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Concerns and 'nuanced' case for merging two low-performing schools

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jul 24, 2015 10:03 AM

In the old Kensington High School building, two distinct schools have their own budgets, principals and classes. There's even a physical barrier, a kind of wall between the two spaces.

Essence Whiting, a rising sophomore at one of the schools, Kensington Urban Education Academy, said there are doors in the wall, but students stay on their own sides. She said she prefers Kensington Urban -- which has just over 300 students -- and relationships she has there over her old middle school, where the grades were three times as large.

Two more Philly educators disciplined in cheating investigation

By David Limm on Jul 23, 2015 03:55 PM

Two more Philadelphia educators have been disciplined in the multiyear investigation into cheating on the state's standardized tests.

Darlynn L. Gray, 54, a former principal of Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School, and Ellen Berson, 45, a former assistant principal at McDaniel, surrendered their educator's licenses earlier this year. 

They are alleged to have "violated the integrity and security of the PSSA exams," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education's list of teacher certification actions. 

For some Pa. schools, fiscal hardship will drag on

By Mary Wilson for NewsWorks on Jul 22, 2015 07:01 PM

Pennsylvania schools represent a growing chunk of the school districts that have the most desperate finances in the country, according to one credit rating agency.

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit of eight Pennsylvania school districts since March, and it says the worst of those aren't likely to recover anytime soon.

Watch White House event on school discipline

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 22, 2015 11:56 AM

The White House is holding an all-day event on rethinking school discipline, which has been a major focus of the Obama administration's civil rights efforts. Data have repeatedly shown that Black and Latino students are disciplined at far higher rates than Whites and Asians, starting the slippery slope to the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Notebook board chair Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, is participating in the event.

Thorny issues explored at summer institute for teachers

By Fabiola Cineas and Michaela Ward on Jul 21, 2015 04:56 PM

Fellows at the Teacher Leadership Summer Institute are spending three days doing what they rarely get to do during the school year: They're developing teacher voice, tackling thorny issues, and thinking deeply about what they can do to change the system in which they work.

Maryland developers see opportunity in closed school buildings

By Jared Brey for PlanPhilly on Jul 21, 2015 01:04 PM

A group of real estate investors from Bethesda, Maryland, are betting big on Philadelphia schools — the closed ones, anyway.

In the next few months, Concordia Group expects to close on a deal to purchase five school buildings put up for sale two years ago when the Philadelphia School District was trying to raise money through real estate sales. The former schools, in Pennsport, Point Breeze, Port Richmond and Germantown, had all been shut down. According to the School District, Concordia is expected to pay $6.8 million for the five buildings.

Philly region Republicans weigh in on severance tax, budget deadlock

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2015 11:43 AM

Sweating under the midday sun, nine Republican lawmakers from Southeast Pennsylvania took Gov. Wolf to task on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse for what they called "campaign" tactics during budget negotiations.

As the state's budget deadlock stretches into its fourth week, the governor's administration and Republican legislators are each engaging in a campaign to sway public opinion about spending. In an unusual move, relatively moderate Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs called out the governor for messaging that they say isn't fair.

Ethics Board fines teachers' union over contribution

By Dave Davies for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2015 11:26 AM

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has fined the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers $1,500 for contributions to City Council candidate Helen Gym in violation of the city's campaign finance law.

Political committees are permitted to give candidates for municipal office no more than $11,500 per year. The board found (and the PFT admitted) that the union's political committee gave Gym's campaign twice that, routing a second contribution through the committee of the American Federation of Teachers' Pennsylvania chapter.

Pa. educators brace for fallout from plunge in PSSA scores

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 20, 2015 01:50 PM

As districts across Pennsylvania brace for an anticipated plunge in scores on the state’s standardized test, educators are worrying about the repercussions while questioning the value of using the volatile test results to make high-stakes decisions about teachers and schools.

Districts and schools will not receive their preliminary results until the end of the month. But statewide data show that the proficiency rates of students on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test have dropped precipitously, especially in math – in some grades by as much as 40 percentage points compared to last year.

Summer activities for kids and families | Week of July 20

By Greg Windle on Jul 20, 2015 10:52 AM

Looking for affordable summer activities for kids in Philadelphia? Here’s a great list of upcoming activities this week – free museum trips, outdoor movie screenings, music festivals, and more.

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