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Advocates call for City Council to change thinking on sales-tax plan for schools

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 03/13/2014 - 18:03 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

A coalition of eight education advocacy groups swarmed City Hall on Thursday, urging City Council to follow a sales-tax extension plan already authorized by the state, which would send $120 million in increased sales-tax revenue to schools.

Under the existing plan, anything more than $120 million raised from extending a one-cent city sales tax would go to the pension system. Current city projections show sales-tax revenue could be as much as $140 million this year.

New Dance eXchange program reaches out to Philly's Andrew Jackson School

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 03/13/2014 - 12:05 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Aurora Jensen

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!” the kids shouted in unison, while jumping, clapping and stomping rhythmically to the music during the first week of BalletX’s new Dance eXchange program at Andrew Jackson Elementary School in South Philadelphia.

As part of its outreach to under-resourced schools, the young contemporary dance company adopted an innovative curriculum developed by the National Dance Institute (NDI) that is designed to help students build skills and confidence through movement.

“Dance eXchange fulfills a responsibility that BalletX and other arts organizations in Philadelphia have to spread their enthusiasm, experience, and skills to the community," said Christine Cox, the BalletX co-artistic director and the main architect of the program.

A troubled district gambles on reinventing high schools

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 15:14 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Benjamin Herold for Education Week

Six months after investing millions of dollars in expanding three of Philadelphia’s most innovative educational programs, Superintendent William R. Hite is doubling down on his bet to improve the troubled District by putting new models of teaching and learning in place.

Although he says the cash-strapped city school system will need $440 million in as-yet-uncommitted revenues just to provide a “bare minimum” level of service to its 131,000 students in the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Hite in February pushed for and won approval to open three unconventional high schools next school year. The price tag for the new schools remains unclear, but will easily run into the millions of dollars next year alone, prompting concerns from some public education advocates that more money will be diverted away from existing schools.

Innovative education model challenges teachers to adjust

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 11:52 Posted in Latest news | Permalink


by Benjamin Herold for Education Week

Another first-period engineering class has just been derailed by a series of small frustrations: Students strolling in late. Questions met with blank stares. Smartphones used for text messages instead of research.

Karthik Subburam, a five-year veteran in his first year teaching in the "inquiry-driven, project-based, technology-infused" style of Philadelphia's nationally acclaimed Science Leadership Academy, runs his fingers through his hair. "Sometimes, it's like pulling teeth," he says.

Six months into the school year, a controversial gamble by Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite to expand innovative school models has yielded progress. Science Leadership Academy has established a second campus that mirrors the quirky, intimate atmosphere of the original. At the new SLA@Beeber, students skateboard through the hallways past a teacher draped in Christmas lights, and no one bats an eye.

Camelot Schools drops pursuit of former Germantown High building

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 10:18 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks

Camelot Schools is no longer looking to move three of its alternative education programs to Germantown High School's now-shuttered building.

Over the summer, officials with Camelot, a for-profit education company, worked toward putting Excel Academy North, Excel Academy South and Camelot Academy under one roof.

After gathering support from the neighborhood and local elected officials, the company appeared poised to ink a three-year lease with the School District of Philadelphia, a longtime partner.

For many families choosing high schools, it's either magnet or charter

Submitted by thenotebook on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 15:28 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Chrislie Dor, a budding poet at age 14, stands like poet Robert Frost's narrator at a fork in the road.

The paths diverge not in a yellow wood, but instead the concrete jungle that is Philadelphia public education. Looking down one bend as far as she can, Chrislie sees the School District's selective-admission magnet high schools. Looking down the other, she sees the city's charter schools.

Other options — such as Chrislie's District-run neighborhood high school — may be in the vicinity, but they don't figure on her map.

More Renaissance charter schools planned for the fall

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 12:54 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Updated | 2:40 p.m.

The Philadelphia School District plans to designate two additional schools, likely K-6 or K-8 elementaries, for conversion to charter schools in September, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said Tuesday, making this the fifth straight year of the so-called Renaissance Charter Schools Initiative.

But the process will be significantly different this time. In the past, the District has chosen the schools to be converted and approved a set of providers, each of which made pitches to the school communities. Each School Advisory Council (SAC) then voted on which provider to accept.

For this round, the District will match a provider with a school, and the "school communities" will then vote on whether to accept the choice or remain under District control. Athough the schools will have SACs, the goal is to have all parents at a designated school participate in the vote, Kihn said.

In a call with reporters, Kihn said that the changes in procedure were made in response to feedback from parents and community members involved in past Renaissance conversions.

2 North Philly schools to undergo massive staffing changes in hopes of 'turnaround'

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/10/2014 - 20:55 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Two elementary schools in North Philadelphia will undergo massive staffing changes before the 2014-15 school year in an attempt to transform school culture and student performance.

Blaine Elementary in Strawberry Mansion and W.D. Kelley Elementary in Brewerytown have been selected for what the Philadelphia School District is calling a "District-led Renaissance turnaround."

Teachers at both schools must reapply for their jobs. At least 50 percent of the teaching staff at each school won't be recalled.

The move is designed to give increased flexibility to the schools' principals.

Mayor's budget fails to provide solutions. Here's what our schools need.

Submitted by Helen Gym on Mon, 03/10/2014 - 14:43 Posted in Commentary | Permalink

After listening to the mayor’s budget address on Thursday, I had to wonder the last time elected officials had visited our schools to do some real fact-finding.

In case a reminder is needed, our schools are barely schools anymore.

Is it fair to send our children to schools where the student-to-counselor ratio is 1,200 to 1? Or where a school staff person balances insulin-shot injections, phone-call duties, and administrative filings because we’ve eliminated so many nurses, office staff, and assistant principals?

All-city high school music festival tonight

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/10/2014 - 14:03 Posted in Events | Permalink

More than 400 student musicians from the city's public schools will perform tonight at the Kimmel Center for the annual All-Philadelphia High School Music Festival.

Kevon Clowers, a senior from the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, will showcase his talent on the trombone as winner of the citywide concerto competition.    

The concert is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. The event begins at 7:30 p.m.

U.S. sues School District over beard policy

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 03/07/2014 - 12:18 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Emma Jacobs for NewsWorks

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against the Philadelphia School District over a grooming policy that it says violates employees' religious freedom.

The agency filed the Title VII challenge on behalf of a Muslim school police officer who was asked to trim his beard.

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