendent William Hite to town. The chamber advised on the nomination and confirmation of School Reform Commission members Feather Houstoun, Pedro Ramos, Bill Green and Farah Jimenez. It has backed local property and sales tax increases. This summer it advocated on behalf of the proposed cigarette tax.

And now, the chamber has joined a coalition that will advise on a new funding formula. But unlike many, Wonderling is not convinced that the District faces a fundamental problem of underfunding.

Instead, he sees the formula discussions as a chance to rethink service delivery.

“You only get one shot to modernize core functions,” he says.

We asked Wonderling to share his thoughts on the business community’s interest in education, the prospects for funding increases and shale taxes, and the coming debates over what should be spent and how.

From the archives: School District implements daily weapons searches

By thenotebook on Jul 25, 2014 11:09 AM

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

From the Fall 1999 print edition:


by Paul Socolar

Philadelphia 's school safety problems took center stage this fall after the shooting of an assistant principal in a scuffle with a Bartram student and the murder of a King High School 10th grader outside school, both in October. 

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