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Students find calm through mindfulness and guided meditation

By Stephanie Marudas for NewsWorks on Jul 24, 2014 04:51 PM

Mindfulness meditation might be the new yoga, but does it have a place in the classroom?

Skipping recess to meditate might not be what most kids would choose to do. But in the lunchroom at Isaac Sheppard Elementary School in North Philadelphia, a loud bunch of 3rd and 4th graders are about to get quiet. They gather around teacher Jamie Roberts. She's going to take them to her classroom for meditation club and gets their attention.

Common Core: What it is, what it isn't and why it's political

By Laura Waters for NewsWorks on Jul 24, 2014 03:39 PM

What a week for adversaries of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)! On July 22, Glenn Beck, the radio and TV personality, hosted "a live national night of action against the Common Core" called WE WILL NOT CONFORM and told Fox News' Sean Hannity that the Common Core was "creating millions of slaves."

The path forward: Q&A with civil rights lawyer Michael Churchill of PILCOP

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 23, 2014 04:24 PM

Michael Churchill has worked as an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia for almost four decades, winning widespread recognition as one of the region’s most effective education advocates.

Twenty years ago, he helped bring a landmark desegregation case to what he thought was a successful conclusion, when Commonwealth Court Judge Doris Smith ordered the Philadelphia School District to step funding for struggling schools citywide.

But what followed was a state takeover and a host of experiments in private management and school choice, and system-wide inequities persist to this day. We asked Churchill to reflect on the current budget proposal, its potential impact on schools, and the legal strategies that could be used to stabilize the District’s finances for the long term.

Appeal hearing delayed in case of MLK student's football eligibility

By Brian Hickey for NewsWorks on Jul 23, 2014 11:59 AM

Wednesday's scheduled appeal hearing to determine the football eligibility of a student who transferred to Martin Luther King High School in March has been postponed until next month.

Robert A. Lombardi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), told NewsWorks on Tuesday that scheduling conflicts for the principals of MLK (William Wade) and George Washington High School (Gene Jones) led to the delay.

Roadblocks to child care snag Philadelphia's student parents

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 23, 2014 09:23 AM

A recent survey found that there are about 15,000 young Philadelphians lacking a high school diploma who are not currently enrolled in school or employed.

To better understand the "why" behind this number, the advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth studied how access to child care for young parents affects high school completion rates.

District inviting educators, others to redesign schools

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 22, 2014 06:11 PM

The Philadelphia School District is launching a school redesign initiative, inviting applications from teams of educators, parents and outside organizations, including community groups and universities, to overhaul existing District schools.

"We're doing this now because we see a tremendous opportunity within the school system in the city to provide space for really talented and passionate people to help us with transformation efforts in specific schools," said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn in an interview.

Cash-strapped families struggle to keep kids learning through summer

By Dorian Geiger on Jul 22, 2014 03:31 PM

It’s 8 a.m., and Diane Parrish is frantically hustling to get her husband and three kids out the door of their Germantown home. A news anchor’s voice blares from a television in the corner of the kitchen as 14-year-old twin boys Fountain and Jamar and daughter Mariah, 8, devour their cereal and orange juice.

Even though it’s summer, Parrish, a stay-at-home mom, is in a hurry to drop her kids off down the street at DePaul Catholic School, where they’re enrolled in a summer literacy program facilitated by the Springboard Collaborative, a Philadelphia organization that strives to provide high-quality summer learning opportunities to low-income families.

Educating the city's children with the resources at hand

By James H. Lytle on Jul 22, 2014 12:51 PM

Those of us concerned about public education in Philadelphia have been so caught up with the School District’s financial crisis that we have given little thought to how District and charter schools, and publicly funded schooling for the city’s kids, might be reimagined. Our priority has been filling the gaps, dealing with deficits and not possibilities.

The underlying assumption of advocates, District leadership, and elected officials is that if funding were restored for nurses and counselors, art and music teachers, smaller class sizes, preschool programs, books and supplies, and facilities improvements, then all would be well. And if additional funds were available to provide programs and services beyond the basics, then prosperity would be at hand.

Getting things done at the Workshop School

By Kevin McCorry for NPR and WHYY on Jul 22, 2014 10:38 AM

Imagine a school where classes are organized not by subject but by project ...

A school created not by administrators but by teachers fed up with the status quo ...

A school where kids from a city's toughest neighborhoods are given the opportunity to experiment and the freedom to fail.

In West Philadelphia, that school is a reality. It's called the Workshop School.

The path forward: A Q&A with Larry Jones of Richard Allen Prep Charter

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 22, 2014 09:41 AM

For more than a decade, Larry Jones has been a prominent supporter of Philadelphia’s charter schools, particularly the smaller, community-based variety that proliferated in the wake of the 2001 state takeover.

He has run the 350-student Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School since it opened in 2001; since 2006, he has also served as president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

Jones’ advocacy frequently highlights the distinctions between the interests of small schools like his and those of the larger providers now running networks of schools. We asked him to reflect on the potential impact of the current budget proposals on the kinds of schools he represents and the ways that charter supporters could collaborate with traditional public school advocates to advance their mutual interest in adequate, sustained funding for schools of all kinds. 

Brave new voices ring out for poetry competition in Philly

By Peter Crimmins for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2014 03:20 PM

About 450 young poets from around the country are in Philadelphia as part of the 17th annual Brave New Voices competition and conference. Fifty teams from as many cities around the country will face off in a tournament of performances in 10 venues around the city.

The Philadelphia team was assembled by Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, a year-round poetry workshop and mentoring program that has won the Brave New Voices Grand Slam twice – in 2007 and 2011.

Teacher designs app to help educators meet Pa. evaluation requirements

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2014 10:39 AM

Katy Morris, an 8th-grade algebra and geometry teacher at Welsh Valley Middle School in Narberth, is out to revolutionize how teachers experience the evaluation process.

This past school year, Pennsylvania adopted a new statewide teacher evaluation system – due in part to an incentive in the federal Race to the Top school accountability competition.

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